Hidden Meanings Behind Childish Gambino’s ‘This Is America’ Video Explained


♪ This is America ♪ – Childish Gambino’s This
Is America has become an overnight cultural phenomenon. And, it’s definitely the kind of video you have to watch more than once. Throughout the piece, Gambino plays the complex role of America
herself, from violence, to the use of entertainment
as a distraction. He’s playing both the
caricature and the ring leader. The internet was quick to pick up tons of hidden messages that were scattered throughout the video. Here’s some that you might’ve missed. The first scene opens up on a black man walking up to a guitar
in an empty warehouse. He looks a lot like
Treyvon Martin’s father, but, contrary to popular belief, it’s actually L.A.
artist Calvin the Second. Gambino comes into view
wearing pants and shoes that Twitter users have linked
to old confederate uniforms. He’s also wearing two small gold chains, a double entendre for physical bondage and obsession with consumerism. He dances with exaggerated
movements and facial expressions. He moves closer to the seated man, who no longer has his guitar, and has a bag covering his head. (gun shot) ♪ This is America ♪ – The song’s first bridge talks about how entertainment media is serving as a distraction from bigger issues at hand. The girl here represents America, and the frame here, represents real life injustices that are happening. Shaking the frame distorts and
blurs what’s really going on. Dear White People creator Justin Simien was quick to point out on Twitter that the movements and expressions Gambino does seem to be modeled after Jim Crow. This caricature was commonly used as a reference in minstrel
show in the 18 and 1900s, where white actors would
perform in blackface and act out black stereotypes. ♪ Listen here you won’t let me speak ♪ ♪ Don’t you know the Suwannee
River is a dried up creek ♪ ♪ Come on and carry me home ♪ – Many also noted that aside
from dances from viral videos, one specific dance they’re
doing is the Gwara Gwara, which originated in South Africa. This could be a possible
nod to similarities between racism in America
and South Africa’s apartheid. On the flip side, some have interpreted the dancing as a method of survival. The dancers are dancing with Gambino, who’s playing America,
and they’re never injured. Many on Twitter have cited that America has a tendency to applaud
for black culture, while turning their backs
to the issues we face. Whether the dancing is
used to numb the pain, gain social media followers,
or simply survive, his movements are a literal and figurative distraction from the
chaos in the background. The hooded man riding the
white horse seen here, is a biblical symbol for the apocalypse. The only elements of
the video that shock you out of Gambino’s trance like
movements is the shootings. At face value, the murders are nods to modern day American gun violence. The second verse is
preluded with a happy choir, who’s gunned down by Gambino. It’s impossible not to draw parallels with the Charleston church shooting, which was found to be racially motivated. But, a slightly less noticeable symbol was the care in which the guns were handled after each shooting. The guns were wrapped
in red cloth with care. Many online have inferred
that this represents how Red America values
guns over human lives. While all this violence is
taking place in the warehouse, which looks eerily similar
to a prison, Gambino says, This could have a double meaning. One, how cell phones are being used as tools to document this brutality. Or two, celly could mean cell block, a commonly used tool to unjustly keep blacks in a cycle of incarceration. The final scenes of the video show Gambino and SZA surrounded by old stagnant cars, still inside the closed off warehouse. Twitter was quick to
point out that this scene represents lack of progression
and forward movement. The video ends with
Gambino running like hell, doing everything in his power to escape. It’s as if he’s snapped
out of America’s spell and is doing everything
he can to find a way out. Are there any other hidden
messages we might’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below.

Maurice Vega

100 Responses

  1. Here's what also might have gone over some of your heads. The church choir represented a hopeful spirit and sense of optimism with the Black community. But once they're all gunned down, the spirit is taken away.

    Also, listen to the music the guitarist is playing in the beginning of the song. Sounds like some pretty, uplifting, African high life mixed in. But once the guitarist is shot dead, the song switches to a doomy, haunting Electro-Trap sound. This could mean the destruction of good, traditional music from the Diaspora and overtaken by this bleak, modern sound. Very deep video.

  2. A cellie is also a person you share a cell with in prison we referred to our room mates as cellie. like what’s up cellie often I heard this used.

  3. I just want to say that I’m a republican but I do not believe guns are more important than human lives and I actually find that quite offensive

  4. I know I might come off weird but being black and young like 14-15 it interesting like just going to the store or doing something ordinary, people just don’t seem to comfortable to be around me I’m not saying it’s like that but I can read it and it’s is disappointing but what America portrays my race has is a very few little of them and we are actually pretty peaceful and nice hopefully people don’t always have to have their guard up being around me anymore

  5. in one video/article back when the video was released someone also interpreted the celly/tool part with the death of a black men who got shot by police thinking he wanted to grab a gun (the tool) while he was just reaching for his cellphone

  6. If you listen without music (but the rest of the stuff) you might hear the gillhem scream (did I spell it right?)

  7. I think that the girl and all the cars represents how people want the prettiest and baddest female and how they want all these cars and good things to make feel better and look good for people

  8. With the exception of the few Cadillac cars, the end scene was displaying old Japanese cars as the camera pulled out. Entertaining analysis though.

  9. Well folks, this is the REAL crazy america: racist, prejudice , Ku Klux Klan and much more …a very crazy place. Greetings from BRAZIL. 🇧🇷🇧🇷🇧🇷🇧🇷

  10. I would Say it’s a God Damn Song Why is This a Thing? Always Trying to find a Hidden Message…Hate That Type of shit.

  11. I feel like he should have had a white guy come out with the gun and kill the innocent black guy in the beginning and make him act as killing the gospel choir this is giving the rest of the world a false perception that blacks kill each other.

  12. yeah yeah black people victim roles and white people the evil role.. Bla bla bla bla, if your life sucks then do something about it and stop blame others for your own shit 😉

  13. Nobody noticed the shooting in the beginning symbolises Tupac's shooting.The guy playing the guitar is a musician just like typac even though tupac was a rapper and the guy also got shot just like Tupac

  14. Also, no one ran from him when he shot the man or the choir. Later on, though, he "points a gun" without anything in his hand, and the dancers around him scatter, even though there is no threat

  15. Where was the hidden message about the fact that 12% of the population commits more than 50% of all violent crimes? Maybe I missed that.

  16. 1:40 car that is burning is datsun 240z. sorry watched too many wangan midnight.

    edit: probably datsun 240z. if im wrong lemmino.

  17. It's sad how far we've dropped.. not just as people of different color and culture, but as human beings as a whole…SMH

  18. Remember #2 ascend from darkness.. thats what gambino was tryna do run away from dark negative energy.. you people gotta re play call of duty black ops all the way thru. Reality will hit you kids..

  19. You know the “white “ actor that was the first to black face was actually joo-ish. And they don’t claim to be white. Only when it’s convenient. To my black brothers n sisters. We have the same enemy. And they seek our destruction,while getting us to fight against each other at the same time. And everyone should know,who was responsible for the North Atlantic slave trade. The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan wrote a book called,”the secret relationship between blacks and jooz. “And he only used jooish sources to write it. We must unite together,in order to defeat the enemy who seeks our destruction. They’re so terrified of that.

  20. Empty Police Car right after a the Charslton Shooting meaning police not doing anything to be there for them and help

  21. The guitar player at the beginning of the video is shot in the head, but throughout the video we can hear music playing, being played by the guitar player, and at the end of the video we see the the guitar player was alive all along, this probably means that in America it’s easy to forget deaths the happened minutes ago, and it also states that we don’t know or question what’s happening right now, we saw the guitar player shot, but we heard him throughout the video, this also shows that we don’t question or know what’s happening right now, even if it was a major event.

  22. He doesn’t use anything name brand without public endorsement. From the cars to wardrobe. (Cars are obsolete today, it doesn’t matter the manufacturer) Notice “on my Kodak” Kodak is not relevant today.

  23. That’s a stretch. 1860s pants were held by suspenders, not belts. Hence, those pants wouldn’t have belt loops. They look like pinstripe suit pants.

  24. Red America doesn't value guns more than human lives! We value freedom and the protection of that freedom above all. Protection that doesn't come cheap.

  25. Him wearing two shoes is to highlight the oppressed 2 shoe community.

    Gambino after watching this video might have ROFLed

  26. I think the children with the phones .. showing how young children is access to violence and other horrible stuff , causing the young children go to prison at a young age distracting their minds ….

  27. Uh I think celly is a tool, to keep America honest and to record the injustices towards racially profiled people, and people of poverty, recording the police interactions stuff of that nature or I mean it could also mean this! All I know is if I knew the world we live in was gonna turn out so hateful and corrupt, I wouldn't of had children, and now I can't barely sleep at night worrying about them!

  28. Who really cares about how he dances tho? also no one really cares if he shot them it’s not like he actually did shot them….Oof -_-

  29. Shouldn't we start talking about black people especially males being mentally disabled since they don't like to go to school and instead want to become gangsters who will get killed by others like themselves.

  30. "Many online have inferred, that this is how red America values the gun over human lives." My friends, this is how they divide us. This line. Who are many people online? Crazy people say stupid things like this sure, but nobody with a brain believes this. Insider put this in the piece to play the division game. This is all a distraction. Gambino is a genius, but you don't give him credit. You Insider, in an attempt to stir up drama for your own gain, are the ones inferring that. Gambino has never added any context to the video. He knows "red America" loves guns and that probably is the red cloth, but not more than humans. Come on, disgusting.

  31. it true the world is ending and u people so caught up in life u do not know it i seen some monster flying and i do not know what they are but they are big some one said the gates of hell is open some tell me it never been closed all this lust killing rape and hate going and other bad stuff people so blind to the truth what about to take place it a war between good and evil and we in the mist of it all

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