A Fresh Take on “This is America”

one thing I cannot believe people have NOT talked about yet is the impact of music videos on our youth, especially young black children. we’ve been warned in the past about how too much MTV is bad for you, but what exactly are music videos doing to children? in Childish Gambino’s “This is America” music video, we watch a stream of recurring problems for African Americans (which we are sadly desensitized to at this point), but I feel like the biggest one has flown right above everybody’s head.

there’s a reason he chose black school children in uniforms as his dancers. if they were in any other dress, we would forget that these kids are only in school. imagine being a young black child after school, scrolling through the channels. all he or she sees is a sea of white: white actors, white problems, white music. then they stop at BET or MTV or ESPN and sees someone who looks like them. they see talent, fame, and a ticket to respect. (something children clearly do not have enough of, but more on that later.)

they see these moves. they imitate them, in hopes to be as good as what they see on their TV screen. then there’s the words, the enticing rhythm and flow. violence is a common theme they rap along to. so is sex, alcohol, and drugs. when they repeat this cycle enough, it becomes the norm. then they bring it to school. they start living it out on the weekends. and when life gets to be too much, there’s the unlucky ones who take it to the streets and probably end up belonging to the streets till they hit the grave. the streets are where those music video dreams can come alive.

in “This is America,” among all the chaos and crime, the children dance as a way of expression, but ultimately represent the influence black musicians can have. Donald Glover shows how he can smile and dance and rap without taking a second look at the chaos behind him, and the teens blindly follow in suit. he’s blatantly calling out the rappers who are not using their privilege to speak the truth and break the cycle. the same can also be said for the media, which has a track record of depicting African Americans as criminals.

going forward, we should empower youth, especially black youth, to show them a way out of this false narrative. I feel like there’s a lot of unnecessary hate in this country and to fix it, we need to take a step back, think about that feeling, and learn as much about it as we can to offer a solution. rap artists should take note that they have a very difficult/important role to play, too, but rap & hip hop may very well be the bridge that brings us all together.

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