By now, you’ve probably seen Childish Gambino’s provocative music video for his new single “This is America”, but have you noticed all of the hidden messages and references? A new message seems to pop out at me every time I watch the video, and I couldn’t help but wonder if others noticed the same?
From his gun control references to his historical allusions, here are five references you may have missed:
1. Gun Control: One of the first attention-grabbing scenes of the video occurs at the very beginning, where you notice a man peacefully playing his guitar. Gambino then walks up behind the man, pulls out a handgun, and shoots the man in the head. The gun is quickly taken away and handled with care, while the man’s body is is dragged away by his feet. This message is a clear message at the ongoing debate of gun laws and the victims being labeled as nothing more than a statistics.
2. Historical Meaning: This next reference was pointed out to me via Twitter and actually comes right before the aforementioned “gun control” reference. Right before Gambino shoots the man, he gets into a pose that you may recognize from the history books. The stance in which Gambino stands has been identified as a recreation of an image of T.D. Rice, a performer in the mid-1800s who performed in blackface and is infamous for his the on stage character Jim Crow — created as a depiction of how African-Americans and their culture were seen by contemporary Caucasians at the time.
— Nichia (@nicky_furiosa) May 6, 2018
Later in history, the character’s name was used for the “Jim Crow” laws, which enforced racial segregation in the South. Gambino shooting a man while in this pose can be left up to your own interpretation.
3. Charleston Church Shooting: The next transition shows a group of African Americans singing in a church choir. Gambino enters the scene, shoots the entire choir with a semi-automatic weapon, and calmly walks away. Just as in the first shooting, the gun is treated with care while victims lay helplessly on the floor. This was an obvious reference to the 2015 Charleston Church Shooting tragedy, where a white supremacist opened fire in a predominately African American church, resulting in the death of nine people. The victims were racially targeted, a rising problem in present day America. Although this reference was quickly identified, these next two took some deep thought.
4. Parkland Massacre: Toward the end of the video, Gambino is dancing among young children when he suddenly holds a pose as if he’s shooting a gun. The music is then cut and Gambino takes a long pause; a 17-second pause to be exact. This 17 seconds of silence was more than likely to honor the 17 lives lost at the Parkland school massacre back in February.
Catch the pause from 2:45 to 3:02.
5. White Horse: This final reference was widely recognized by social media and may be one of the most well-constructed references in the whole video. In one scene in the music video, we see a hooded figure riding a white horse, while a cop car follows behind, all of which goes unnoticed because people are dancing in the forefront. The white horse reference comes from the Book of Revelation (Revelation 6:2), which reads: “And I saw, and behold a white horse: And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and the name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him…”
yall see were this is america and the white horse come
Revelation 6:2: And I saw, and behold a white horse: And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and the name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him…
— THE BACHELOR (@kingdaved) May 14, 2018
When applied to the scene and world we live in today, this reference makes total sense. A hooded figure (Death) is riding a white horse, followed by a cop car (Hell), all of which goes unnoticed by dancing (pop culture, social media trends) in the forefront. We could be reaching here, but the explanation seems pretty legit.
This is America in its entirety can also be viewed as a reference to our current society There are so many things happening in the background and right before eyes, yet we chose to focus on performing the newest dance moves and recording everything with our cell phones.
How many references did you catch?