Gun Violence African American

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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“You just a black man in this world, you just a barcode, ayy.” This lyric ends the song “This is America”, by Childish Gambino. Childish Gambino is an African American rapper who captured the eyes of the U.S with his music video of “This is America”. Written by Childish Gambino and Ludwig Göransson, the video carries a message surrounding guns and violence in America from the eyes of a black man. It indicates that the brutal violence, racism and police brutality targeted against African Americans in their daily life.

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When it first started happening, we would see instances of African Americans’ being shot on newspaper or article headlines and think to ourselves how horrible it is. But, now we have become numb to the killings of innocent black men because it is so prevalent in our society.

The goal of his video is to show America through his eyes, as he dances around shirtless for the majority. If you focus only on him, however, you miss the countless scenes in the background that hold a great deal of importance. This, perhaps, is what I think his purpose is. He wants to call out all of us, everyone in America. He wants to get our attention. Our society protects our gun rights over people, and it has cost us unspeakable amounts of lives. He points out our high rates of gun violence. If we focus only on his entertaining dance moves, we miss the background scenes that display the true points he tries to convey with examples of issues that face African Americans’ today. His dance moves and weird faces are meant to distract you.

It is symbolism for us diverting our attention away from the real problems that African Americans face today. The video starts out with Gambino shooting a man, tied up with a head cover. Then, someone comes up with a towel and carefully takes the gun away. This leads into the chorus with Gambino Rapping: “This is America, don’t catch you slippin’ up”. According to viewers of the video, it was interpreted as a reference to Americans’ willingness to protect gun rights over people, despite the country’s insane amount of gun violence. A specific tweet from reads “because this is America. We shoot up schools, churches, each other and then we place the guns tenderly in a cloth to protect them.

And then we dance” (Miller). Gambino continues to dance into the next big scene, he’s using it as a distraction for the real problems which are being shown in the background. A little past two minutes into the video, a man jumped to his death. It was shown in the background to show how little is focused on suicide in America, as Childish Gambino dancing and enjoying himself is a symbol of us going on with our daily lives without noticing. One viewer even points to the fact that mental health for the African American community is highly ignored. This point made me think as a psychology major, because I remember learning about the stigma around mental health with African Americans. Mental health does not discriminate against race, sexual orientation or any other factors.

Anyone can be diagnosed with a mental illness. In the African American community, however, it is seen as a weakness. They talk less and know less about this topic, and are highly judged if they were to ever come forth with the thought that they might have a mental illness. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, adult African Americans are actually 20 percent more likely to report serious psychological distress than adult white. Despite this, they are also less likely than whites to seek out treatment. This is most likley highly related to them being worried of being mistreated, and without treatment that could lead to more severe depression or even suicide. I think this message was really important to display in the video because police brutality and overall violence against African Americans is well known, but this is something that is more under the surface.

I think it was such an important thing to point out because even though there is a fight to end the stigma of mental health, it is still present in African Americans and that needs to be noticed. In the next part of the video, Gambino clearly represents the gun and violence obsession occuring in America, as well as whilte culture dominating African American lifestyle. In this scene, it shows a cheerful church choir of strictly black people getting shot. This was said to represent the 2015 Charleston church massacre, where white supremacist Dylann Roof murdered nine black churchgoers. The daughter of one of the victims, Ethel Lance, named Rev. Sharon Risher questioned “how are you going to survive being black in America”? (Rao). This is true.

It makes you think how normalized these big shootings are, even in a place like a church that you feel is not only safe but a place to go to be with God. Or a school, where you are there to do nothing but learn, posing no threats to anyone. It’s truly scary to know when you can truly feel secure, especially as a black man or woman. The last scene that I think ties everything together well shows Gambino running down a dark hallway with different people, the front looking like policemen, chasing after him. I think this symbolizes that as a black man you are always running, because people are trying to catch you. You may be innocent in this world, but since you are a man of color you must be guilty of something. So no matter what, you have to keep running. You are trapped, in a sense, by this culture we have in America. The system silences black people, it puts a label on them that they are the things that are wrong in society.

In reality, society is wrong. In fact it is completely messed up, or this video would not have been made. This controversial video was the talk of 2018, and still is today. It displays things that make us feel unconfortable including racism, suicide, and gun violence. These issues should make us uncomfortable, because they aren’t good for our society. But, talking about them is necessary. They are prevalent issues that occur, but most specifically in African American societies. Seeing them portrayed by Childish Gambino allowed him to share his story about the culture he grew up in. The sad truth that he isn’t always safe, and neither are all other black men and women. This music video blew up America, in the sense that showed us what has been in front of us, and to challenge our perspectives and think “what can we do to fix this”.

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Gun Violence African American. (2022, Feb 13). Retrieved from