“This is America” Is 2018 In a Nutshell

When Donald Glover, a.k.a. Childish Gambino, debuted “This is America” on SNL last Saturday, the Twitterverse went bonkers over this four-minute spectacle of symbolism and chaos. It’s easy to see why: The ongoing war for Kanye West’s political soul has created a vacuum for another artist who can at least approximate his cultural prominence and accumulated goodwill. “This is America” is a dreamy and profoundly disturbing rumination on police brutality and gun violence, and the way such serious issues clash with the shallow adoption of black art into white-imposed boundaries.

“People come to ‘Atlanta’ for the strip clubs and the music and the cool talking, but the eat-your-vegetables part is that the characters aren’t smoking weed all the time because it’s cool but because they have P.T.S.D. — every black person does. It’s scary to be at the bottom, yelling up out of the hole, and all they shout down is ‘Keep digging! We’ll reach God soon!’”

White Americans remain politically dominant enough to shape media coverage in a way that minimizes obvious manifestations of racism, like the election of a candidate, who, at the very least, dropped the dog whistle and replaced it with a foghorn. As a white American, this video forced me to consider how my media consumption has contributed to reinforcing racist aspects of our culture — especially when Glover drew a fake gun because it’s all a facade. Media ratings and white demand provide a warped, ghastly incentive structure for black entertainers to mire themselves in their own stereotypes just to survive in a cutthroat capitalist system built on the backs of their ancestors, only to return the favor by continuing to brutalize them.

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I’m so woke, I’m literally an insomniac.

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