The Deeply American Appeal of Donald Glover
Black art rarely gets space to be nihilistic. Childish Gambino's "This Is America" is divisive, explosive, and embodies reality.
Over the weekend, Donald Glover released his latest visual "This is America" accompanied with a sing-rap song that sounds like something you'd expect as Pharrell's next Billboard hit. If you've somehow missed it, the video showed a deranged Donald Glover sliding in and out of choreography committing acts of violence that echo real life moments of terror like the Charleston Church Massacre. Glover moves sporadically, and goes into smooth dance movements. He shoots a man in the head and transitions into the gwarra gwarra backed by smiling, dancing black students in uniforms. His face does just as much choreography, transitioning from the awkward, suburban kid we met on the television show Community into this bearded, shirtless serial killer. This is another version of the mad black man; mad as in the ableist slang for mentally ill, and not as simply another word for angry.
Watching the video, I felt free of shame around my own battles with mental illness that I don't believe I inherited, but rather, I was socialized into because of dealing with anti-black racism for my entire life. I do not believe you see as many black people die and be brutalized as I have and not develop anxiety—or, in my case, OCD. I don't think you can live with the level of poverty, housing, and food insecurity that I have and not develop clinical depression. Often I think my development of these conditions are proof that I am alive and not just some numb vehicle for domination that I was socialized to be.