Hip-hop artist Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino has taken the internet by storm with his single This is America and the world could actually become a better place for it. In a time when America is finally confronting the NRA after having struggled with gun violence for years, Childish Gambino’s transformative social commentary may help make the cause more mainstream by getting the impassive audience to talk about it. Donald Glover, whom you may have noticed in Spiderman Homecoming as the arms-dealer Aaron Davis, uses shock as a screenplay device to transform a poignant scene into abject chaos. The scene opens with a black man playing a peppy tune on a guitar with Glover dancing to it in an unusual contorting, twitchy style. As the camera pans out, we watch him stand close to the guitarist who now has his head covered in white cloth as they would a convict who was about to be executed. Glover, then, gracefully draws out a gun and shoots the man in the head. The very next second, people take away the gun wrapping it in a silky red cloth while others drag away the dead body without a sliver of respect. This scene, essentially, sets the tone for the rest of the video where the dominant theme is how the NRA lobby is being protected by elitists for political gain while the common citizen is being murdered on the streets every day with no one to care.
Besides gun violence, Childish Gambino also addresses how de-sensitized society has become to what is going around them. We have become so blinded by consumerism and entertainment that we fail to see the true picture that is crippling the society. It is scary how well the idea of This is America applies to India. In the spate of child-rapes in our country, a dark side of our society has come out of the grime. While Kathua jolted the people to start taking sexual violence seriously, it also brought a more disturbing attitude of our politicians to fore. Instead of condemning the incident for what it was, we heard them talk about communal attacks, political setups by the opposition and what not.
It is said that journalism should speak out what the government is afraid to. But unfortunately, our media entangled itself in who said what and didn’t bother to get into the reality of the matter. It wasn’t until our social media influencers started talking about it aggressively that the PMO responded with a type-scripted press release that was too little too late. This is not the only issue that we are ridden with. Casteism and Corruption are also shredding our economy apart from within. Confronting the truth of the matter seems to have become a chronic ailment of our democracy. We live in a farcical world of #acchedin (‘good days’) where we are spoon-fed with what we want to hear rather than accepting our flaws and working on them together.
Although Hip-Hop as an art-form is native to the Bronx in New York City where it became a cultural phenomenon in the 1970s and remains to this day, India is also seeing a resurgence in the Mumbai suburbs of Nalasopara. Far from the shiny skyscrapers in the central district, Nalasopara became a melting pot thanks to the cheap living cost and a large number of migrant population that settled there over the years. Today, Nalasopara has become the birthplace of Hip-Hop in India where dance-groups have gone out to represent our country in National and International circuits. Hip-Hop has always been associated with social commentary through dance-moves, rap and graffiti which are its essential ingredients. Upcoming young artists like Divine are now collaborating with global labels while still talking about the issues in their cities, towns and society in general.
Childish Gambino’s stark representation is, perhaps, a call to us to stand up and listen. Political Euphemism never helps start a discussion. The only way to do that is to face it as it is, raw and unforgiving. There are no grey areas in absolutes. Morality cannot be subject to our own prejudices. If you feel ashamed to talk about it, you should be equally ashamed to live it. #ThisIsIndia.
Watch the video that started it all, here: