Shaun King: Donald Glover’s ‘This Is America’


For a living, I study, write, speak, and organize around injustice in America. If you’ve ever heard me speak here on the show even one time, you probably heard me speak about some type injustice in America.

I tell people all the time that I wish I could work myself out of the job. I wish I woke up one day and we had no injustice for us to fight against, but we’re nowhere near that being the case. Quite the opposite. 2018 is on peak to be the deadliest year ever measured for police brutality in this country. Hate crimes are at an all-time high. Hate groups feel empowered and emboldened. Mass incarceration is in full effect. And we have a truly horrible man as President of the United States.

And let me tell you what happens in this country when the hate, the oppression, the injustice rises – artists respond with some of the important, essential, rich, creative work they’ve ever done in their entire lives.

Art, particularly Black art, always reflects the time. Now that doesn’t mean it is always going to be a mirror image of the time, sometimes it’s the polar opposite – when the oppression is heavy, Black art may go to the other radical extreme and focus on the beauty of Blackness.

Right now I think we are in a renaissance of beautiful, revolutionary, rich black music, fashion, art, and culture. I think it’s the best it’s ever been in my entire life.

That’s how Kendrick Lamar became the first rapper to win the Pulitzer Prize. That’s how Black Panther became the biggest superhero movie of all time. That’s how Beyonce’s performance at Coachella became what I think may have been the best live performance I’ve ever seen in my entire life. When the pendulum of injustice swings heavy in one direction, black art and culture always responds by swinging us back in the other direction to not just explain the time, but to compensate for it.

Now I’m a Donald Glover fan. My teenage daughters are also huge fans. Some of you may know him as Childish Gambino, but Donald Glover is truly one of the most talented human beings on planet Earth right now.

He’s a writer and actually got his start in the entertainment business as a comedy writer on 30 Rock. He then appeared in several supporting roles on TV and film. But it wasn’t yet so clear that the brother was as talented as he is. Then he had a standup comedy special. Then he started releasing rap albums, then he released a pure R&B album that we play here on the show all of the time, then we watched him write, direct, and star in the hit TV show, Atlanta – where he became the first African American ever to win the Emmy for Best Director in a TV comedy.

So, on this past Sunday morning when I heard that he released a new music video, I was curious and clicked the link to check it out.

I wasn’t ready. Not at all.

What Donald Glover created with his new video, “This Is America” is the most complex, layered, beautiful, painful, nuanced, funny, horrible, brilliant music video of this generation. I sincerely think it’s one of the most important music videos ever made.

We will embed in my piece on Black America Web today, but I encourage you to watch it on a larger screen like a computer or television if you can. The phone doesn’t quite do the details justice.

Every single person who watches it, comes to a completely different conclusion. Some people hate it, not because it’s not rich or well done, but because it is painful. If you haven’t seen it, I won’t explain the small details – I want you to watch it and come to your own conclusions, but I think Donald did something masterful – in the video, I think he is showing the painful psychosis of the Black experience – where we laugh, dance, smile, sing, and harmonize in the most beautiful ways on earth, all while we deal with the most extreme forms of violence and hate imaginable – only to pick ourselves back up again, to laugh, dance, smile, and sing – only for our beauty to be interrupted again and again and again by something truly awful – be it police brutality or the mass murder of Dylann Roof walking into a Charleston Church and slaughter an entire Bible Study.

Just watch it – I think what hurts about the video isn’t that it’s violent, but that it’s familiar. Nobody laughs and jokes like we do. Nobody dances and moves like we do. Nobody sings and harmonizes like we do – and nobody experiences the trauma and pain and harassment and brutality we do.

And Donald Glover’s new video depicts it all, in the extreme.

Take care y’all!!


Twitter Explodes After Donald Glover Releases ‘This Is America’
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