First, you shoot a man in the back of his head, then you ignore the body and start singing.
The video was released early on Saturday as part of the buildup for his forthcoming studio album.
It starts with Gambino dancing with exaggerated happiness and a sense of abandon. Then, out of the blue, he shoots a guitar player in the back of the head.
The song’s lyrics then take on a dark tone, but almost immediately, the artiste continues dancing with a group of school children.
As he dances his guilt away, the body gets dragged off and random black men are seen running across the background, protesting what just happened.
Over the course of the video, this pattern is repeated. Gambino kills the members of a choir in one burst of a machine gun, then bounces off stage to continue dancing as sirens blare and protests break out.
These narratives serve as a representation of the spate of gun violence that has plagued America in recent years, the killing of young African-Americans by trigger-happy police officers and the Black Lives Matter protests that rose in the wake of the murder of Trayvon Martin and many after him.
Yet, after doing all these things, one would wonder why Gambino can go on dancing so happily.
It takes a while to notice that while you’re focused on his dance moves, Gambino has effectively distracted you from all the madness going on in the background.
It is a scathing jab at the nature of our reaction to such issues.
As soon as news of a shooting or killing begins to circulate, social media erupts with messages of anger and support as groups pour out into the streets to protest, peacefully or otherwise.
Then, as quickly as the news breaks, all that pain is overtaken by a new pop culture trend or some vapid, empty distraction that grabs everyone’s attention.
As quickly as it happened, the victim’s death and all the resultant events are forgotten.
It is not until Childish Gambino races through a row of columns, chased by police officers, that we get the message.
As Young Thug sings, “You’re just a black man, you’re just a barcode, you’re just a black man in this world”, as Gambino runs for his life.
“This is America” is Childish Gambino’s first release since his 2016 album, “Awaken, My Love”, yet it is the scathing portrayal of the relationship between black men and guns, the underlying message of the distracting power of pop culture and his dance moves (very important) that have kept the video and the artiste responsible atop trending lists on YouTube and Twitter.
The entire video is a review of what it means to be black in America, how the black experience is perceived as a fun affair versus the dark reality that happens in the background.
In a larger sense, the video speaks to a global attitude towards black people.
While millions die of civil unrest, famine, terrorism and many ills across the world, we prefer to focus on what pops, literally; new music, celebrity gossip, fads and trends, anything but what actually matters.
It all gives the impression that the world is tethering close to some sort of self-induced catastrophe, where intangible luxuries are more prominent than more tangible things, like human lives.
Childish Gambino’s video may be titled “This is America” but in many ways, he showed us the world, within and outside America’s shores.