Grammy award winner Childish Gambino has sparked a new debate on life for black people in America after releasing a powerful music video.
Donald Glover’s This Is America had its premiere on Saturday Night Live on 5 May and since then, the video, complete with gun violence and blood splatter, has been viewed more than 32 million times.
A smiling, shirtless Gambino dances through a warehouse through most of the video, but the image is juxtaposed with him shooting a hooded black man and then opening fire on a choir.
The lyrics include the lines: “Yeah, this is America. Guns in my area. I got the strap. I gotta carry ’em.”
It has been number one trending on YouTube across the weekend, and millions of people have been tweeting around the world, dissecting the issues addressed by the actor and rapper.
Here are some of the topics the video has got people talking about.
Theory one: Guns are treated better than people.
An argument that is made by those fighting in the Black Lives Matter movement, and by Parkland survivors that the rights of gun owners are being placed above the lives of those killed in gun violence.
As Gambino dances in the warehouse in the first scene, the man who was playing the guitar becomes a hooded man in a chair, facing away from Gambino.
Gambino shoots him from behind, and the weapon is taken away on a cloth while the body is dragged.
Theory two: Dancing is a distraction
Throughout the video, Gambino is dancing shirtless and moving around in front of dramatic and often gruesome scenes.
In one, a car is on fire and there are people running behind him, appearing to be in the middle of a riot.
This has been touted as a visual representation of the distractions of violence against black people. CNN suggests it depicts the startling differences between those dancing, creating and singing, compared with those struggling and suffering.
It could also be a comment on cultural appropriation, pointing out the ease with which society adopts the carefree aspects of black life, like dance and music, while ignoring the injustices they continue to face.
Theory three: Dancing inspirations
The dancing could also be a throwback to fellow black stars, taking nods from Pharrell Williams in Happy, or Michael Jackson.
According to Forbes, the moves replicate specific popularised dances of the last few decades. One of these is the Gwara Gwara from South Africa, which went viral thanks to DJ Bongz.
This could be a comment on the adoption of black cultures around the world, showing how they become absorbed into other societies.
He also repeats the lyric “get your money, black man”, a reference to how much is owed to those who have brought their work to wider society.
Genius lyrics also suggests those who are included in the song become staged ironically against dances they popularised. It questions if Blocboy JB’s shoot dance is being criticised by Gambino, around 2.50 in.
Theory four: The return of Jim Crow
During the opening scene, when Gambino fires the first shot, he adopts an uncomfortable looking pose.
The lean back with bent knee has drawn comparisons to the depiction of Jim Crow, a character of the era of enforced segregation.
Crow was a stereotype of a black man played by a white comedian in blackface, who portrayed the ideas white people had about black culture.
Gambino may be suggesting America has not moved as far forward as it seems, just because racial segregation is no longer legally enforced.
One Twitter user said: “Donald Glover did not come to play with y’all today.”
Theory five: Terrorism and gun prevalence
The second shooting in the video is a mass shooting, where Gambino opens fire with a machine gun on a choir of black people.
It’s understood to be a reference to the shooting of nine African Americans in a church in Charleston in 2015 by white supremacist Dylann Roof.
One line of the song states: “This a celly, that’s a tool” could be a reference to the shooting of Stephon Clark in Sacramento by police.
The 22-year-old was shot in his grandmother’s back garden in March, when police thought he had a gun. He only had an iPhone.
The shootings and aftermath happen incredibly quickly in the video, as they do in society, making a comment on how fast things move on from tragedy.
Theory six: Biblical references and the Apocalypse
Toward the end of the video, a man riding a white horse lurks in the background.
This could be a reference to Revelation 6:8, which gives detail of the end of the world, and states: “I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.”
In the video, a police car is behind the horse.
Those figures appear behind Gambino while he is dancing with a group of schoolchildren, which could be a second message about distraction.
Theory seven: The sunken place
The last scene has Gambino running, with fear in his eyes, away from a group of white people. It appears to make reference to the Jordan Peele film Get Out.
In the film, a black man visits his white girlfriend’s parents for the weekend, and feels a level of uneasiness throughout the trip.
The sunken place, a concept developed by Peele, means black people are marginalised. He said: “No matter how hard we scream, the system silences us.”
As one Twitter user said, Gambino is still a black man running for his life.
The final lines states: “You just a black man in this world, You just a barcode, ayy.”
Theory eight: SZA is Lady Liberty
The R’nB star SZA makes a cameo, sitting on a car in the right hand corner of the screen.
She posted an Instagram picture which suggested she is portraying the Statue of Liberty. Her hair is styled up into several small buns across her head, which could represent her crown.
It could be that Lady Liberty watches passively as those who saw her when they first arrived to make their lives better are now marginalised.
In the song, many of the lyrics reference partying, or getting money.
Some of the most important lines include: “Don’t catch you slippin’ up, Look what I’m whippin’ up.”
Also: “America, I just checked my following list and You go tell somebody You mothaf***as owe me, Grandma told me, Get your money, Black man.”
Fallout: The ridiculing of Kanye
Glover performed the song on SNL after being in a skit called A Kanye Place. The skit was a take on the film A Quiet Place, where the characters have to remain as quiet as possible to avoid monsters who cannot see them, but can hear them.
In the skit the characters, including Glover, struggle to keep quiet when they realise Kanye has tweeted that he would have voted for Donald Trump, and when he drops new music.
The skit does not have a direct connection with the song, but their joint presence led plenty to criticise Kanye for not creating the same type of political commentary in his music as Gambino.