BY Sang Kromah
Significant portions of our lives—if not all—are spent attempting to define ourselves or each other, and along the way, being taught that life presents us with two options to define us. Predator and prey.
For other animals, the roles are clearly defined. Cat and mouse. The wolf and deer. The cheetah and zebra. No questions asked. No explanation needed. But when it comes to humans, things become rather complicated.
Many, mistakenly, make declarations of who they are early on, while others are forced into roles, based on the insistence of others, unaware that there’s another option. Another group that’s rarely mentioned due to their inability or unwillingness to fit into the aforementioned categories.
They are “the undefined.”
These type of people are often socially awkward, but quite comfortable alone and in their own skin. They observe society, never quick to comment, but consuming everything solitarily in an attempt to expunge an untainted perspective without the fear of not being understood.
These undefined types aren’t self-proclaimed geniuses that say it so much the masses begin to believe it. They are the ones that let their work speak for itself without the aid of social media antics and drama that lead people to believe you have to be tortured or misunderstood to be an artist.
Last week, with all that is happening in America, Kanye West was what most people focused on. Not gun violence, the opioid crisis, police violence against people of color, the fact that ICE is tearing families apart…we were focused on the irrelevant antics of an attention seeker that does and says outrageous things in order to stay relevant. Kanye West has found his niche. Piss people off, so they’ll anticipate my album’s release in order to hear where my head was at. And guess what, we’re dumb enough to fall for it, because we’re all angry and outraged, saying things like, “Kanye West is canceled,” “Kanye is a genius. He’s just misunderstood,” “No one will appreciate Kanye’s level of genius until he’s gone.”
No Susan! Kanye knows marketing and has once again been used by the media to distract you from what’s relevant. Kanye is no genius. He is a sheep, too caught up in fame and in his own ego to realize that he is prey.
Enter Childish Gambino, the music alias of writer/actor/comedian, Donald Glover. After a stand-out hosting and performance gig on SNL on Saturday night, Glover released the video for his latest single, “This is America,” a poignant and accurate depiction of society that rightfully has social media, the press, and basically everyone buzzing. You either absolutely love it, you don’t understand it, or you’re triggered by it (or using being triggered as an excuse to hate on it).
It opens with a black gentleman gleefully playing his guitar when a shirtless, natural and wild-haired Gambino enters dancing enthusiastically–if not, just as spastically– positions himself dramatically behind the aforementioned gentleman, who is now unidentifiable as his face is covered, only for Gambino to shoot him in the head.
The music then changes as the bass drops and a handler immediately comes in to remove the gun from the shooter’s hand with care and Gambino goes on to dance just as gleefully as he did before.
He goes on dancing through a slew of popular hip-hop and African dances like gwara gwara and the shoki with uniformed school children as absolute chaos ensues in the background. He’s basically living his best life as the accepted version of a black person…a rich entertainer. Meanwhile, the common black people are being targeted and basically, living in hell. He goes on to shoot a church choir a la Dylann Roof and once again, the gun is taken away with care, “he acts crazy”, people riot, the police attack, all the while, the artist dances, far removed from the situation. It’s only when he pulls out a blunt and lights it up that he becomes like the rest of the targeted black people. So he isn’t public enemy when he uses a weapon to kill people, but marijuana is a detriment to society.
What’s my take of it all? First of all, there is a Black Renaissance occurring in music, literature, film, and tech (and no Kanye West is NOT a part of it). Donald Glover is the kind of artist we need right now. Second of all, the theme of the video is distraction. So much is going on in this world but we easily remove ourselves from it because we’re not directly affected by it. Only when it touches close to home, we begin to be outraged. Black people have been murdered and we have been yelling that #blacklivesmatter for years, not because they are the only lives that matter, but because it seems that our lives don’t mean as much as others. They only seem to matter when we’re entertaining. America seems to love black culture but hates black people.
If you haven’t watched “This is America”, watch it, and then re-watch, paying attention to the background.