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Gun Violence, Race, and the Power of Music

Main photo by Lorie Shaull/Flickr via (CC BY-SA 2.0)

There were 340 mass shootings in the U.S in 2018 — the same year Donald Glover (AKA Childish Gambino) released the music video for his song, “This is America.” But if you’re from another part of the world, you may not understand the chilling reality of this work. While other countries have experienced gun violence and mass shootings, none have experienced them at the frequency of the United States of America.

In four minutes and four seconds, Glover bluntly addresses not only the problem of gun violence in his country, but also discrimination and police brutality toward African Americans.

Here’s a brief look into these issues and how history has played a part in creating them.

The Problem of Gun Violence

In other countries, such as New Zealand, that have experienced mass shootings, immediate action was taken to protect citizens from similar incidents in the future. Less than one week after 51 people were killed and another 50 injured at two mosques in Christchurch, all military style semi-automatics and assault rifles were banned. Why wasn’t the same action taken when 59 people were brutally murdered during an outdoor concert in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.? Or when 20 children and seven adults were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, U.S.? We could go on.

A little background: When the Founding Fathers created the United States of America, they drafted a Constitution. The Second Amendment of that document states that all citizens have the right to bear arms, meaning they have the right to carry guns. And in America, a small, but loud, contingent feel gun safety measures are an infringement and put their right to bear arms above every other citizen’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — a right spelled out in another U.S. document: The Declaration of Independence.

Gun control and the culture behind it has become increasingly controversial and highly politicized — the National Rifle Association (NRA) has a strong presence in politics and makes a serious effort to persuade politicians to vote in their favor for less gun regulation by donating heavily to those politicians’ campaigns.

The Problem of Police Brutality

African Americans, who are inherently CCKs, fall under the category of being in-between two extremes. On one hand, they face the everyday adversity of being a minority. On the other, they are statistically proven to be targeted more by police officers. According to the NAACP’s Criminal Justice Fact Sheet, “African Americans are incarcerated at more than five times the rate of whites.”

Besides incarceration, Black people have been gunned down by the police for eating ice cream in their own home, for selling cigarettes, for reaching for their wallet, and so much more. In fact, Black people are 2.5 times more likely than white people to be killed by police.

The fact that some still see Black people as a threat because of their skin color has sparked movements against racial injustice. One of the most prominent groups is Black Lives Matter.

Giving Minorities a Voice

Glover’s intentional commentary uses an all-Black cast to show and dismantle the facade America often puts up — a fake story of everyone getting along with everyone all the time. In reality, Black people know the U.S. has always “valued” them for the money they can bring in — whether it be through slavery. for-profit prisons or as entertainers. Glover juxtaposes this with how many in society actually view Black people, as dangerous just because of their skin color. The first rap song to win a Grammy award for song of the year, “This is America” brilliantly holds a mirror up to the nation, lays out the issues of gun violence, ethnicity and police brutality, and challenges them to change.

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