When I was young, I used to think that the United States was the safest and most perfect country in the world. They have great buildings such as the Empire State building, Willis Tower, and the World Trade Center. It is the country that invented Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, and iPhone; I wish I could possess all of their accomplishments. The elders also told me that I should learn in America because it is the place with the most prestigious education and the place where everyone has the right to do what they want.
“So, that is America.” I thought to myself.
But is it really America as a whole? Does the historical speech “Give me Liberty or Give me Death” or the promising “Declaration of Independence” in 1776 define the real America? Or is it the song “This is America” that shows the real America? Which one is the real America?
I kept wondering about what is going on in America because I keep hearing about the other side of this country. But, I hesitate to ask because there is some fear behind my writing as a teenager. And that is because I am not an American. However, after learning about the United States history in my Literacy class, I chose to view America from a hill to analyze the song “This is America” by Childish Gambino.
As I watched the 4-minute video on YouTube, I’ve noticed that there are around 400 million views and 6000 comments on this single video. The discussion focused on gun violence and what it means to be a black person in America.
The issue of black Americans began in 1619 when the first slaves arrived in America. In 1861, the civil war started between the South and the North due to their differing views on slavery. The North wanted to terminate slavery because their economy was dependent on manufacturing, and the South needed the slaves (mostly consisted of the black Americans) for labor in the agricultural industry. The bloodshed across the nation withdrew 620,000 lives, killed Abraham Lincoln and other important figures before the South surrendered in 1865.
But, did the freedom from slavery change people’s mindset and include the African-American in their society?
Some of the white American feared the black men because there are deeply rooted stereotypes of black men being uneducated and violent. The mindset has made some white Americans draw a stereotypical distinction between the black and white American, and be cautious around them.
The first minute of the video “This is America” shows a black man playing guitar being shot. Some audience pointed out that he looks like Eric Gardener who inspired the phrase “I can’t breathe” or Philando Castile who was shot by a policeman in the car even though he was unarmed. Once I watched the full footage of this incident from the news, read people’s comments, and investigated different articles, I realized the cause of this situation: the policemen thought that the African-Americans were dangerous, so they decided to shoot them before they could harm others. Often times, those people turned out to be innocent and that the policemen killed innocent people because they were scared.
The scene made me question the situation, whether it is the most ethical strategy or not to stop the disease from spreading by executing a person without a clear examination.
“Every man has their own rights” and “America is a country that values freedom of speech” is what I have heard. The rights for citizens to own guns was to protect the U.S citizens. But sometimes, people can be misleading and kill innocent people because they are suspicious of them or even hate them like how it was depicted in a Childish Gambino music video.
I asked the question to myself again, is America the safest place in the world?
The answer is NO. There is not a place that is completely safe, not even in Singapore‒listed as the safest country in the world by many media sources. We are never going to halt robbing, drug usage, murdering, politics, pollution, racism, and discrimination. The dark history we often think will wither away with time is actually still shadowing our present day.
In today’s world, people use music to mask the rebellious situation. As we can see, Childish Gambino danced and sang since the beginning of the video. The dancing and singing are the symbols of the distractions that some people allow in their lives in order to forget or ignore other things. However, there are the massive attacks, gun shooting, and people running around to find safe shelters behind the illusory rhythm.
“This is America” has shown me that discriminatory stereotypes are still happening in America and the problem of gun violence has not been put to an end. We will always face a disagreement from other’s point of view, no matter if it is a republic or democratic country, we are living in the cage or having freedom of speech. I am not biased towards solutions that American used or plan to use to solve both problems. Everything is dependent on Americans themselves because they are the one who can decide whether to find a middle ground for the citizens’ opinion or choose to favor any side.
Written by: Vornsar Ses