“This is America”

Dear President Trump,

Have you seen Donald Glover’s “This is America” music video? If you haven’t, you should. In an interview about it for the Huffington Post Julia Craven talked with the founder and curator of the Jim Crow museum, David Pilgrim. He notes that throughout the video dancing is juxtaposed with brutal violence. He is careful not to assume he knows what Glover intended, but posits that dancing while someone is thrown to their death and a church choir is gunned down is meant to depict how we all, including African Americans, retreat to dancing (distancing, distracting) to cope with and ignore the violence.

Craven and Pilgrim also talk about the fact that there are no white people in the video and that all the violence is both perpetrated and endured by African Americans. They both talked about what this choice stirred up for them personally and others they’d talked with. Here is some of what Craven said: “I wondered who it would benefit if the shooter in the video is white. How is this easier to digest if it’s a white person as opposed to a black one? And that got me to the point where you either have black people killing each other and white people don’t care, or you have a white person killing a black person in another “justified shooting. It’s easy for them to separate themselves either way.” A noble understanding that gives neither pleasure nor joy but is absolutely necessary for us to bear.

Since the video was released last Saturday I’ve found myself coming up with various potential companion pieces depicting other hard to watch, hard to accept aspects of American life. The one I’ve been focusing on most would portray the fear most girls and women contend with every day. It would convey the worries about being vulnerable in public places as well as the various forms of violence that are happening mostly behind closed doors among familiars. It would also portray all the effort we expend to pretend these fears are not really there, that things are fine, that we’ll be ok as long as we toe the proper lines.

May we be safe to call out the hard, hard aspects of so many Americans’ lives.
May we be happy to understand that just because we don’t personally experience something doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.
May we be healthy and strong enough to deal with the whole of it.
May we appreciate how all this means achieving real peace is nearly impossible and absolutely imperative.

Sincerely,
Tracy Simpson

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