If you went to Starbucks this morning, chances are that the gender-studies major who made your unicorn frappo-whatever has very strong opinions about Donald “Childish Gambino” Glover’s new video, titled This Is America and seen above.
Warning: It’s not necessarily safe for work.
I’m probably too old, too classically-educated, and too, er, “privileged” to be permitted an opinion on the video itself. It’s deliberately ambiguous in virtually all of its most controversial aspects. Much ink has been spilled on the “Jim Crow” pose struck by Glover before he shoots the hooded figure, but the hooded figure is an older Black musician. So is he saying that playing an acoustic guitar is the act of an Uncle Tom, or is he suggesting that the violence-suffused rap music of the modern era, which by and large replaced the blues and conventional R&B within the black community, is nothing but blackface stupidity?
Furthermore, the motif of police violence is omnipresent throughout the video. There’s no statistical backing for the media hysteria regarding “racist police killers”, but nobody seems to want to be the first to admit it. I’m reminded of the scene in The Wire where Slim Charles says, “If it’s a lie, then we fight on that lie.”. The problem is that there are a great many people in America who seem to want to fight on that lie. More pertinently, they want other people to fight on that lie while they collect their checks from the major media corporations and from George Soros. It’s a brilliant racket, earning rapper-style money stirring up racial hatred in the pages of the mainstream press while you buy, then try to flip, a $2.1 million townhouse.
Okay, let’s put all of that aside and talk about the real issue in Glover’s video: the Accords.
Virtually all of the cars in this video are mint-condition, and virtually all of them are from the Eighties and early Nineties. In particular, there are three second-generation Accords, two sedans and one hatchback. It’s entirely possible that they were all made in Marysville; it depends on where they were originally sold and sourced. The conventional wisdom is that sedans tended to be Ohio-built and East Coast deliveries in general were Ohio-built. I can say that even in Ohio the vast majority of 2G hatches I’ve seen were built in Japan.
The Accord is one of two cars that appears more than once in the video. The other is the Toyota Corolla, but it’s represented by an Eighties liftback, a Nineties sedan, and a turn-of-the-century sedan. Only the Accords are unified by generation — and color! In the last few frames they are guarding the exit of the warehouse in sentinel fashion.
It cannot have been easy to source these cars. They rusted in the showroom and most of them were driven into the ground afterwards. I know where I can put my hands on everything from an Aventador to a left-hand-drive Esprit 2.2 right now but I couldn’t tell you where to find one ’83 Accord sedan, much less two of them and a hatch to boot.
Come to think of it, maybe that’s part of the message. The unholy matrimony of cars and rap has reached a level beyond parody. Before Meek Mill had a full-length album out, he was rapping:
When I bought the Rolls Royce they thought it was leased
Then I bought that new Ferrari – hater, rest in peace
Hater, rest in peace, rest in peace to the parking lot
Phantom so big, can’t even fit in the parking spot
Hold up, wait a minute, y’all thought I was finished?
When I bought that Aston Martin, y’all thought it was rented?
I’m the type to count a million cash then grind like I’m broke
That Lambo my new bitch, she don’t ride like my Ghost
At that point in Meek’s career, he couldn’t have paid for all those cars if he earned a dollar for each YouTube view. There’s similar stupidity at work in Lil’ Pump’s “Gucci Gang”, where he is depicted driving a Gallardo Spyder to his high school. It’s all flash and no substance. The only way to get anybody’s attention with a car in a rap video now is to… uh… put three Honda Accords in it. Maybe that’s the point. Or maybe Glover is just pointing out that the vast majority of us drive used cars. Some of us even drive used Accords. I know that I do. As for the “genius social message” of This Is America, I’m going to quote a rap video from before “Childish Gambino” was out of diapers: Don’t believe the hype.