This Is America

Childism Gambino is out with a new song, and he’s confronting as many forms of racism as he can in the 4:04 video. Wearing Confederate army pants and opening the rap standing in the caricatured “original Jim Crow” pose, the video is rife with symbolism. Mainly centered on gun violence, many scenes feature powerful weaponry mowing down innocent backup dancers while others film from their phones.

The scary reality of being Black in America is tackled with eviscerating detail. Guns, police, and the mythical white horse – the symbolism is debated if the rider is a savior or death – are all parts of the experience that Donald Glover highlights. To be sure, the message and motifs of the piece are associate with fear, but offsetting everything is dancing. I interpreted this as the uncertainty African Americans face in everyday life, never knowing if something fun would become violent.

A poignant piece, “This is America” is a new song decrying the injustices of modern oppression, and is a meaningful contribution to art of the resistance.

School to Prison Pipeline Painting

Story image for race from

The local news station in Grand Rapids, MI was informed about a painting depicting a classroom full of children – and the black kids were painted wearing prison jumpsuits. Artist Rosie Lee said the piece was inspired by an article in New York Magazine about how New York schools divided kids by race to have conversations about identity, but townsperson Cory Ward expressed distaste. Ward says that the painting, displayed without context, is potentially damaging. Lee refused to write an explanation, claiming he wants dialogue to occur but accusations of privilege discourage people from having those conversations.

This article was intriguing for several reasons, the most prominent being the artist’s refusal to explain his work. I agree with Ward that context in important for people to have productive conversations about race, because this helps avoid misconceptions. Similar to discourse about the historical value of confederate statues, I believe that the correct place for them is somewhere people can go to learn about the horrors of the Civil War and not just have art that glorifies the ‘heroes.’ Lee’s refusal appears to be an admittance that he didn’t fully consider the implications of the piece when creating it. He claims he wants productive dialogue. How does he want dialogue on the topic of the painting – the school to prison pipeline – if he doesn’t tell the audience of the piece what his intentions were behind painting it?

I think the article raises questions of how to encourage dialogue when art is created.

A Remedy to Exclusionst Tech Operations

The New York Times published a piece yesterday about the lack of diversity in tech companies, with especially few positions of leadership available for Black and Latino employees. In the companies surveyed, only 1%-2% of employees were Black. The Congressional Black Caucus visited Silicon Valley to find out more. Barbara Lee, D-CA, noted “prosperity [of the tech industry] has not reached Black residents in the Bay Area,” and that the institutions of the area should be required to support the community they operate in. The Congressional Black Caucus hope to introduce legislation that would give more power to the Community Reinvestment Act, which would require tech companies to fund programs that reach out to the surrounding residents.

The Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 needs to be updated to reflect the changing conditions of society.  Originally enacted to mandate financial institutions to support the “credit needs” of the community, it has been moderately successful. By expanding the Act to include tech companies, the achievements of the Act can be modernized and continue to grow and be relevant.

Outreach programs such as the ones outlined by the Act will give California residents an opportunity to influence tech companies. Through diversity and internship programs, Black residents will be able to land positions within majority white companies. However, the legislation introduced by thr Congressional Black Caucus is vital. Without it, tech companies can continue the policies they have now, which exclude people of color from their organizations. To remedy this, there must be a concerted effort for change, and the Community Reinvestment Act is the ideal starting point.