Commentary
By Jamar A. Boyd II 5-29-2018

Famed actor and artist Donald Glover, also known by some as Childish Gambino, released his single “This is America” a few weeks ago. This song instantly caught the attention of millions and caused an enormous buzz across social media platforms.

“What does this song mean? Did you catch the underlying messages? Did you see death on the white horse? Did you see Trayvon Martin’s dad?” Those are just a few of the questions I heard and encountered after watching the video and listening to the song at least four times. But our attention was quickly taken away from the authenticity and messages embedded within Gambino’s song and video.

Within hours, Gambino’s video was edited and distorted across social media, even “whitewashed” in one instance, further solidifying one of the messages within the song and original video — our inability to stay focused on critical issues and occurrences in a microwave culture.

Prior to Gambino’s video, Waffle House had taken over news outlets. Not because of their waffles or hash browns, but because of the murder and an unethical arrest of a black woman.

 On April 22, four individuals — all minorities — were killed by a senseless gunman at an Antioch Waffle House outside of Nashville, Tenn. James Shaw Jr. charged at the shooter and the two tussled for a bit before Shaw managed to wrestle the firearm away. Shaw tossed it over the counter, and the gunman fled, he said. Yet, within hours our focus had quickly shifted.

Shortly after the incident in Antioch, the violent arrest of Chikesia Clemons occurred at a Waffle House in Saraland, Ala. An arrest that saw a young black woman exposed, disrespected, and mishandled by three police officers — an arrest that should’ve never occurred. Yet, this did not cease black bodies from headlining the news.

Again, our attention was forced to be fixated on Waffle House. On May 10, Anthony Wall, a 22-year-old black man, was choked and arrested outside a Warsaw, N.C. Waffle House. Wall had escorted his sister to her high school prom, only to be lifted off the ground, choked, and arrested by police as they concluded their night.

Prior to all of these incidents was the arrest of two black men, Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, at a Philadelphia Starbucks as they waited to meet a business client. Two men who were only guilty of being black and waiting, without purchasing anything as millions do, in Starbucks. This incident caused Starbucks to re-evaluate their policies, close all locations for a day, retrain and re-enforce nondiscrimination policies.

I mentioned these incidents not solely because I’m a black man in America, but because our attention is easily swayed away from these incidents. They are uncomfortable and authentic truths and possible realities for all minorities in America. They are most certainly the fear of most black youth, young adults, persons, and parents in this country. The possibility that you can or could be killed for being black in America is daunting.

But Gambino’s video captures the “next thing” sensation in America. Soon after these incidents occurred, attention shifted back to social media memes, Trump and Russia, North Korea, and even the Royal Wedding. And I wonder, is our attention easily swayed because these incidents involve people of color? Do they make America uncomfortable? Or is it because we still don’t know how to sincerely acknowledge and confront the reality of African Americans in the U.S.? And I pose such a question because America’s “move on” culture pauses intently at mass shootings, as sincere concern is rendered, yet the same is not done for all.

If we, Christians in this land, are to be advocates for justice and equality, then when will the ‘Christ’ in us rise up and speak and act on behalf of the greater good for all? When will we cease to be a double minded people, sure of the reality of the majority, yet easily swayed to dismiss or ignore the truth of the minority?

The time has come for the righteous to speak with righteous indignation against injustice, racism, discrimination, and the more. But the choice is yours. You can either utilize the abilities you have and create an avenue for justice or choose to remain silent amidst a nation in continued social unrest.

Jamar A. Boyd II is a first year seminarian at the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University, President of the Georgia NAACP Youth & College Division, and a licensed Minister in the Church of God in Christ. 

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"America Watches Black Pain. Then We Move On"
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