Childish Gambino’s new album, ‘Awaken, My Love’ met overwhelmingly positive reviews and the highest first-week sales in his career. For Donald Glover, this tops off a pretty incredible 2016 for the actor, rapper, singer, writer, producer, and comedian.
This year Glover saw his previous album ‘Because the Internet’ reach certified gold. He won Best Comedy Actor at the Critics’ Choice Awards for his the FX series Atlanta; a show which he created, wrote and starred, broke network rating records and was quickly renewed for a second season. Also, Donald is in the cast for 2017 Spider-Man movie. Oh, and he’s playing Lando Calrissian in the 2018 Han Solo movie.
But this isn’t about Glover’s many achievements; it’s actually about Obama and the nightmarish 2016 we’ve been having. Obama is leaving office in a few months, and this is a blow for many reasons, but the one we’re talking about today is inspirational figures.
When Obama was elected in 2008, much of the conversation was centred on the fact that a country as systemically and historically racist as America could elect a black president. This was important as it would finally give the black people who felt marginalised for centuries a voice, but even more importantly young black boys who felt that they didn’t have a place in a country. A country that has been trying to silence black people for centuries in the media, workplace, and society. They could finally see themselves reflected in the highest position on the planet.
Living in the west, it’s tough to imagine that as a child you wouldn’t feel you could be anything you want. But in America, the schools filled with minority students are the poorest and also receive the least government funding. Couple that with black students being punished harsher than white students for the same offence. The darker your skin resulting in a more severe punishment; the negative depiction of black people in the media and black children already have a lot to contend with before they reach high school.
Obama countered the media depiction of black people as thugs, gangsters, drug deals or simply just ‘the cool black friend’. Of course, this doesn’t solve all the problems that black children face; but having another positive non-rapper/sports star figure to add to Oprah Winfrey and…Bill…well, Oprah Winfrey is certainly a step in the right direction. However, this time next year he’ll be replaced by a rich, white, unqualified, bigot who has failed his whole life and been richly rewarded for it. An inspirational figure to none who need it.
It’s no coincidence that many black boys in America are drawn to careers in sports and music. These are the few career paths where the educational system or even society as a whole allow black boys to be successful unhindered. They enable you to go from abject poverty to money never being an issue again, and with white teachers lowered expectations of black students resulting in diminished performance in black students; the fame and adulation rappers and basketball players receive is particularly attractive.
But basketball and rapper are two professions where success is far from guaranteed. Black boys shouldn’t only be restricted to two professions. In an ideal world, black children would have as many options as white children. But they don’t, and that’s where Donald comes into play.
Donald has more titles than the mighty Kanye, but even ‘Ye struggled to be taken seriously in the fashion industry. Popular consensus suggests when it comes to rappers or sports players doing absolutely anything else, essentially: ‘We were good enough to let you entertain us, but don’t push your luck.‘
Well, Donald excels at everything he puts his mind to and seeing this is inspirational. The Han Solo movie will undoubtedly be successful and viewed by millions; among those many will be a black boy inspired by Glover’s performance and ultimately make him realise, he really can be anything he wants.
And where Pitchfork’s infamous 1.6 reviews of Gambino’s ‘Camp’ didn’t deter him from progressing as a rapper. Maybe the young black boy with the world against him will fight through the odds and achieve that elusive success he wasn’t supposed to have, and hopefully, a figure for little black girls isn’t too far behind.