Perhaps best known as the cheerfully childlike Troy on the NBC sitcom "Community," Donald Glover has a sideline in hip-hop as Childish Gambino -- or rather a former sideline since he's left Community to focus on his fast-rising music career.
But despite his small stature, bohemian fashion sense and cuddly persona -- one enhanced by his emotional, honest and nerd-friendly music and his recent viral Instagram posts bravely listing his insecurities -- Glover is apparently not immune to being racially profiled by the police. Even when with his parents outside the downtown Las Vegas music festival Life is Beautiful where he was on the bill.
More worryingly, Glover says being a successful musician, actor, writer and comedian didn't prevent him from seeing someone killed right in front of him this year. "That's my life," he says with resignation.
While in Toronto to do advance press for the December 10 release of his new album "Because The Internet," Glover spoke to HuffPost about these traumatic experiences.
Your friend was mentioning that you guys got messed with by some cops in Las Vegas on the weekend?
So what happened? You were with your parents?
Yeah, we were supposed to do Life is Beautiful down there.
Yeah, very. Very. My mom has a bad foot, she just had surgery so she can't really walk, and my dad has a really bad back, so he can't walk [well] either. I'm there with my parents and we're at the festival, but we can't get in because they won't let us and I'm like, 'Look, I'm Donald Glover, I'm Childish Gambino, I'm performing right there in a moment. Is there any way we can get in? Call whoever you need to, look on your phone, look me up, I can prove it.'
It's one of those things where I'm right, so I'm just going to keep stating my argument calmly. I'm reading [philosopher] Kierkegaard and truth is a power -- but it's a power, it's not the power. People don't do it just because it's the truth, people do it because they're afraid.
Everybody in this situation was afraid of getting in trouble, so that's why they were stopping me. They weren't listening, they didn't use common sense like, 'I'll look up Donald Glover. I can see his parents right there, they can't walk.' Or using what made us human in the first place, which is think, just think. 'If this dude's lying to me, if this dude's not Donald Glover -- which I can look up on my phone -- if he's not, then at least let me get some chairs for them.'
Basically what happened was I was standing there, and a police officer came up and was like, 'Uh, are you lost or something?' And I was like, 'Oh great, he'll help.' So I was like, 'Yeah, I’m performing in two seconds, my parents are here--' and he just cuts me off and is like, 'Get off the street, get on the sidewalk.' And I get on the sidewalk and he drives away. They don't wanna help me.
Then another cop comes up and he's like, 'Get the hell outta the street!' And [Donald's friend] goes, 'Yo, yo chill.' And [the police officer] literally screamed: 'Did you just tell me to chill?!?' That's also fear. He saw a bunch of black kids and he saw me, and got nervous, got scared, and was like, 'You guys are up to something. There's no way this guy's a performer. There's no way he needs my help with his parents. He just disregarded and screamed at me, emasculated me in front of my parents.
This is the one time I get to do something nice with my parents, the one time I get to show them 'yeah, I'm doing okay.' I embarrass them all the time. My dad doesn't like the Instagram posts. This is the one time I get to do something nice and [the police officer's] screaming at me for no reason. But there was also a race factor there. He didn't want to help. he was just afraid. I felt like that was the essence of a lot of things.
It seems crazy to happen to a sitcom star, who is also a rapper, who is also performing at that festival, who also makes the kinda music that you make...
That's why I don't wanna be a rapper. I don't wanna be a rapper because like that glass ceiling that Kanye's talking about, that's real shit. That's what made it okay for those cops to treat us [like that]. They see me and I'm not Macklemore and they're like 'rapper.' They don't know. They didn't listen to "Camp," [his first album].
People wanna tell me the world's different now. "Why are you rapping about like this stuff happening? That doesn't happen anymore." It happens more now. Because you know that happens, right?
Well, Trayvon [Martin] made it clear that this still happens, right?
But it didn't! It didn't! It didn't make it clear because, first of all, Trayvon was like the fifth black youth to be killed this year like that. And people didn't talk about Kenneth Chamberlain, people didn't talk about Jordan Davis, people didn't talk about all these. I'm the one who gets text messages from my mom, 'stay inside tonight' or 'did you hear about this?' That's my life.
We saw somebody die a couple months ago in Atlanta, in front of us, that's my life. People I guess assume, because I'm me, they think that I'm some black kid who is really lucky and has rich parents. I grew up in Stone Mountain, [Georgia] but even if I was rich, I'm still a black guy.
So we saw people die this year, in front of us -- I've seen people die before but for some reason I thought a lot of this stuff would stop because I was being told -- by white people -- that, 'Everything's okay. We figured it out. Obama. It's all great.' But it's not, it's actually harder now because who am I gonna run to? Who am I gonna tell? Who gives a fuck? No one really does."