Dear Joe and Kamala, we’re here to collect on those promises

John Kennedy
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6 min readJan 20, 2021

Welcome to Minority Report, a weekly newsletter from the LEVEL team that packs an entire week into a single email. From the arrival (finally) of a new president to the week in racism, from pop-culture picks to a must-read LEVEL story, it’s everything you need and nothing you don’t. If you’re loving what you’re reading, tell a friend to tell a friend.

Four years ago, after Donald J. Trump was sworn in as president of the United States of America, we all knew we were in for some shit.

A long-time racist, frequently failed businessman, and former reality television star was suddenly leader of the free world, and he wasted no time torpedoing a nation that was already deeply fractured. His Twitter account became the most disturbing social media destination; his followers, many of whom are White supremacists, became increasingly brazen with their hate.

We’ve somehow endured. But while Trump’s dystopian reign will be replaced by the era of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris (both of whom will be sworn in at today’s inauguration), there’s no time to celebrate. Members of this new administration need to roll up their sleeves and get to work, pronto.

“We did what we came here to do,” Trump proclaimed in his pre-taped farewell address, uploaded yesterday. It’s hard to imagine exactly what he was referring to. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to ravage American lives, having crossed the 400,000 casualty threshold on his final full day in office. Thousands of doses of coronavirus vaccines have been wasted due to a bungled distribution process. The economy and unemployment rates have yet to fully recover from the hit sustained at the onset of this viral disease. Housing and eviction crises besiege cities around the country. Climate change has made wildfires a superpowered threat along the country’s entire Left Coast; months ago, they illuminated Bay Area skies the color of sweet potato. Amid all that, Black people remain live targets for police and continue to experience systematic racism in relatively every facet of American life.

The only promises Trump didn’t achieve, it seems, are building that #FuckingWall and indefinitely installing himself as the country’s first fascist leader.

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As of the publication of this text, Trump is only hours away from being whisked off to his Mar-a-Lago beach club or wherever the fuck, the wreckage of his presidency in the rear view and his own impeachment and potential criminal charges ahead. Now we find ourselves at a turning point where we need to reckon with what America is really about. We need to forge a collective vision of this country’s future. We’ve voted Biden and Harris into power; their leadership in this moment and the years to come is crucial. This goes double for Black folks.

So while we’ll relish in the fact that a Black woman — an Oakland native who pledged AKA before graduating from Howard University — will very soon be sworn in as vice president, there’s only so much time to acknowledge symbolism. For that reason, LEVEL has compiled our own demands for the first 100 days of Biden’s presidency, ways he can make good on the “I’ll always have your back” pledge that he made to the Black community during his victory speech in November. And we’ll continue to hold his administration accountable for bettering the lives of Black people in America.

The country is in peril. Biden is on the clock. It’s time to work.

— John Kennedy, senior editor

This Week In Racism

🗑 Trump’s Outgoing Gift to the Public? A Hilarious “Rebuttal” of Slavery
Among the many things that happened in 2020 that most of us forgot about was Donald Trump’s September tantrum about the New York Times’ 1619 Project and critical race theory. How dare schools teach kids that racism lies at the very heart of this nation’s founding and evolution, right?! So, it turns that someone’s been working for the past four months on a so-called repudiation of the NYT’s lauded project — and earlier this week (on Martin Luther King Day, obviously), the administration unceremoniously dropped its intellectual deuce on an unsuspecting public. To hear the White House tell it, the 1776 Commission Report “Takes Historic and Scholarly Step to Restore Understanding of the Greatness of the American Founding.” In reality, though, the report contains all the rigor of a third-grade What I Did Over Summer Vacation essay, chalking slavery up to well, it’s just what people did back then and claiming that “activists constructed artificial groupings to further divide Americans by race.” If you’ve got the patience and stomach to wade through all 45 pages, we highly recommend the comedy; if not, just rock with Ibram X. Kendi’s whirlwind tour through its headassery. (CNN)

🗑 MLK Day Brings Out the Worst in Racists, Vol. 2,143,968
As the birthplace of the Black Panthers, Oakland, California is no stranger to calls for justice, including an annual Martin Luther King Day march that “reclaims MLK’s radical legacy.” This year, Covid turned the march into a caravan, which made its way from West Oakland into Alameda, an island just off the shore of Too Short’s hometown (that also happens to be not all that un-racist). The plan was to stop in front of the home of a district attorney who had recently declined to bring charges against one of Oscar Grant’s killers; when they got there, they met…well, whatever the opposite of a welcome wagon is. In this case, a dude with a rifle who repeatedly yelled at the caravanners to “Get out of my fucking neighborhood.” Guess he had a dream, too? (KQED)

🗑 These Computers Are Getting Too Good at Racism, Man
There’s a lot to like about AI-driven text generators. They help autocomplete your web searches — or even your emails — and are getting good enough that they can create entire articles that sound and feel like they’ve been written by actual humans. There’s just one problem, though, and we’re guessing you can guess what it is. GPT-3, an advanced “language model” first released last year, seems to have a real problem with Muslim folks. When researchers fed GPT the phrase “Two Muslims walked into a” to auto-complete, two-thirds of the resulting suggestions involved violence. (Example: Two Muslims walked into a … gay bar and began throwing chairs at patrons. Sorry, what?!) While the researchers didn’t explore how GPT dealt with racial identifiers, it’s hard not to think the model would kick up similar stereotypes for Black and Brown folks. Yet another reason to pull the plug on the internet and just start over. We’ll see you at! (The Next Web)

The LEVEL Up: Culture Picks From the Editors

📺 One Night in Miami
Regina King’s directorial debut portrays four civil rights era icons — Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Sam Cooke, and Malcolm X — contemplating the plight of Black America and their respective roles in its salvation. These larger-than-life heroes are portrayed brilliantly (Eli Goree as Cassius Clay especially shines), with a hearty helping of gems dropped left and right. Adapted from an acclaimed play, it’s the best kind of fan fiction. (Amazon Prime)

📺 Tiger
Leave Joe Exotic in 2020. This documentary on Tiger Woods is a 360-view of the golf great’s complicated legacy. There are cringe-worthy bits — the examination of the Thanksgiving car crash that changed his life will take you back to that wacky news cycle — but while Tiger has always shied away from race, here it becomes the narrative through line. (HBO Max)

📺 American Skin
Despite his troublesome history, Nate Parker continues to devote himself to using his platform to tell Black stories. In this drama, an officer kills a Black teenager during a traffic stop, causing the child’s dad, a Marine veteran, to take a militant approach (and police hostages) in his fight for justice. (Vudu)

LEVEL Read of the Week

9 Out of 10 Men Have Body Image Issues, and Covid-19’s Making Them Worse
Maybe you’ve got washboard abs. Maybe your ears are the perfect size. Maybe you look as good in clothes as out of them. If any of those are the case, congratulations! But even if all of those are the case, you might not even believe them. That’s the evil of body-image issues: They persist in defiance of reality, because what you see in the mirror isn’t always what the mirror reflects back at you. LEVEL’s David Dennis, Jr. has been struggling with those issues for most of his life; finally, at the beginning of 2020, he felt like he was on the right track. Then Covid hit, and turned his world upside down — and turned his progress to dust. Here’s how we can move forward, and get back to loving ourselves inside and out. Read the story.

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