Does God forgive men who verbally abuse their children?
Welcome to Minority Report, a weekly newsletter from the LEVEL team that packs an entire week into a single email. From learning how to hear other people’s perspectives 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.
Prior to this weekend, the vast majority of us had never imagined gospel legend Kirk Franklin calling someone a “bitch ass.” That all changed Saturday, after his estranged son, Kerrion, released a video of his dad cursing him out. The Instagram clip went viral because of course it did — this the man who made “Imagine Me” dropping n-bombs and using phrases like “I’ll break my foot off in your ass.”
(Sidebar: That whole premise of Christians not being able to curse has always fascinated me because, well, who determines what words are off-limits? The FCC? I’ve heard so many Christians use words like “whore” and “bastard” but refuse to say “ass.” But I digress.)
The ensuing social media discussion eventually went beyond the shock of a Cussin’ Kirk and the real issue came into focus: verbal abuse. This was a story about a father heaving threats and curses at his 32-year-old son. And since social media is where nuance goes to die, there was very little of it exercised on Twitter.
Look, first and foremost, I’m glad my parents have never threatened to break my neck, regardless of my age or the severity of the disagreement. I’m also proud to say that my children will never be addressed in that manner while they’re living under my roof (I sincerely hope your parenting style is the same). But I also know that there are plenty of people who were raised in physically or verbally abusive households who are triggered by what they heard in the video — and rightfully so.
However, their points are going to be dismissed because the internet is the land of projecting. Which explains the sentiment of “my parents cussed at me and I turned out fine” when, uh, they probably didn’t turn out fine? It’s okay to reckon with the stuff that hurt us when we were younger — and to listen and empathize with other perspectives without Twitter dunking or trying to score retweets.
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Kirk Franklin has since apologized for his words in a public statement and video released to social media, claiming he “lost his temper.” Yet this mini saga, and how it’s played out in the public discourse, is a convergence of unresolved hurt, toxic masculinity, and religion. It’s a lot to parse and we’ll probably never get the full backstory of the situation. But maybe, just maybe, we can listen while people try to work through their own experiences as they absorb it all. Or maybe I just have too much faith.
— David Dennis Jr., senior staff writer
This Week in Racism
🗑 Funny, We Don’t Remember Wilford Brimley Dropping the N-Bomb
Late last week, the National Federation of State High School Associations streamed an Oklahoma high-school basketball game between the female squads from Norman and Sapulpa. (Are people really still calling it “girls’ basketball?” Really?) During the pre-game National Anthem, a number of the Norman athletes knelt, which seemed to set off one of the play-by-play announcers from state sports network OSPN. “They’re kneeling?” he asked his broadcasting partner in disbelief, clearly assuming his mic was off. “Fuckin’ n*****s. I hope Norman get their ass kicked.” Once the raw footage of the tirade hit Twitter, OSPN refused to name the voice behind the hatred, but ultimately Matt Rowan — who happens to own the network — took responsibility. Now, we’ve heard people explain away their racism using all kinds of excuses, most of them being variations of the Shaggy Defense. But Rowan opted for something with a much, much higher degree of difficulty. “I will state I suffer Type 1 Diabetes and during the game my sugar was spiking,” Rowan said in a statement issued to The Frontier. “While not excusing my remarks, it is not unusual when my sugar spikes that I become disoriented and often say things that are not appropriate as well as hurtful.” That’s the great thing about science; you learn something new every day! We can’t wait to hear Derek Chauvin blame it all on scurvy. (The Oklahoman)
🗑 Welcome to Another Episode of Law School Professors Gone Wild (Racist)!
Georgetown University Law Center perennially ranks in the nation’s top 15 law schools; it’s produced senators (Mazie Hirono, George Mitchell), journalists (Savannah Guthrie), “journalists” (Greta Van Susteren), and whatever ex-RNC chair Michael Steele is classifying himself as these days. Last week, someone discovered that a recorded Zoom call between two of the school’s faculty members contained what we here at LEVEL like to call “a shining crystalline distillation of the problem.” In discussing class participation over the years, adjunct professor Sandra Sellers shared that “I end up having this angst every semester that a lot of my ‘lower ones’ are Blacks. Happens almost every semester. And it’s like, ‘Oh, come on.’ You get some really good ones, but there are also usually some that are just plain at the bottom. It drives me crazy.” All the hits are here! You’ve got your default “lower ones,” your begrudging acknowledgment that there are some “good ones,” and of course the obligatory hey-this-isn’t-my-fault-I’m-a-good-liberal handwaving of saying it gives her “angst.” And let’s not forget “Blacks”! The law school’s dean terminated Sellers the next day, but don’t worry too much about her: the conservative spin machine has already anointed her a sacrificial lamb of “cancel culture.” The National Review went with “Increasingly, Facts Are Racist,” which is a particularly nice contortion to avoid the idea that maybe professors are responsible for what happens in their classrooms. But hey, what do we know? We’re still over here trying to figure out that whole diabetes thing. (ABC News)
🗑 Pardon Our French, But Don’t Pardon These French
In 2015, 12 staffers at French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo were murdered by two men angry that the magazine had published a cartoon depicting the Prophet Mohammad; the tragedy became a flashpoint for a charged discussion around freedom of speech, satire, and the blurry line between commentary and hateful baiting. This weekend, Charlie Hebdo again found itself in the global spotlight. This time, though, it was thanks to a decision that was entirely its own. Coming on the heels of Oprah Winfrey’s explosive interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, the magazine’s newest cover blares the headline POURQUOI MEGHAN A QUITTE BUCKINGHAM (“Why Meghan left Buckingham”); underneath, a cartoon depicts Queen Elizabeth and Markle as Derek Chauvin and George Floyd, with the Queen kneeling on Markle’s neck while the latter says “Parce que je ne pouvais plus respirer!” (“Because I could no longer breathe!”) We’re gonna be real with you; we’ve got no jokes for this one. It’s just fucking vile. We grew up reading Mad Magazine, and even its ugly stepchild Cracked, and not a single one of the juvenile-ass headlines they published over the years comes close to the level of disrespect and utter lack of judgment the Charlie Hebdo staff shows in publishing it. We’ll just leave it at what Bas said and dip out. (CNN)
The LEVEL Up: Culture Picks From the Editors
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
WandaVision blew our minds, but it was just the first of many Marvel series slated to drop in 2021. Next up is this odd pairing of Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) that takes place post-Avengers: Endgame, as the duo attempts to fill Steve Rogers’ shoes and carry Captain America’s shield. While there won’t be any nods to various eras of television programming, this six-episode journey is sure to serve up something closer to the kinds of nonstop action scenes that MCU heads crave. We’ll be watching to see if Winter Soldier’s time as “White Wolf” offers any clues about Black Panther 2. (3/19, Disney+)
This Is the Fire: What I Say to My Friends About Racism, Don Lemon
Like Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, Don Lemon’s new hardcover uses James Baldwin’s 1963 book, The Fire Next Time, as inspiration and a blueprint to go deep on racism. Spurred by the murder of George Floyd last year, this collection of essays and reported stories finds the CNN anchor getting real about this country’s history of oppression, his family’s history of slavery, and his ideas on the best way to move forward. (Barnes & Noble)
Between the incredibly humanizing Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and Judas and the Black Messiah, it’s been a great time for biopics and documentaries celebrating our icons. That trend continues with this anthology series based on the life of the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. Cynthia Erivo’s transformation into the music and civil rights legend will make you put some respect on her name. (3/21 @ 9 p.m., National Geographic)
LEVEL Read of the Week
Black Users Made Clubhouse a Phenomenon — How Will the App Treat Them in Return?
It’s a tale as old as social media: a platform launches; Black users turn that platform into an essential destination; the platform takes its Black users for granted, paying them either lip service or dust. From Vine to TikTok, it’s always the same — but now, with voice-chat app Clubhouse poised to become that next ubiquitous platform, Keith Nelson Jr. wonders if the story can get a different ending. Read the story here.
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