This is an email from Minority Report, a newsletter by LEVEL.
Welcome to Minority Report, a weekly newsletter from the LEVEL team that packs an entire week into a single email. From men showing their ass policing women’s bodies 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.
Men ruin everything. Actually, let me rephrase that: Men ruin everything for women. And that goes double for Black women.
Consider two non-Bernie internet trends that have dominated the young but already eventful 2021. First there was the #BussItChallenge, a TikTok craze (built around Erica Banks’ Nelly-sampling breakout song, “Buss It”) that primarily features women in their most modest “I woke up like this” looks — a robe, head wrap, slippers, and cosmetics-free face. Once the beat drops, they transform into their baddest, most glammed-up selves, dropping it low and working their knees out for a few glorious, fleeting seconds. Next up was the #SilhouetteChallenge, another viral movement in which women are cloaked in moody lighting, with only silhouettes of their bodies visible as they dance and pose for the camera.
Both are fun fads that made for some widely shared clips and empowering moments. Or at least that should be the case. But leave it to men, once again, to ruin everything.
Chloe Bailey, aka half of the R&B duo Chloe X Halle, recently took part in both challenges, stepping out from the tandem packaging and showcasing her body and sexuality. She trended across social media each time, dazzling viewers and prompting enthusiastic praise and commentary. It was a great moment to witness the singer — who entered the public consciousness as a teenager — stepping into her womanhood. That is, until Sunday, when she cried on Instagram Live, upset about people judging her for diverging from the “wholesome” image she allegedly portrayed. Essentially, she was shamed for being a 22-year-old woman.
What’s more, men put their Uninvited Commentator hats on for the #BussItChallenge, using demeaning language to talk about participants and claiming they’d never be able to keep a man or find a husband due to the way they revealed their bodies — as if the challenge had anything to do with men’s opinions or desires. Others went full creep with regard to the #SilhouetteChallenge, using special filters and editing software to cancel out the effect that had concealed women’s bodies in the videos, then sharing the resulting nude clips to social media.
So, what did we learn here? Men don’t want women voluntarily showing their bodies, because it demeans their “worth” (whatever that means). But when women want to hide parts of their bodies, men expose them without consent. It’s a lose-lose situation.
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These men’s responses — both to the social media challenges and to Chloe’s ensuing posts — are a microcosm of how we treat women as a whole. There is no peace for women as long as men are around to terrorize them. They can’t wear too little clothing, cover their bodies, share their bodies, enjoy their bodies, keep their bodies private, or exist in their bodies without men finding ways to be terrible Earth coinhabitants.
Sure, some women may have taken part in the negative response to the #BussItChallenge or in shaming Chloe. But while women can perpetuate misogyny in the same way that Black people can uphold White supremacy, that doesn’t erase the fact that the misogyny in which these women are participating is built, enforced, and maintained by men. It’s on us to break these oppressive structures and fight for these women. Because, Jesus, they’re just trying to enjoy themselves.
The solution? I’m proposing two options. 1) Stand with women, whether you watch these videos or not. 2) STFU. How’s that for a challenge?
— David Dennis Jr., senior staff writer
This Week in Racism
🗑 One of These Days, a Racist Cop Will Be Straight-Up Fired Instead of “Told to Resign”
In tiny Hamilton, Georgia, police officers claimed that they weren’t using their body cameras because they wouldn’t turn on. The problem wasn’t that they were broken; it was that they were full. (Uh, anyone ever hear of an IT department?) But when city employees downloaded the footage clogging up said bodycams, they found their own chief of police and a patrolman going full Grand Wizard during a casual conversation. The pair ran through all the greatest hits on the footage, which was originally captured before a Black Lives Matter protest in June: using the N-bomb to refer to Rayshard Brooks; saying they’d rather have sex with a man than Stacey Abrams; complaining about the protests because slavery had happened “200 years ago”; and, as the grand finale, pointing out that enslaved folks didn’t have it that bad anyway. “But for the most part, it seems to me like they furnished them a house to live in, they furnished them clothes to put on their back, they furnished them food to put on their table, and all they had to do was f — -ing work,” police chief Gene Allmond said. “And now, we give them all those things, and they don’t have to f — -ing work.” Unbelievably, Hamilton’s mayor — who is Black, mind you — gave the two the chance to resign. Which they both did. Well, the chief did; the patrolman, John Brooks, asked to resign, but then didn’t turn in his equipment by the appointed time, at which point he was terminated. So that’s what it takes, huh? (NBC News)
🗑 Uh, That’s Not What “Paying With a Black Card” Means
Last Thanksgiving, a woman checked in for her American Airlines flight at North Carolina’s Charlotte Douglas Airport. Everything went fine — until a few days later, when she checked her banking app and saw a debit labeled only as “African American Service Charge.” She called the airline; she called her bank; each kept pointing her to the other. Finally, last month, a local TV news organization began digging into the story. American Airlines claimed that it was unable to change the text on a given charge, and because the woman had checked her baggage at a self-serve kiosk, it couldn’t have been their fault. Mastercard confirmed that, saying that the American charge had come through correctly. That narrows it down to either the bank that issued the credit card or Mastercard itself, but the description remains unchanged on the charge. The investigation continues, and a suspect has yet to be identified, but if we’re gonna put our detective hat on, we’re gonna say it was Kolonel Kustard in the Kitchen … with absolutely zero seasoning. (WBTW)
🗑 How Many Nazi Robocalls Does $10 Million Get You?
Montana may be Big Sky country, but it’s also Big Swastika country. In January, the FCC slapped Montana resident Scott D. Rhodes with a $9.9 million fine for multiple campaigns of racist robocalls. Throughout 2018, Rhodes sent thousands of calls targeting Black and Jewish politicians — including Stacey Abrams, Andrew Gillum, and California senator Dianne Feinstein — and spoofing the Caller ID so that the calls appeared to be coming locally. He did the same to Charlottesville, Virginia residents after the White supremacist “Unite the Right” rally that year, and to residents in Iowa and Idaho. Rhodes, who runs a neo-Nazi website and podcast we’re not going to mention here, brought that same energy to his robocalls, some of which included recordings of Adolf Hitler. All Rhodes lead to bigotry, we guess! (USA Today)
-The Florida Woman (OF COURSE) who defended her vile-ass racist rant by saying “It doesn’t matter if I said [the N-word] 100 times in 30 seconds,” she said. “I don’t care who’s upset.” (KMOV)
-The same Florida Woman who then doubled down to another reporter by saying “To finally get someone to come out and go ‘I’m a racist. I’m sorry for what I did.’ That will never come out of my mouth. Ever. Never.” Damn, lady, we get it! (ABC 7)
-Australian Rules Football club Collingwood, who was sued by an ex-player for a culture of systemic racism that included being called “chimp” by his own damn teammates. (BBC)
The LEVEL Up: Culture Picks From the Editors
📺 Malcolm & Marie
Zendaya and John David Washington put ESPN’s First Take to shame with this black-and-white drama that depicts a couple’s night of no-holds-barred arguing. It’s a master class in acting (don’t be surprised if this racks up during awards season) and a portrait of love and low blows that will get your blood pressure up. Hopefully, you can’t relate. (Netflix)
📖 Clover Hope, The Motherlode: 100+ Women Who Made Hip-Hop
Female rappers have contributed so much to hip-hop over the course of the genre’s rich history, and been recognized for far too little. In return, veteran journalist Clover Hope celebrates them with this brilliant and beautifully illustrated paperback — the preeminent directory on lady lyricists from MC Lyte to Megan Thee Stallion. (Amazon)
📱 “Would You Kill God Too?”
We will never forget Breonna Taylor. Georgia artist W.J. Lofton is doing his part in keeping her memory alive with this three-minute clip that features a powerful poem that challenges the plainclothes officers who killed her. Presented by Ava DuVernay’s ARRAY collective, the video is as stunning as it is heartbreaking. (YouTube)
LEVEL Read of the Week
The Man Who Captured the Insurrection
Mel D. Cole got his start as a photographer by chronicling hip-hop shows. As time went on, he got interested in political extremism. And when a sea of militia members and White supremacists descended on the Capitol in early January, he was there — but he wasn’t just there to shoot Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. Instead, he trained his lens on the Black men who were there to turn up for Trump. Read the story.
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