Nothing captures being Black in America like cleaning up after the racist Trump mob
Welcome to Minority Report, a weekly newsletter from the LEVEL team that packs an entire week into a single email. From the Capitol siege’s most telling footage 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.
You’ll never forget the imagery: White men scaling the walls of the U.S. Capitol, mobs of Trump supporters looting and vandalizing the country’s legislative hub, violent showdowns with an undermanned and particularly gracious police force. January 6, 2021 will forever live in infamy, marking the day that a sitting president encouraged (and praised) a full-on insurrection that resulted in five American deaths. Yet of all the footage and photography capturing that shameful attempt at a coup, there’s one scene that feels so tragically poetic that it would’ve been too on the nose for a television writer’s room.
A clip emerged Wednesday night showing Black people — presumably janitorial staff — cleaning up in the Capitol mere hours after it was ransacked by fanatical White men and women who wanted to overthrow the government, apparently for letting too many Black people vote. The video is a look at everything about being Black in America.
Take a minute to let the idea sink in: Black folks have so often been put in positions where they are cleaning buildings occupied largely by White people who are only in their positions because of a head start. Now, they’re cleaning a building decimated by White folks who feel as though their head starts weren’t head start-y enough, so they launched a Civil War to belabor that point. They tore the wallpaper from the building’s interior, scratched messages of hate on doors, and smeared shit in hallways. In many ways, they treated the Capitol like they treated America, leaving Black people to clean up the mess.
Don’t get it twisted: These Black folks weren’t repairing the damage out of some semblance of patriotism. It’s likely how they survive. How they make a living from day to day. It just so happens that Black people’s focus on our own survival always ends up benefiting everyone else.
(Forwarded this email? Sign up here.)
That’s certainly what happened in Georgia prior to the riots. Black people mobilized and voted in Georgia to turn the state blue by securing Senate seats for Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossof. The most immediate result is the Democrats gaining control of the Senate. This is a net good for the nation; citizens can now get actual relief, better healthcare, and an efficient vaccine rollout, among other possibilities. White liberals hopped on social media to thank Stacey Abrams — in some cases comparing her to Captain America like some grade-A weirdos — and thanking Black people in the most hyperbolic ways possible. But we weren’t doing it for them; we were doing it for us. Which is always best for them.
Then there’s Eugene Goodman, the Black officer who dangled his Blackness like a carrot for a rabid mob of racists. He redirected them away from an unsecured entrance to the Senate floor by allowing them to chase him away down another hallway. He saved the country. A country that would not have mourned him if that mob had killed him. A country that would have never put its flags at half-mast. A country that is more likely to kill him on his way home than to treat him like a human being. A country that doesn’t deserve him or the people who save it.
— David Dennis Jr., senior staff writer
This Week in Racism
🗑 Please Remember Simpler Times With This Tale of a Karen Gone Wild
While it certainly seems like every white supremacist with bus fare and a distaste for masks showed up in Washington, DC last week, it’s important to remember that day-to-day racism didn’t slow down. Exhibit A: A Black man in Oregon trying to circumvent a traffic snarl by getting on the highway provoked the ire of an absolutely classic racist archetype when he edged his car around hers. Let’s do the checklist, shall we? Calls the driver the N word multiple times? Check. Reaches through his window to smack him? Check. Spits in his face? Check. SWINGS ON HIS PASSENGER WITH A KNIFE, and then scratches his pickup truck with it? Check. We’re so overwhelmed by it all we’re not even gonna say anything about the pickup truck. Guess that’s just how they do it in Oregon. Anyway, the local police department posted a photo of Miss Sunshine on Facebook looking for leads, only for the thread to devolve into big jokes. And while we normally don’t condone such cruelty, you know what they say about God and ugly. (KPTV Fox 12)
🗑 NYPD Concludes That the Racism Is Coming From Inside the House
After a monthslong investigation, New York Police Department has officially concluded that — ah, we’ll just let the New York Times do it — ”a high-ranking officer responsible for combating workplace harassment in the New York Police Department wrote dozens of virulently racist posts about Black, Jewish and Hispanic people under a pseudonym on an online chat board.” As the NYT details, over at Thee Rant, a message board largely populated by NYPD officers, James Kobel called Barack Obama a “Muslim savage” and referred to Bill DeBlasio’s son as “brillohead.” In response, a representative of Kobel’s union issued this statement: “Given the current political climate and anti-police sentiment, D.I. Kobel did not see it as possible to get a fair administrative trial and decided to avail himself of the opportunity to file for retirement.” Ah, yes, the current political climate. It’s like a guy can’t even violate his oath to protect and serve the people of New York anymore without sparking a witch hunt! (New York Times)
🗑 The Brits Aren’t the Only People Who Can Give a Horse a Racist Name
Devoted readers of This Week in Racism may remember the tale of the racehorse named Jungle Bunny. They may even have thought to themselves, “well, surely nothing like this could happen in these here United States!” To which we say: AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Please meet horse trainer Eric Guillot, who on January 1 kicked off the year by tweeting a photo of a horse that he claimed had “a unique name in honor of a [TV network] analyst.” That name? GRAPE SODA. That TV announcer? Only the only Black man announcer working for the network in question. Guillot claimed that there was nothing racist about it, that he simple loved grape soda — which is all well and good, except he also claimed in a since-deleted tweet that the colt was as smooth as a menthol Kool, punctuating it with a black fist emoji. Guillot has since been barred from the New York Racing Association … though we have a feeling he won’t have a hard time finding a new job once he heads over to Thee Rant. (New York Times)
The LEVEL Up: Culture Picks From the Editors
Everyone loves a good heist plot, and this particular tale has all of the (Parisian) fixins: revenge; clever disguises; roots in classic French literature; and superstar actor Omar Sy, who brilliantly depicts protagonist Assane Diop. It’s already taken off on Netflix, and in only five episodes that are each under an hour (the season’s second half is expected to follow soon), it’s the perfect serving size for a good binge. (Netflix)
📱 To Mary With Love
Icon. Diva. Queen of hip-hop soul. For three decades, Mary J. Blige has exemplified Black excellence while remaining our relatable fave. And yesterday, on her 50th birthday, she received her flowers in a way fit for a living legend. This interactive site — compiled by Yaba Blay, Tarana Burke, Syreeta Gates, and Karen Good Marable — features voicemails from the likes of Angela Bassett, love letters from those whose lives Mary has touched, and an archive of Mary’s super slay style moments (plus a petition to launch her own boot line). Now that’s real love! (To Mary With Love)
🎶 Griselda & BSF, Conflicted
Griselda Records is the army — better yet the navy. The brand backed by Westside Gunn, Conway, and Benny The Butcher is starting 2021 with guns blazing. First up is Conflicted, a compilation album (out now) that also highlights Benny’s Black Soprano Family (BSF) crew alongside features from Wale, Lloyd Banks(!), and Dave East. It’s a companion to a Griselda-starred gangster film of the same name that follows a former convict who struggles to walk a straight path upon release. (1/15, UScreen)
LEVEL Read of the Week
How Netflix’s ‘Malcolm & Marie’ Actually Gets Relationship Fights Right
Last week, Netflix dropped a trailer for a movie very few people even knew about, and there was a good reason for it. Malcolm & Marie, starring Zendaya and John David Washington — and written/directed by Euphoria creator Sam Levinson — was filmed in virtual secret on a closed set during quarantine last summer. Ahead of the romantic drama’s February release, Aliya S. King sat down with the trio to talk fair fights, Mars vs. Venus, and whether you’ll ever be able to look at Washington the same way again. Read the story.
You are signed up to receive emails from Level. You can adjust your settings at the link in the footer of this email.