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Higher Learning. A publication from Medium for the interested man.

Equality

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It’s hard to champion Jeff Bezos’ and Richard Branson’s cosmic voyages when so many people are suffering

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Optics aside, I can see some value in a billionaire riding into space on what looked like a blue dick.

On Tuesday, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos successfully completed his foray into space after launching from a remote area of West Texas on his Blue Origin rocket along with three crewmates. “Best day ever!” Bezos said when the capsule touched down after the flight. The sub-orbital flight lasted 11 minutes and made Bezos the second billionaire to leave the Earth this month.

The first billionaire was Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, who took to space aboard Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity. Another…


Linda Franks blows into a plastic noisemaker at the perimeter of Louisiana’s East Baton Rouge Parish Prison during a protest with other members of the reform coalition. Her son, Lamar Johnson, died while in custody at the prison in 2015. Photos: William Widmer for LEVEL

In one decade, 45 people died in East Baton Rouge Parish Prison. Most were charged with nonviolent misdemeanors. Most didn’t have their day in court. Most were Black. How did the system fail them?

Lamar Johnson was driving to pick up his grandmother from dialysis in May of 2015 when a Baker, Louisiana, police officer pulled him over because his car windows were tinted. Four days later, a guard found the 27-year-old hanging in his cell at the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison.

Years before Covid-19 ravaged correctional facilities across the United States, the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison (EBRPP) experienced its own prolonged wave of death. From 2009 to 2019, 45 prisoners died in the jail’s custody, which is nearly double the national average. …


This Week in Racism

It’s an embarrassment of riches in our weekly roundup of the world’s most preventable disease!

Death and taxes used to be the only two certainties in life. But no matter how much progress it feels like we’re making sometimes, the sad fact is you can probably slide racism into that list. Are we in a moment of uprising that feels like it has the potential to create real, systemic change? Yes. Do people and organizations still show their ass on a daily basis? Oh, most definitely. And to keep tabs on all that ass-showing, we created a weekly racism surveillance machine.

If you’ve seen those SPCA ads with shelter dogs looking straight-up forlorn as a…


This Week in Racism

It’s an embarrassment of riches in our weekly roundup of the world’s most preventable disease!

Photo Illustration: Save As/Medium; Source: Getty Images

Death and taxes used to be the only two certainties in life. But no matter how much progress it feels like we’re making sometimes, the sad fact is you can probably slide racism into that list. Are we in a moment of uprising that feels like it has the potential to create real, systemic change? Yes. Do people and organizations still show their ass on a daily basis? Oh, most definitely. And to keep tabs on all that ass-showing, we created a weekly racism surveillance machine. …


I just want the best for him — but I fear he’ll be othered

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Drop-off at my son’s daycare follows a familiar script: We leave home in my quickly aging Kia with its speakers throbbing, as I match the lyrical flows of the ’90s rappers who raised me. Upon approaching the nursery, I slowly reduce the volume and compose myself before parking alongside Audis and Teslas owned by consultants, marketers, lawyers, and the like. Before stepping out of the car, I silently remind myself that my family deserves to experience the same privileges that they do — even if we’ve shaved our budget bare-bones to afford the cost of preschool enrollment.

My Tejano and…


Music stars and activists alike have exploited Black death and protest imagery for profit

Lil Baby performs at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards on March 14, 2021. Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

A James Baldwin quote plays. Two White male police officers confront and question a Black man sleeping in his car, quickly pinning him to the ground. The man (played by actor Kendrick Sampson) breaks free, flees, and is shot down. This recreation of the June 2020 killing of Rayshard Brooks by Atlanta police was all a setup for Lil Baby’s performance of his song “The Bigger Picture” at Sunday night’s Grammys — but it wasn’t the end of the theatrics. …


Black awards shows exist, yet artists never seem to hold them in the same regard

Smokey Robinson and Charlie Wilson perform during the 2020 Soul Train Awards presented by BET. Photo: Leon Bennett/STA 2020/Getty Images

The Weeknd’s never been known for seizing the spotlight. Even dating back to his mysterious early mixtapes, the R&B artist has chosen to let his music do the talking. But last November, after his Billboard-busting, Super Bowl-sized album After Hours received zero Grammy nominations, the normally reclusive artist let it fly. “The Grammys remain corrupt,” he said on Twitter. “You owe me, my fans, and the industry transparency…” His countryman Drake echoed the sentiment later that day on Instagram, comparing the Recording Academy to “a relative you keep expecting to fix up but they just can’t change their ways.”

Corruption…


If we want to give players a better chance, we’ve got to stop the cycle of exploitation before it starts

If you work hard, you should get paid.

It’s an idea as simple as two-plus-two, as old as capitalism, as American as apple pie. But now that a new super league called Overtime Elite is announcing it will pay six-figure salaries to the world’s best high school basketball players, I can already tell you what’s going to happen — the old guard is gonna lose it.

Whenever anyone suggests paying young athletes, people start throwing all kinds of questions at the wall: What about amateurism? Can these players be trusted with money of their own? How much change is too…


This Week in Racism

It’s an embarrassment of riches in our weekly roundup of the world’s most preventable disease!

Death and taxes used to be the only two certainties in life. But no matter how much progress it feels like we’re making sometimes, the sad fact is you can probably slide racism into that list. Are we in a moment of uprising that feels like it has the potential to create real, systemic change? Yes. Do people and organizations still show their ass on a daily basis? Oh, most definitely. And to keep tabs on all that ass-showing, we created a weekly racism surveillance machine. …


It’s not harmless banter — it’s immature and offensive

Photo: Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

In high school, the talk around the lunchroom table was peppered with some now-questionable phrases.

It was almost impossible to get through a conversation without a chorus of interruptions — “Ayo!” and “Whoa” the usual two — indicating that you’d fucked up. And when that happened, the only appropriate response back then was to “pause” yourself:

“I could never be vegetarian; I like meat too much. Pause.”

“Yo, can I get another sausage? Pause.”

Any unintentional double entendre, any sentence that could be viewed as vaguely homoerotic, required us to pause the conversation and reclaim our manhood that was now…

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Higher Learning. A publication from Medium for the interested man.

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