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


In LEVEL. More on Medium.

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…

Just Rankin’ Sh!t

Cease and seckle, people

Photo: FOX/Getty Images

5. Brad Pitt, ‘Meet Joe Black’

Pretty Boy Floyd plays Death in this muddled romantic drama, but when he meets an elderly Jamaican woman in a hospital, he goes full Ras Trent. Whether it’s an “everyt’ing gwaan be irie” that sounds straight out of a Jimmy Buffett concert or a gratuitous “raatid!”, we couldn’t escape the struggle — mostly because we had our hands clamped over our eyes, which only made our hearing all the more sensitive. Duppy know who fi frighten!

4. Neil Patrick Harris, ‘Clara’s Heart’

The world didn’t know Harris when this Whoopi Goldberg vehicle came out in 1988; Doogie Howser, M.D. was still a year away, let alone…

Just Rankin Sh!t

Because sometimes you just don’t have the words

Photo: Apple

7. Roller coaster 🎢

2020: The year of the perpetual nosedive.

6. Shrugging 🤷🏿‍♂️

For that moment after you’ve binged your way to the end of Netflix’s catalog.

5. Masked face 😷

Gotta keep that MF thang on you — that is, after inevitably running back into the crib to retrieve it.

4. Facepalm 🤦🏽‍♂️

Deployed when politicians refuse to wear face masks, “allies” drop a performative-ass anti-racism post on social media, you stumble on yet another cake meme, and every time Kanye West speaks.

2. (tie) Angry 😡 and Weary 😩

Our resting face throughout the year has oscillated between these two emotions. (Also: Hmm… this is kind of starting to look like the five stages of grief.)

1. Trash can 🗑

Need we…

Just Rankin’ Sh!t

Full stop

9. Curly bracket

In all honesty, this is only here so we can curse its existence. The handlebar mustache of punctuation (and not just because it looks like one). Shout out to all the programmers using it to write code, but how do you live with yourselves?

8. Exclamation point

Once the scotch bonnet of sentence-enders — punch and spice just when you needed it — societal overuse has turned it into a rote display of empty enthusiasm. For real! There’s no more off-putting way to make a first impression! Or end an email! …

Just Rankin’ Sh!t

Unprecedented times call for unprecedented neologisms, but it’s time to cut these off

8. “Doomscrolling”

As if we need a term for diving into the execrable trash fire that is 2020. We can just swipe this one the hell out of here.

7. “Virtual happy hour”

Let’s please not drag this shit into 2021. If there’s no bartender shelling out discount margaritas in an actual venue, count us out.

6. “Performative allyship”

The perfect short-shelf-life jargon for this year’s reckoning with racism. “Not really about that life” has always summed it up just fine for us.

5. “Read the room”

Sure, some of the folks on the receiving end of this phrase are embarrassingly lacking in self- and social awareness. …

Just Rankin’ Sh!t

Oooh, someone’s big mad

Photo: Prompilove/Getty Images

7. “I’ve never heard of this.”

The sentiment doesn’t surprise us. LEVEL is explicitly for and about Black and Brown men, which means that not everyone will be familiar with everything we write about. What would surprise us, however, is if the people who are grievously offended at not being catered to as the default audience actually saved the 30 seconds it took to type this and went to a little website called Google Dot Com.

6. “Stop making such a big deal about it!”

If you’re on the hunt for this particular breed of comment, we’ve got a few key phrases to look out for. “Overblown grievance” is a good one. Oh, and “race…

Just Rankin’ Sh!t

Y’all really want to be allies? Dead these for good.

5. “Hot girl summer”

We’re all for empowerment anthems, but by this point we’ve heard this phrase get shouted by so many roving packs of Aperol spritzed-out Beckys that we need Meg to issue a disclaimer.

4. “My guy”

Years! We had this one for years. Then Desus and Mero blew up — and the blast radius took this one all the way to Media Twitter. Pour a little out, y’all.

3. “Bop”

Okay, Caucasian friends: For future reference, when you’re looking for a word to paste over a Spotify link on your IG stories, please just… don’t.

2. “Slap”

Here’s what slaps: Bay Area hip-hop. That’s it. Here are things…

Even as we begin to re-enter the world together, a small — but crucial — element of male friendship will be missing. And we may never get it back.

Illustration: Jamiel Law

Big Blue was her name. An ’81 Impala, stock save for the Pioneer tape deck Norm had thrown in the dash. That tape deck held just about the entirety of the early ’90s while we drove through the Indiana night doing nothing. MC Breed, Cube, Tribe, Pac, Redman, X-Clan. Sometimes nothing would turn into something — wood-tip Swishers stuffed with what passed for weed back then, off-campus parties that didn’t mind a couple of high school kids — but always, ultimately, the night would end the same way it began. Big Blue idling outside my house, or my shitty Prelude…


We know you mean well, but just… don’t

Illustration: Janet Sung

I’ve been lucky enough to have spent my life raised, surrounded, and loved by amazing Black men. When I was a young child, growing up with Black-and-proud parents, I’d often see men like my dad showing the utmost respect to women, especially Black women. This included greeting them with an honorific like “Sister.” For as long as I can remember, teachers, distant relatives, and family friends called my mom Sister Ree and my aunt Sister Jan. (Some people still call my mom Sister Ree.)

But at some point, and I’m not sure when, that honorific was replaced by a different…

The truth is we all sound ‘funny’ to someone

An illustration of a black person surrounded by text bubbles.
An illustration of a black person surrounded by text bubbles.
Illustration: Fabiola Lara

On my way to a paid gig, my Lyft driver bombarded me with an unsolicited conversation about himself and the weather. I noticed that he spoke with a delayed tone, going out of his way to over-enunciate his words. He assumed that because I didn’t have an American accent that I must be visiting from somewhere else and didn’t speak English. “You see, here in Los Angeles,” he started, despite the fact that English is my first language and I’ve lived in the United States for a decade.

“So, you have an accent. Where are you from?” he asked, screwing…


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

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