This is an email from Minority Report, a newsletter by LEVEL.
Two cities start the reparations conversation — will the country follow?
Welcome to Minority Report, a weekly newsletter from the LEVEL team that packs an entire week into a single email. From the long road to reparations 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.
Back in 2003, Dave Chappelle imagined a reality in which the U.S. paid more than $1 trillion in reparations to descendents of enslaved people. That Chappelle’s Show episode — in which a hot-handed Harlem dice roller named Tron overtakes Bill Gates as the world’s wealthiest man after gambling his newfound earnings — was all the more hilarious for its absurdity, playing on a premise that seemed just as unlikely back then as America electing a Black president. Nearly two decades later, in the midst of an intensifying national reckoning with racism, it seems like that unbelievable scenario may be materializing into something real.
This week, Asheville, North Carolina officials formally apologized for the city’s historic role in slavery and discrimination, and presented a plan for reparations. Councilman Keith Young, one of the city’s two Black council members and the one who proposed the original resolution — which ended up passing unanimously — insisted that taking down monuments of storied racists isn’t enough. Rather than cash disbursements, though, the resolution will direct funding to communities where Black residents face disparities in areas like home ownership and entrepreneurship. Elsewhere, in Providence, Rhode Island, Mayor Jorge Elorza signed an executive order to start its own reparations process, which stresses an accurate recounting of history, accountability, and atonement. It’s a big move in the smallest state, which dropped the word “plantations” from its official name just last month.
Here are two relatively small cities pushing forward with quote-unquote progressive legislation 155 years after General William Sherman’s initial promise of 40 acres and a mule. But perhaps these are baby steps to the federal government acknowledging — and more importantly, compensating — for the far-reaching generational impact of slavery. And all I can say is: It’s about damn time.
Sure, the U.S. has admitted wrongdoing and paid out American citizens in the past, but Black folks are still waiting for justice to be served, whether via paper check or direct deposit. Back in 2012, I visited South Africa and began to truly grasp the extent to which America sweeps its racist past (and present, tbh) under the rug. While there, I explored the expansive and chilling Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, stood before Nelson Mandela’s closet-sized prison cell on Cape Town’s Robben Island, and learned about how Mandela’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission sought to forgive but never forget the country’s segregated past.
In comparison, America’s approach is ass-backwards. From Jim Crow to separate but equal to affirmative action, ’Merica has a long history of simply slapping a band-aid on shit like Nelly in ’02, rather than performing the much-needed (albeit costly) reconstructive surgery. Providence and Asheville are on the right track, but other cities and states need to follow their lead. (Though it’s not lost on me that these efforts are happening just as the nation is spiraling down the toilet due to a piss-poor response to the ’Rona. Go figure). Ultimately, it’s on the federal government to own up to our racist forefathers’ (and fellow compatriots’) shit, and pay us what it owes us — but until then, it’ll be on like Tron.
— John Kennedy, senior editor
This Week in Racism
🗑 Damn, Even the National Museum of African Art Out Here Fucking Up
Last week, 10 former staff and board members of the Washington, DC museum submitted a letter to the head of the Smithsonian alleging that numerous official complaints of racial bias and misconduct against Black employees had been ignored, and calling for the resignation of chief curator Christine Mullen Kreamer. But the chief curator of the nation’s foremost African art museum is Black, ri — wait a second. “Christine Kreamer”? Oh. Got it. (Huffington Post)
🗑 Nick Cannon Sees DeSean Jackson’s Anti-Semitic IG Post, Says “Hold My Manischevitz”
First came Philadelphia Eagles running back DeSean Jackson, who over July Fourth weekend posted to his Instagram Stories a quote falsely attributed to Adolf Hitler saying that — actually, never mind, you had us at “quoting Adolf Hitler.” Not to be outdone, Nick Cannon rolled out a podcast he had taped with disgraced Public Enemy member Professor Griff, in which Cannon pulled out a hit parade of Jews-own-the-world conspiracy theories. It’s like 1989 all over again! Cannon apologized for his Ncredibly ignorant remarks as well, once Viacom fired him from a few of his 837 jobs and he realized he might not be able to be unfunny on Wild’N Out anymore. (NPR)
🗑 In Least Surprising News Possible, Tucker Carlson’s Head Writer Turns Out to Be Terrible
Last weekend, CNN broke the news that Blake Neff, the head writer for Fox News’ most popular primetime host, had spent years posting racist and homophobic trash on a message board. (Conveniently, Carlson skated out for vacation immediately after giving a bullshit non-apology to his mouthbreathing viewers.) To answer the question that’s in your brain right now: Yes. Yes, Blake Neff looks like the cover art for the album Yacub’s Greatest Misses. Yes, Blake Neff is an incel subreddit in human form. And yes, Blake Neff will surely enjoy whatever job he’s about to get in the Trump administration. Congrats, you worthless stain! (CNN)
The LEVEL Up: Culture Picks From the Editors
🎧 DJ Khaled featuring Drake, “Popstar” and “Greece”
Aubrey Graham and DJ Khaled have a history of high-grade cookup that Walter White and Jessie Pinkman would appreciate. Their new pair of bops are undercooked ostentatious rap. “Popstar” delivers brags of planes and helicopters, a Bieber name check, and a David Foster comparison (that one we salute). We would have preferred a cultured Santorini stunt from The Boy; instead he delivers “Greece” with a francois flow. You’ll hate to love both, but still you’ll know all the words by Sunday. (Spotify)
📺 Indian Matchmaking
Most dating-based reality shows either turn coupling into a competition (The Bachelor) or dial the Hot-Mess-O-Meter up to Ghost Pepper. This series follows a woman who’s decades deep in the matchmaking game, working with clients in the U.S. to find them the perfect partner. It’s not without its messiness — look out for Aparna memes over the next few days — but it’s got much more of what shows like this usually lack: a heart. (Netflix)
🎮 Paper Mario: The Origami King
Nintendo already saved our lockdown sanity once this year with Animal Crossing: New Horizons — and now the company’s iconic plumber is trying for a double dip. The Paper subseries is more of a role-playing adventure than the Super Mario platformers, but this go-round the (frequently criticized) combat elements have been simplified in favor of a more puzzle-like mechanic. Gotta know when to fold ’em, we guess. (Nintendo)
LEVEL Read of the Week
How KRS-One’s “Sound of Da Police” Went From Anti-Cop Anthem to Theme Song and Back Again
It was a song written for someone else, over a beat made for a different someone else. Yet, KRS-One’s 1993 single breathed new life into his career — and somewhere along the way became a favorite of film-music licensers, who turned the song into a celebration of the boys in blue. Now, in 2020, it’s urgent all over again. Read the story.