Vaccine or no vaccine, it’s okay to feel helpless one year into COVID

Jermaine Hall
Published in
6 min readMar 2, 2021


Welcome to Minority Report, a weekly newsletter from the LEVEL team that packs an entire week into a single email. From the upcoming pandemic-era anniversaries 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.

For Valentine’s Day, my wife and I went on a double date with another couple. The restaurant — a steakhouse in the heart of Atlanta — was packed, of course. We sat at the crowded bar while waiting for our table, talking about our expectations and job prospects for the year. We had drinks and ordered appetizers, sitting shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the patrons, everyone in their finest suits and gowns. Then we sat at our table, ate, and drank away the night.

This was February 2020 — the last time I had a meal with friends.

Like many of us, I’ve been thinking a lot about these one-year anniversaries as March has approached. They’re piling up faster by the day. The last time you went to a concert. The last time you saw your parents. The last time you went to work. The last time you saw your friend alive.

Winter was a depressing slog because of the sheer devastation of the death count. Even though infection numbers are finally beginning to drop as vaccine availability increases, March brings about its own emotional trauma. We’re looking at what amounts to a lost year for so many of us. We had months of plans that have been deferred or eradicated by financial crises, quarantine, and death.

There’s also the fact that we’re being forced to relive the trauma of how everything fell apart. I vividly remember the panic I felt when the NBA canceled its games and I had to pull my kids from school, those first few weeks when I thought coming anywhere near someone would mean I’d die. The terror feels like muscle memory.

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It’s weird to know that we’re all in this collective moment of reflecting on our trauma together. No one has escaped it. And now we have to somehow pretend like everything is okay. So, the first thing I have to offer is this: don’t. If at all possible, try to allow yourself the grace to fall short. To feel the pain. To hurt. To know that we’re still processing a devastation that is ongoing.

We’ll bounce back. But for now, it’s okay to take a moment and just feel whatever you feel, as honestly as you feel it.

— David Dennis Jr., senior staff writer

This Week in Racism

🗑 At This Point, We’d Be Surprised If a Conservative Conference *Didn’t* Happen on a Giant Nazi Symbol

For those of you who don’t stay glued to Fox News, last week was CPAC, the annual gathering of the country’s “best” and “brightest” conservatives that also happens to sound like your uncle’s sleep apnea machine. And this year’s installment had it all: the slogan “America Uncanceled,” which in its hopes to own the libs is about as assertive as boiled chicken; Ted Cruz yelling the word “FREEDOM!” like a televangelist who had just watched Braveheart; a gold statue of Donald Trump in stars-and-stripes shorts that we mistook for Rodney Dangerfield in Back to School. And it all happened in the beautiful Hyatt Regency Orlando, on a stage designed in a shape we can only assume is 100% innocuous. [Flips idly through history book called The Symbology of the Nazi Party] Uh, wait a second. [Looks at photos of CPAC stage, looks back at book] In the 1940s, the Nazis took a Norse symbol known as the Othala (or Odal) rune, added wings, and began using it as a swastika replacement in some units of the SS. And that’s exactly what the CPAC stage was shaped like. Coincidence? Sure — as long as you believe that the Trump campaign using concentration-camp symbols was a coincidence too. (Washington Post)

🗑 Is “We’ve Been Hacked” the New “It Was a Different Time”?

Full disclosure here: We don’t know much about Coastal Carolina University, or about the off-campus living options for students. We do know, though, that Coastal Club Living bills itself as “luxury” living, with amenities that range from energy-efficient stainless-steel appliances to a sundeck and yoga/dance studio, not to mention an Instagram account that posts images of a sign reading “WE WANT WHITE TENANTS IN OUR WHITE COMMUNITY.” Yes, really. On Saturday night, Coastal Club’s account featured that little gem, which stayed up until Sunday morning — at which point the account deleted it, slapped up a “NO ROOM FOR RACISM” post, and sent an email to all its tenants saying that “our Instagram account had been surreptitiously taken over and consequently, a hateful post had been placed on our community feed.” We gotta say, we’re actually inclined to believe the complex on this one. Not only does the original sign posted have a real ’50s vibe going, but this is South Carolina; if Lindsey Graham can say “If you’re a young African American … you can go anywhere in this state. You just need to be conservative, not liberal,” then a racist housing complex would let that shit rock. (WPDE ABC 15)

🗑 Let’s Just Go Ahead and Assume Everything Are Racist Until Proven Otherwise

Last year, when LA-area public radio station KCRW hit financial difficulties, it offered buyouts to two dozen employees. One of those outgoing employees, Cerise Castle wrote a goodbye letter excoriating the station for its lack of Black employees and the way it treated the few Black employees it did have. It stayed under wraps at the time — but after Castle appeared on a podcast last week and repeated the allegations, they’ve created a firestorm for the station. Among the allegations: that Castle’s coworkers described her hair as “militaristic” and said she reminded them of a “gangsta”; that the station took her idea and passed it off as someone else’s; and that building personnel tried to stop her from entering the building multiple times within her first month of employment. This is an especially bad look for KCRW considering what’s been unfolding at podcast network Gimlet Media, where … actually, just read it yourself. We’re getting pretty damn tired of hearing this song. (Los Angeles Times)

The LEVEL Up: Culture Picks From the Editors

📺 Coming 2 America

Sprinkle some rose petals. Order yourself a Big Mick. Spray some damn Soul Glo. The long-awaited sequel to Eddie Murphy’s classic 1988 film has arrived! This time around, Akeem returns to Queens as a king in search of the son and rightful heir he’s only recently discovered (Jermaine Fowler). Wesley Snipes, Teyana Taylor, Leslie Jones, and Tracy Morgan join the franchise, while Arsenio Hall, Shari Headley, John Amos, and James Earl Jones reprise their respective roles. Fingers crossed for a Sexual Chocolate encore! (3/5, Amazon Prime)

🎧 Good Kid Twisted Fantasy, Toasty Digital

Ever wonder how two of the greatest hip-hop albums of the 2010s would sound if they collided head-on like a couple of crash-test dummies? A music editor and DJ named Toasty Digital found out for himself, and the answer is far from a total wreck. Built around an elaborate fan fiction concept, this mashup of Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city is masterfully blended. At times, K-Dot’s rhymes dance atop dazzling instrumentals like “Runaway”; elsewhere, Yeezy blesses the beat to “Money Trees.” In a word, it’s gorgeous. (YouTube)

🎥 Boogie

This coming-of-age basketball film has all of the ingredients of a winner: a high school rivalry, cultural intersections, and a gone-too-soon star in his first and only acting role. Eddie Huang’s directorial debut features newcomer Taylor Takahashi sharing the screen with the likes of Dave East and the late Pop Smoke in what looks to be a hoops flick for a new generation. Like an airball, this one won’t hit the ’net upon release, but look out for it at the official theater of meme stocks. (3/5, AMC)

LEVEL Read of the Week

How the Energy Problem in Texas Failed Houston in February

Houston has a problem, and Bun B wants to be its solution. Like much of the rest of Texas, the city faced a natural disaster of historic proportions last month, a winter storm made all the more deadly thanks to incompetent GOP leadership and a privatized energy industry. Bonsu Thompson spoke with Bun B about how the devastation in his home state may spur the UGK rapper to pursue public office — and why he believes he’d have a strong chance of securing election. Read the story.

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Jermaine Hall
Writer for

Jermaine Hall is a digital publishing executive. When he’s not running his two sons and wife from place to place he’s watching Lakers games.