Welcome , a weekly newsletter from the LEVEL team that packs an entire week into a single email. From handwringing about Today's Youths 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.
Folks on social media once again got in peak soapbox mode this weekend. This time, the outrage was built around a video that surfaced of a teenager at Cam Newton's football camp audibly calling the NFL star "ass." Newton approached him, clapping back by boasting about his net worth before things devolved into an incoherent back-and-forth. The widely circulated video, captured on another teen's TikTok, became the focal point of the latest episode of everyone's favorite show, Dumb Discourse.
Like every other hot topic, two sides emerged on the matter: those who believed Cam Newton was in the wrong for responding to the kid, and those who thought the boy participated in a disgraceful act that brought shame to his family deserving of strict repercussions. If social media does anything well, it's absolutes — but the truth is always somewhere in the middle.
The teenager who called Cam Newton "ass" did something incredibly stupid and disrespectful. It's almost as if he's [gasps] a teenager! Look: Teenagers are little idiot landmines that explode if you come anywhere near them. They're chaos bombs. Who knows why they do what they do? They don't even know what they're doing on a given day. Hell, that kid probably didn't even know why he said that. He was being dumb — which, again, is what teenagers do!
A kid yelling an obscenity at Cam Newton isn't a commentary on life and TikTok and society and Grand Theft Auto or whatever. It's just that: a kid yelling an obscenity.
That hasn't stopped many on the internet from suggesting Cam Newton should have put that kid in his place via some grand insult or violence. Like the big, rich NFL player should have folded this teen in half and tossed him down the field. Should Cam Newton have responded by talking about how much richer he was? Probably not. But again, he was earnestly responding to a little hormone droid insulting him.
Later, Cam approached the kid and they talked it out, creating a learning experience for all. And Sunday night, the kid posted an apology that seems to have settled everything. That's really all it took: an apology. Not preaching, not glamorizing a video of a kid being stupid. Just talking.
Kids are going to be dumb. And we have to give them the grace to be wrong. Sure, we can (and should) reprimand him (like his parents did). Sure, he should learn from his mistake. Then we should, uh, move on because what the hell are we even doing here?
Sometimes a thing can just be a thing. And this exchange is an example of that.
TLDR: Kids are dumb. Let them be dumb and make dumb-ass mistakes and then reel them in with love and firmness when they need it. Now let's move along.
— David Dennis Jr., senior staff writer
This Week in Racism
🗑 Your Weekly Reminder That When You Hear "This Is My America," It's Time to Dip Out
Quick, picture a successful anesthesiologist in your head. Got it? Okay, now tell us what that person does for fun when they're not treating patients. Spending time with their family, maybe? Maybe a hobby, like golf or gardening? That all sounds perfectly plausible. But you left out one hobby: yelling slurs at a Latinx man, keying his car, telling him "we should have gotten rid of you when we could," and then punching him when he tried to call 911. At least, that's what Dr. Jennifer Susan Wright, a Miami-area anesthesiologist, was arrested for last week. Seems she got a little testy after the man asked her to respect social distancing in a supermarket checkout line, then followed dude to his car and assumed the form of Super Saiyan Karen. Given all that, it may not surprise to learn that Wright's Facebook page (which she's since deleted) was home to such shitposting classics as "It's Okay to Be White."
🗑 The Latest Arrestable Crime in Texas: Walking Home From Work While Black
One night last week, after snow and ice had blanketed Texas, 18-year-old Rodney Reese started walking home from his job at Walmart. He wasn't that cold, despite only having a t-shirt on, but all that unplowed snow and ice meant he needed to walk in the street. Soon, though, another problem presented itself: Plano police officers, alerted by a phone call, began following Reese in their car. Despite the high school student's repeated claims that he was fine and didn't need help, they ultimately arrested him on a "pedestrian in the roadway" charge, and he spent the night in jail. Here's where we point out that the officers, who were dispatched to the scene as a welfare check, had no right to arrest Reese … which is exactly why the charges were dropped. Here's also where we wonder whether anyone would have arrested Reese (or called the cops in the first place) if he were white. Just kidding — we're not wondering at all!
🗑 Neo-Nazis in the Military Are Finding Each Other Through Their Fashion Choices
Despite repeated warnings that law enforcement has a white supremacy problem, it's an idea that doesn't exactly appeal to the Thin Blue Line crowd. ("ThOsE arE tHe peOpLE kEePIng YoU sAFe," goes a typical rebuttal.) You know who believes it? The motherfucking Pentagon. Yes, the Department of Defense sent a report to Congress last year detailing its efforts keeping extremists out of the military, and the details are just now coming out. Of particular note is the idea of training Army officials to identify lesser-known Nazi symbols — because that's exactly how these asshats are learning how to identify each other. "A good way people in the military find other rightists is to simply wear a shirt with some obscure fascist logo," wrote one active military member in an online chat mentioned in the report. You heard it here first: wearing SS symbols is so last year.
The LEVEL Up: Culture Picks From the Editors
🎥 Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell
The Notorious B.I.G. has been deceased for nearly as long as he was alive. And while hip-hop fans around the world know Biggie Smalls as one of the greatest MCs to ever kick a rhyme (even his belt is legendary), far fewer truly know the man behind the music. This new documentary shines a light on Christopher Wallace's life after death. (3/1, Netflix)
📺 Snowfall (Season 4)
At long last, it's time to revisit those momentous Reagan years that turned Black communities upside down. In this new chapter of the Los Angeles-based crack era drama, we'll discover the fate of Franklin Saint (played by Damson Idris) following the cliffhanger that has had fans holding their collective breath since the season three finale in 2019. Let's see just how cold the snow game can get.
🎧 The Fraud Department, Jim Jones and Harry Fraud
Jim Jones just keeps getting better. Dipset's 40 Over 40 iron man linked up with producer Harry Fraud for an 11-song collection of thoughtful bars over mellow beats. The intro track "Laps Around the Sun" recalls late-career Hov's conversational flows, while "The People," featuring Conway the Machine, memorializes George Floyd. The Fraud Department consistently keeps it real. (Spotify)
LEVEL Read of the Week
We Waited 9 Years for Our Daughter — and Had 9 Weeks to Prepare for Her
Jesús Triviño Alarcón and his wife tried for nearly a decade to start a family: IVFs, IUIs, the whole gamut of options. Next up was adoption — but despite the odds being in their favor as a young Latinx couple, they searched for a year and a half with no luck. Just as they were about to give up hope, though, hope found them. And it didn't leave them much time.