You know the type: They post misguided maxims on Instagram about how the grind don’t stop and include silly hashtags like #teamnosleep on every other tweet. They’re from the “you have the same number of hours in the day as Beyoncé” school of toxicity, ignoring the fact that Bey has a whole-ass team around her designed to amplify her art and counsel her astute business moves. In the wake of Chadwick’s death, these types of problematic sentiments began populating social media: If he could put on a performance we’ll never forget as King T’Challa while fighting for his life behind the scenes, they claim, you should be out here accomplishing your goals on the highest level, too. You have no excuse, they say. Aside from being a shitty, judgemental value to assign to life — based entirely on output — it’s a harmful and unfair measuring stick against which to compare others, whether healthy or struggling with serious issues of their own.
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Chadwick poured his energy into his passion and selflessly shared his gifts with the world, but painting that unyielding drive as something everyone can do only sets unrealistic and unfair expectations. It can sting even more for people who are chronically ill, for whom living a purposeful life may be difficult enough on a day-to-day basis. They need empathy and support, not parading one of our heroes as a standard to be reached.
Regardless of health, everyone faces their own personal form of adversity, with a different ability to either sink or soar. In an attempt to champion Chadwick, let’s not attack others for not shining like the star he was. Take lessons from the way he lived, as seen in the heartwarming personal memories that are being shared by loved ones and those who’ve encountered him during his life. Find inspiration in how he made the most of his time on Earth by creating joy for the countless people who’ve viewed his work. But if you’re using his tenacity to belittle others, you’re not being motivational; you’re just being an asshole.
— John Kennedy, senior editor
This Week in Racism
🗑 Adele Goes Full Dancehall Queen, Gets Massive Blowback
Like so many other similar events around the world, London’s Notting HIll Carnival celebrates Caribbean culture with a massive multi-day party. The pandemic may have moved the passa passa inside this year, but singer Adele wanted to show her support — which she did in an Instagram post that made Kim Kardashian’s cornrow debacle look like an Ann Taylor catalog. Jamaican-flag bikini top? Check. Feathered regalia? Check. Bantu knots that look like they’ve got her scalp screaming for help? Let’s call that one a bounced check. Like an unholy offspring of Rachel Dolezal and Chris Tucker’s character in The Fifth Element, the singer’s hair instantly became a first-ballot Cultural Appropriation Hall of Famer, and elicited a social media outcry that can only be described as a dutty whine. Next time you want to switch up your look, we suggest a beanie, man. (The Independent)
🗑 Don’t Worry, White People: Karens Come In All Colors
Another week, another group of Black people being accosted by someone for zero reason. This time, it was a public beach in El Segundo, California, where three friends out for a run found themselves fending off a verbal tirade and false-pretense 911 call from a woman who was either also out for a run or just liked wearing fitness gear to indulge in some cardio-racism. When they passed her again, one of the trio pulled out her phone to record a rare sighting of Karenus nonwhiticus. While not often seen in the wild, the elusive species is immediately identifiable by its mating call (and now all-time classic phrase), “my environment is being harmed by this African Black person!” (KCAL9)
🗑 Florida Teen Gets Early Promotion to Florida Man With a Racist-Ass Zoom-Bombing
Let the record show that “Zoom-Bombing” is both a phrase and a phenomenon we would have been just fine finishing 2020 without. Last week, a high-school student in Broward County interrupted his virtual class by calling himself “Grand Wizard of the KKK” and embarking on a minutes-long slur-filled rant that we’re guessing was not exactly related to his classwork. (Then again, Florida, so you never know, but still.) The kid topped things off with a Nazi salute and a sprinkling of n-bombs, just in case observers had any unfilled squares on their Racist Floridian Bingo card. As the local news affiliate that reported the story pointed out, this “[brings] up the question of how to discipline students in the age of distant learning” — or, more obviously, it brings up the question of how he got all the way to high school in the first place. (NBC6 Miami)
The LEVEL Up: Culture Picks From the Editors
🎧 Black Thought feat. Killer Mike, Pusha-T, and Swizz Beatz, “Good Morning”
We may have failed chemistry back in the day, but we’ve got enough good sense to know that if you combine Black Thought, Killer Mike, and Pusha-T over a thumping Sean C production, that shit’s gonna erupt. The rap vets who represent three of the top 5 slots on LEVEL’s 40 Over 40 list catch wreck on Tariq’s latest single, delivering another reminder that dope raps have no age limit. Wake yo’ ass up. (Spotify)
📖 LeBron James, I Promise
If you’re a father to young kids, it’s hard to imagine a more wholesome read than the new children’s book from The King. “I promise to work hard and do what’s right / to be a leader in this game of life,” it begins — then, through charming rhymes and even more charming illustrations, instills a message of self-belief and positivity that’s all the more crucial once you consider what awaits them when they get to Instagram age. (Harper Collins)
🎧 Jay Diggs, “WAP (Funk Cover)”
Ever wonder what Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s insta-classic “WAP” would sound like if it were recorded back in the day — raunchy lyrics intact — with all the sheen and synthesized keys of an ’80s R&B singer? Yeah, neither did we. But a singer named Jay Diggs brought the deliciously ironic idea to life with his own cover of the hit song — and it sounds even better than macaroni in a pot! (Bandcamp)
LEVEL Read of the Week
The Billionaire’s Lament: How the World Changed Around Jay-Z
Shawn Carter made no qualms about his desire to be rap’s money king from the beginning, rapping about yachts and Lexuses on his debut album, 1996’s Reasonable Doubt. And over the next 25 years, he achieved his three-comma dream — just as the tides began to shift and the ultra-wealthy went from revered to reviled. With the summer of 2020 drawing to a close and hip-hop reckoning with its role in societal change, what’s a billionaire to do? Read the story.
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