Current Event February 22, 2019
A recent lawsuit against Harvard University alleged that the university discriminates unfairly against Asian-Americans in its admissions process. The trial led to an internal investigation at Harvard and the public release of admissions data indicating that Asian-Americans made up a much lower percentage of the class than they would have if admissions were based only on academic achievement. Some are concerned that the lawsuit may dismantle affirmative action practices that have ensured diversity at selective colleges. Listen to hear commentary from an Asian- American who attended an elite college and then debate: Should race be considered in college admissions?
Current Event February 21, 2019
The state of Virginia has been steeped in controversy about past actions of key elected leaders, including calls for their resignations. Both the governor and the attorney general have revealed that they wore blackface when in costume years ago, saying that they did not realize how offensive it is. Many are not aware of the history of blackface, dating to the late 19th century, when white people would darken their faces and perform minstrel shows, which depicted African-Americans in derogatory, dehumanizing ways. Listen to this interview with a journalist who explains the history of blackface in America and why it remains controversial today.
Current Event February 19, 2019
The comic strip Baldo has been published in newspapers across the United States for 20 years. It was the first ever to feature a Latino family as the main characters. Hector Cantu, the author of Baldo was inspired to create the comic strip after noticing how few Latino characters were represented in comics. Baldo features fictional characters who deal with real life issues. Listen to this story to hear from the author of Baldo about the creation of this ground-breaking work.
Current Event February 15, 2019
A recent viral video of an encounter at the Lincoln Memorial featured students wearing hats bearing the political slogan “Make America Great Again” (often abbreviated MAGA), prompting a lot of discussion about what the hats signified about those wearing them. Views differ about what the MAGA hat represents and whether it has become a racist symbol. Listen to this interview with a fashion and culture critic who recently wrote about what she thinks the MAGA hat symbolizes and then debate: Can a hat be more than a fashion statement?
Current Event January 30, 2019
A Memphis photographer famous for capturing iconic moments of the civil rights movement was recently revealed to be an FBI informant who secretly reported information about Martin Luther King, Jr. and other activists to the government. As a recent book recounts, Ernest Withers, whose photography earned him an international reputation, was involved in civil rights activities in ways that even his family was not aware. Listen to this interview with the author of the book about Withers to learn more about his complicated story.
Current Event January 28, 2019
For the third year in a row, a Women’s March was recently held on the mall in Washington, DC and in other cities around the world. The first Women’s March was organized in response to the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States. This year, there was discord preceding the event, with some of the march’s leaders being accused of anti-Semitism. Many people, however, joined the marches in solidarity again, focusing on issues of equity and justice affecting women. Listen to this story to learn more about the event and the issues surrounding it.
After the owner of a tattoo shop south of Baltimore posted on Facebook that he would offer to cover up any racist or gang-affiliated tattoos for free, his post quickly went viral and attracted a lot of attention. His philosophy is that people who have made mistakes should have the opportunity for a second chance to display a change of heart. Listen to this story to find out where this idea originated and how one tattoo artist has helped people to reshape their identities.
Current Event December 19, 2018
Selective colleges and universities are using a new strategy to diversify their student bodies; they are recruiting transfer students from community colleges. There are many reasons that high-achieving students may choose to start at community colleges, but now many private four-year colleges are inviting those students to transfer after they have completed an associate’s degree. Listen to this story to hear from one such student about her dreams, her challenges, and her experiences as a transfer student at an elite school.
A group of Asian Americans were asked the question: Do you consider yourself brown? Some said “yes,” others said “no,” and the reasons they gave for their answers varied. For some, their answer was based solely on their skin tone. For others, their answer was more complicated and took into account cultural and social factors. In this audio story, a group of Asian Americans discuss the discrimination they have faced based on their skin color. Listen to learn more about why some Asian Americans do or do not consider themselves “brown” and how the way others view them affects their lives.
Charles Johnson’s book Middle Passage is considered a modern classic, in part because so much of the story told in the novel is seen as a reflection on the history of race and what it means to be black in America. In the book, the main character, Rutherford Calhoun, a free black man, unknowingly boards a ship that’s part of the illegal slave trade. His experience on board forces him to clarify his own racial identity. In this audio story, we hear different perspectives, including the author’s, on the story the book tells and its important and relevant themes.
Consumer culture in the United States has been a fixture of the holiday season for years, particularly on the Friday after Thanksgiving–also known as “Black Friday.” That’s the inspiration for the title story in Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s latest book of speculative fiction, Friday Black. In it, he addresses the topics of race and class as they relate to American consumer culture. Listen to hear an interview with the author as he discusses how his experience of these factors influences his work.
What defines your identity? Is it what you believe? Where you were born? Or what you look like? In this audio story, African American poet, writer, and artist Claudia Rankine talks about her exploration of the connections between race and blonde hair. Rankine’s initial response to the question, “Why might a person choose to go blonde?” was that people simply wanted to lighten their hair. But she soon wondered if there might be more to it. To find out, she interviewed and photographed women of all skin tones who chose to dye their hair blonde. The result was a gallery exhibit entitled “Stamped.” Listen to hear about what the artist discovered when she explored the connections between race, identity, and blondeness.
Current Event October 31, 2018
The annual MacArthur Foundation Fellowship awards, known as “genius grants,” are a very highly respected prize dedicated to “celebrating and inspiring the creative potential of individuals.” Among this year’s recipients is Reverend William Barber II, whose work aims at increasing awareness of problems such as poverty and racism by using creative approaches to activism. Listen to hear about Barber’s efforts to improve American lives and how he plans to use the grant to support their continuation.
Current Event October 16, 2018
Originally organized by the Jefferson estate and the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture, an exhibit called “Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello” has been expanded to include recently discovered items associated with Sally Hemings. Hemings was an enslaved woman owned by Thomas Jefferson and also the mother of several of his children. Listen to hear one of their descendants, who now works at Monticello, reflect on the complexity of American history as represented in the exhibit.
More people have been deported from the U.S. in the last decade, starting under the Obama administration, than at any other point in history. Deportations occur for any number of reasons–criminal activity, improper paperwork, and so on–but regardless of the reason, they always have an impact far beyond the person who is removed from the country. Listen to hear how having her father deported has affected one teen and her family.
Current Event September 25, 2018
Interest in the upcoming midterm elections is higher than it has been in a long time, yet many Americans who are eligible to vote do not do so. More people tend to vote when there is a presidential race on the ballot. However, elections between those races (called midterms), which include important Congressional races, also have a significant impact on the lives of Americans. Listen to hear why some Americans who are able to vote have chosen not to cast a ballot and what that may mean for the election outcomes.
Current Event September 18, 2018
A 26-year old black man was shot and killed in his own Dallas apartment by a white off-duty police officer who told investigators that she mistakenly entered his apartment, thinking it was her own. The officer was arrested for manslaughter and released on bond. Listen to hear reflections on this tragedy from the victim’s mother and others affected by his death.
Update: Since this story aired, the off-duty police officer who shot and killed a man in his own apartment was convicted of murder and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Current Event August 15, 2018
A black state representative from Oregon was going door-to-door to speak with the voters she represents in her district when one of the neighborhood residents called the police. The resident thought the state representative was suspicious for knocking on doors, likely because of her race. Listen to find out how the state representative responded to the police and hear what she thinks can be done to make situations like these better in the future.
Race in America is a complex and difficult topic. This is especially the case for children adopted into families of a different race than themselves. Listen to hear how one girl tries to navigate the waters of race after being adopted into a white family.