I've fallen in love with podcasts in the past year. There’s something comforting about having a familiar voice in your ear or listening to a good story, particularly if you need a break from the overwhelming visuals – protests, shootings, billionaires on buses – that dominate the news. And podcasts are getting more diverse these days, as new voices, unfettered by rules of typical radio engagement, have started to find an audience.
The best podcasts tend to offer the kinds of candid, smart, funny conversations we wish we were having more often. Like "Good Muslim, Bad Muslim," two truly funny Muslim American women who talk about walking the fine line of being not good enough for more devout Muslims, but are somewhat okay enough to be acceptable to nervous white Americans. (In this category, I recommend our own "FORTUNE Unfiltered," hosted by our digital editor, Aaron Task. He has an extraordinary way of getting very important people to share their very private thoughts on business, failure, life and yes, diversity.)
Or they use their unique style to illuminate an important issue on race in a truly accessible way, like Radiolab’s "More Perfect" episode about the 1982 Supreme Court ruling that was supposed to prevent biased, race-based jury selection, but only made the problem much, much worse.
But race is a subject so riddled with emotional landmines that even talking about talking about race can be tough. To that end, here are three producers to bookmark, each episode is a master class on how to talk about race authentically and survive. (Do us a solid and write back with your faves.)
The hosts – Anna Holmes (founder of women-focused site Jezebel), Baratunde Thurston (author of How to Be Black), Raquel Cepeda (author of Bird of Paradise: How I Became Latina), and Tanner Colby (author of Some of My Best Friends Are Black) - form a melting pot of funny, candid and relevant. No topic is off limits, from Bill Cosby to Colin Kaepernick to draconian drug laws. And they manage to make intersectionality seem as natural as it should be. If you want to learn how to talk about race, this is a good place to start.
The geniuses at Buzzfeed produce this podcast and it is a gift to the universe. These two are off the hook, bringing an utterly unreplicable candor, chemistry and humor to the conversations they have with increasingly high powered guests. Their interview with Hillary Clinton remains the best conversation with a political candidate…maybe ever. On the crime bill: “[D]o you ever look at the state of black America and think, 'Wow, we really fucked this up for black people'?" Clinton didn’t even flinch.
NPR’s Code Switch presents a diverse team of journalists who interpret both the news and the cultural zeitgeist through a wide open lens. They never fail to offer a unique twist on the headlines. The team coverage is led by Gene Demby, who established himself years ago as a strong and necessary voice in journalism on race and culture. (The podcast itself is co-hosted by Shereen Marisol Meraji who is equally wonderful.) His own podcast, "PostBourgie," started as a blog in 2007 and is still going strong.
Bonus: Need a real escape? Try "The Message." Sure, the race in question is an alien one, but this series is worth your time for the sheer fun of the storytelling and the boldness of the corporate sponsor, GE. It’s also a great workplace drama, and from an inclusion point of view, they present a truly delightful transgender character in a dignified way. Great for the family, too.
Stop saying “the inner city”
Editor Roy Johnson unpacks exactly why Donald Trump, and the rest of us, need to get the term “the inner city” out of our mouths immediately. It’s code for the ghetto, for one. It’s not real, for another. Where some black communities are struggling, for the most part, cities are safer. And most people of color live in the suburbs, though systemic barriers in lending, employment, and education have followed them there. “But when Trump says it, he puts us all on the same few square blocks, living the same inaccurate nightmare he uses in a lame and condescending attempt to scare us into thinking he's our savior.”
Police arrest more people for marijuana use than for all violent crimes combined
This, according to a new report from the ACLU, means that there are at least 137,00 people languishing in prison on simple drug charges. Worse, two-thirds of them are stuck in local jails, waiting for a day in court that could be months away, simply because they can’t afford bail. Makes you wanna holler.
A black, transgender woman wearing a "Black Panther" hat was kicked off a plane
The hat in question was a tribute to the fictional Marvel superhero “Black Panther," the woman was a journalist and she documented the entire thing on Twitter. Her t-shirt, an upside-down flag from rap star’s A$AP Rocky line of apparel, also made the pilot “nervous.” She had problems from the moment she tried to board a United Airlines flight from Albany to Chicago, she later told Gizmodo.
The diversity problem in the advertising industry
In a post so true it will make you cry, creative exec Derek Walker talks candidly about not only the lack of diversity in advertising but the industry's utter lack of self-awareness. He starts with a list of things that have actually been said to him: “I’m sorry Derek, but I don’t think our clients are ready for a Black copywriter.” It gets worse.
Chicago public schools in crisis
A recent contract agreement has averted a strike in the Chicago public schools, but parents and educators are worried that it won’t be enough. Things in Chicago have gotten so bad that Moody’s Investors Service recently downgraded the district’s debt to B3, six notches below investment grade. Heavy borrowing and pension obligations are forcing Chicago to the brink, and their schools may be the first to go off the edge.
Wisconsin governor says the new voter ID law is working fine, is mistaken
The Nation ticks through a list of eligible voters who are being prevented from getting the proper ID they’ll need to cast a ballot. Some state workers are giving out inaccurate information; others are simply refusing to accept multiple forms of valid identity verification. As the lawsuits begin, expect more: There are some 300,000 registered voters who do not have the new forms of ID in Wisconsin.
The Woke Leader
The link between homelessness and racism
People of color were systematically excluded from the housing market through redlining and other tactics until the 1970 Fair Housing Act sought to remedy that. But this troubled history, experts say, has helped create the disproportionately black homeless population that many communities see today.
American-style tipping is rooted in slavery
Tipping has had a controversial history in the US. It turns out the biggest supporters were restaurants and railroads who didn’t want to pay the recently freed slaves who mostly worked in those industries. Today, some 10% of the workforce is employed in the American restaurant industry, which also has the highest percentage of workers earning at or below minimum wage. Most tipped workers are women of color, making just $8.75 an hour, including those tips.
Why talking about race is hard for white people
The idea of racism is so toxic, that even to suggest that someone harbors a racist attitude is too horrifying for people to contemplate, explains Dr. Robin DiAngelo, a “whiteness studies” expert. White people inadvertently hide behind unspoken expectations about how any discussion about race must be framed that shut down conversations before they even start. Though it’s easy to poke fun at “white fragility,” addressing this very real sensitivity, she says, is the only way to overcome it.