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Talk About Race: 7 Great Podcasts You Need to Listen To

October 13, 2016, 9:45 PM UTC
The Untold Story Of SXSW Interactive: An Oral History - 2014 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival
AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 08: Baratunde Thurston speaks onstage at "The Untold Story of SXSW Interactive: An Oral History" during the 2014 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival at Austin Convention Center on March 8, 2014 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Richard Mcblane/Getty Images for SXSW)
Photography by Richard Mcblane Getty Images for SXSW

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.

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But race is a subject so riddled with emotional landmines that even 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.)

Our National Conversation About Conversations About Race

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.

Another Round with Heben Nigatu and Tracy Clayton

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.

Code Switch

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 coverage is led by Gene Demby, who established himself years ago as a strong and necessary voice in journalism on race and culture. 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.

Ellen McGirt is a senior editor at Fortune.