According to Y’all, These Are the Must-Listen Podcasts on Race and History

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Thanks to all who participated in the first-ever installment of “According To Y’all,” an occasional feature that taps the collective wisdom of the greatest audience in newsletter history.

Last month, we asked for your best recommendation for a podcast series or episode that offers unique insight into race, history, and that helps to explain current events. 

You sent in an embarrassment of rich ideas that will bless our audio queues for hours, but there was one clear winner that nearly everyone recommended with their whole, entire hearts: The “1619” audio series associated with The 1619 Project. I agree.

The 1619 Project is an unprecedented attempt to understand the role of slavery on society and marks the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in the British colony of Virginia. It is the brainchild of New York Times Magazine writer Nikole Hannah-Jones, and offers a thorough re-framing of the American origin story. But the audio version brings the material to life in intimate ways while offering unique insights into behind the scenes reporting.

A close second was “Seeing White” from Scene On Radio, the Peabody-nominated project from the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. It’s also an unabashed raceAhead favorite.

Diana Cruz Solash, a vice president of inclusion and diversity, says the series excels at explaining “all the ways in which racial discrimination is baked into our systems and institutions.” She especially recommends the episode on white affirmative action. Ashley Walls, a writer at Microsoft, is also a fan. “As a biracial black woman, I felt like this was a whole new angle into the discussion. Friends who didn’t like to talk about race found this a really interesting way to enter the discussion.” Cassie Nielsen from VMG Partners says it’s “some of the most important reporting work ever. I made a fairly decently sized donation (for me) because I believe the world needs more media like this.” Lori Muszynski, an inclusion design consultant, agrees with all of the above and recommends part two, which “focuses on the scientific fact that ‘race’ doesn’t exist, despite our best efforts to prove that it does.”

We also had a couple of personal shout-outs from podcast creators too. Thank you Misasha Graham and Sharline Chiang for bringing yourselves to our attention and doing the good work. 

Her are the best podcasts on race and history that explain current events, according to y’all:

Podcast: All My Relations, with Matika Wilbur and Adrienne Keene
Episode: “Can Our Ancestors Hear Us?”

“Indigenous peoples are invisibilized in our society and this podcast does a brilliant job of sharing and education with humor, wit, and scholarship,” says Jaclyn Roessel, a cultural justice and equity consultant. “The two hosts are friends of mine and their work individually contributes to the power of their joint venture.”

Podcast: Still Processing, with Wesley Morris and Jenna Wortham (New York Times)
Episode: “Apology”“M.J.”“We Unpack Black Male Privilege”

“Hands-down my favorite podcast,” says Andy Ng, Senior Program Manager at SYPartners. “Every week you get to hear and marvel at how they’ve not just consumed popular culture—but the meticulous weaving they do to tie a singular recent moment to a larger canon of events, processes, expressions—across issues of race, class, gender/sexuality. There is joy in this podcast yet a vulnerability, a naming and embrace of ‘processing’—it’s comforting to know others are still figuring it out with you.”

Podcast: Throughline from NPR
Episode: “Puerto Rico”

“This podcast tells stories that are not well known about history and it explores the context and parallels that history books leave out,” says Alix Montes.

Podcast: See Something, Say Something, with Ahmed Ali Akbar
Episode: “Ghee Something, Say Something” (about food appropriation); “Black Muslim Ramadan”; “Where Do We Go” (about the 2016 election and the SCOTUS responses to the Muslim travel bans)

“It’s a great podcast about being Muslim in the U.S. and the many ways that manifests great things and really, really hard things,” says Grace, an after-school educator. She also recommends “Tell Them, I Am” for similar reasons. “[It’s] more about using individual stories to illuminate identity and character, and it’s delightful.”

Podcast: We Live Here from NPR
Episode: Any from season 1; also “The Segregation Myth-Buster“; “The Present Day of Public Housing’s Past

“Although this podcast is about the City of St. Louis, it also is a fascinating deep dive into how race and economics effect housing in this country,” says Valerie Myers. “Particularly, how the imbalance of power between races and numerous governmental policies specifically designed to segregate have had a profound and far-reaching effect on opportunity, housing, employment, crime and overall quality of life that many people experience.”

Podcast: Serial, Season 3
Episode: All

“This podcast is fantastic, but this season in particular follows a few specific individuals on their journeys through the criminal justice system,” says Isabelle Mathews, a real estate specialist.

Podcast: Code Switch from NPR
Episode: “A Year Of Love And Struggle In A New High School”

“Where do I even begin?! Even from the name of the podcast, it is one of my staple podcasts so that I can stay ‘woke’ to issues that effect my race, but more importantly, other races,” says Amber Acosta, an associate director at a non-profit. “It covers so many topics from the lens of race—from gerrymandering to FEMA response helping some and not others, to disparities in school districts.”

Podcast: The Sporkful with Dan Pashman
Episode: “When White People Say Plantation”

“It struck me that there are so many words that we still use in today’s time that have no use or relevance other than to be divisive,” says Marques Zak. “Plantation is one of those words. This podcast provides interesting perspectives about the use of “plantation” in food that does not relate to the preparation or the ingredients.” A big raceAhead tribute to Osayi Endolyn, an award-winning journalist who first investigated the use of the word “plantation” in the food world, inspired the episode, and to her friend Marques who was kind enough to shout her out. 

Podcast: The Breakdown by Shaun King
Episode: All

“Shaun [King] is a historian and activist working diligently to transform the legal system in the U.S. to end mass incarceration as we know it,” says Kristen, a financial consultant. “He does an amazing job of ‘unpacking and explaining’ (his words) the systematic racial injustice at play in the world today, as well as how we got to where we are now.”

Podcast: Dear White Women Podcast, with Sara and Misasha
Episode: Interview with Crystal Echohawk; “Hate in America Part 1″ and “Hate in America Part 2”; “Domestic Terrorism, Then and Now,” a three-part series

“We research so many topics, and so there’s been so much!” says podcast co-host Misasha Graham. “I didn’t know that the KKK had 3 significant waves…I didn’t know that there is close to zero Native American representation on TV, and that there are 563 tribes in the United States—and that roughly 80% of adults have never known a Native American.”

Podcast: Democracy in Color with Steve Phillips
Episode: “How To Defeat A Racist,” with Tim Wise

Sharline Chiang, is a director of strategic communications and a co-host of this new podcast, and writes in to shout out her own work. Good for you Sharline. “Each episode offers insight to how the history of white supremacy in this country has led to the current political conditions we have today,” she says. She also says the demographic revolution in the U.S., if properly invested in, can save us from racist politics and practices in 2020 and beyond. 

Ellen McGirt


On Point

colin k web version

Colin Kaepernick is getting a private NFL workout. But why? This is the question that ESPN’s Dan Graziano tackles in this lengthy explainer. Click through for all the details—just organizing a gathering of reps from all 32 teams seems as challenging as putting together a meeting of heads of state at the UN. But do scroll down for Graziano’s assessment of what will happen. It sounds like a whole lot of not much. First of all, nobody is sure who is coming and from what teams. "[T]hose who show up are more likely to be scouts or personnel executives than the GMs and head coaches Kaepernick tweeted he's eager to see," he says. And don’t expect to see Kaepernick on the gridiron anytime soon. "The idea that a team would sign Kaepernick now and expect him to start games this season is incredibly far-fetched."

U.S. hate crimes hit a new high Newly released data from the FBI shows that hate crimes in the U.S. have hit a 16-year high and show a significant uptick in attacks against Latinx people. And while property crimes were down somewhat, physical attacks were up, accounting for 61% of the 7,120 incidents that have been classified as hate crimes. It’s worth noting that state and local authorities are not required to report hate crimes to the FBI; experts also say that more than half of all victims don’t file a police report. That said, the numbers we do have are chilling. "The trends show more violence, more interpersonal violence, and I think that’s probably reliable," said James Nolan, a former FBI crime analyst.
New York Times

Former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick enters the presidential race He made his announcement in a video published online this morning. It was a brief introduction to a person few people know well, and he touches on his "broke not poor" beginnings from Chicago’s South Side, and key career highlights, including his two terms as governor. "I admire and respect the candidates in the Democratic field. They bring a richness of ideas and experiences and depth of character that makes me proud to be a Democrat," he said. "But if the character of the candidates is an issue in every election, this time is about the character of the country. This time is about whether the day after the election, America will keep her promises."

The first-ever social, co-working and wellness club for young creatives of color has opened and it sounds amazing The long-awaited Ethel’s Club opened earlier this week in the East Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, and Vice has the inside scoop. "Every item in Ethel's Club has a unique backstory to it, some advertised with a meticulously planted social media handle or QR code," says Taylor Hosking in this review. The furniture has been designed by artisans of color, the food and goodies are from POC-run companies, the books in the meditation space address social issues like racism “through a mindfulness perspective.” Other co-working spaces, notably the women-focused The Wing have either alienated or failed to welcome POC. "The club was born out of a kind of frustration and anger that no one else had done it," 28-year-old founder Najla Austin says.

A culture of discrimination, bullying and abuse alleged at a top insurance company Ifeanyi Okoh, a senior lawyer at a top Lloyd’s of London insurance company, is suing his employer, claiming that he’d been subject to a spate of harassment, abuse, and racial discrimination after he emailed senior managers blowing the whistle on what he terms a culture of sexual harassment and fear. Okoh had been speaking on behalf of employees who said they’d endured "bullying, intimidation, harassment, victimization, unwanted attention, sexual harassment, and racial abuse," at Tokio Marine Kiln Group Ltd. After he sent the email, however, his own troubles began.

On Background

The Muslim on the Plane Amal Kassir is many things and goes by many "names": A world traveler, a pre-law student, a waitress at her family’s restaurant, a spoken word poet. But in this video, she shares a tip of how she gets people to see past their ideas of what it means to be a woman wearing hijab. When she takes a long flight, she carries a box of Altoid mints. "After a four hour 7 AM flight, everyone has bad breath!" That simple shared affliction is an opportunity to build a bridge. "Almost anyone is willing to take the mint from the Muslim on the plane." What follows is a reverie on name, story, identity, prayer, and what we lose when we shut people out. Amal means "hope" in Arabic, something that you will feel after this lovely video. (Note: She uses the n-word in the context of a slur that she’s been called, and once again, to discuss negative stereotypes.)

chef david chang web version

Chef David Chang plans to open up about his depression in a new memoir The Momofuku founder first talked about his own struggles with mental health on his podcast, after the death of Anthony Bourdain. "I believe that depression affects Koreans a lot. It’s something that, in the past, particularly in an Asian household, the idea that you could get help for this was insane," he said. His new book Eat a Peach is described as a "part memoir, part philosophical thesis," and "explains the ideas that guide [Chang] and demonstrates how cuisine is a weapon against complacency and racism," says co-writer Gabe Ulla. But front and center, perhaps "uncomfortably" so, is Chang’s relationship to his own mental health. It sounds like an important addition to the conversation and truly philosophical—click through to dig into the peach motif.

Tamara El-Waylly helps write and produce raceAhead.


“So while I’m enjoying all of this unprecedented—and, frankly, a little bit uncomfortable—attention and personal success, in large part due to my activism off the field, Colin Kaepernick is still effectively banned from the NFL for kneeling during the national anthem in protest of known and systematic police brutality against people of color, known and systematic racial injustice, and known and systematic white supremacy. I see no clearer example of that system being alive and well than me standing before you right now. It would be a slap in the face to Colin, and to so many other faces, not to acknowledge, and for me personally, to work relentlessly to dismantle that system that benefits some over the detriment of others, and frankly is quite literally tearing us apart in this country."

Megan Rapinoe, accepting her Glamour 2019 Woman of The Year Award


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