The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others have ignited conversations about race and racism in the U.S. and around the world. As a result, many of us are seeking ways to better understand how our societal infrastructure, institutions, and systems are failing Black communities.
But how can we educate ourselves and engage with the uncomfortable and downright difficult conversations about race today? Whether you want to start a conversation in the workplace or among friends and family, listening to these podcasts is a great starting point for learning and thoughtfully engaging on racism and racial justice.
Higher Learning with Van Lathan and Rachel Lindsay
Background: Former reality TV star Rachel Lindsay and reporter Van Lathan deep dive into Black culture, current events, politics, and sports.
Start with this episode: “The Importance of the Nationwide Protests Over George Floyd’s Death” (May 31, 2020)
The takeaway: The solidarity seen in national protests shows how more people are beginning to see how racism directly and indirectly impacts all of us. And now the country—and world—are waking up to how the need for change truly is a matter of life or death.
“It is part of my cultural imperative to feel this pain because this pain sparks me to action,” says Lathan. “I saw a ton of diversity in terms of who took to the streets in Los Angeles yesterday. I saw a level of solidarity that has escaped prior demonstrations like this.”
Justice in America
Background: Host Josie Duffy Rice, president of The Appeal, explains the American criminal justice system with the help of guest co-hosts, advocates, and experts.
Start with this episode: “Police Accountability” (February 26, 2020)
The takeaway: Department accountability, criminal charges, section 1983 claims, and consent decrees are just some of the legal avenues available to hold local police accountable for their actions. But these options are highly politicized, and poor communities of color are at a distinct disadvantage.
“What needs to happen in order for there to be an intervention that sets it on a different course?” asks Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter. “And those are the big questions that I think we need to be grappling with when we’re talking about accountability of any sort, whether it be with the police or politicians."
Background: Investigative journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones talks about the beginnings of American slavery and its long shadow into the 21st century.
Start with this episode: “How the Bad Blood Started” (September 13, 2019)
The takeaway: When four million slaves were freed after the Civil War, no resources were put into place to help them make a life and have a livelihood. This oversight contributed to a legacy of injustice, such as mass incarceration and poor healthcare. But back in the 19th century, the Black community had to learn to help themselves, which they did, thanks to Black healthcare workers. And because historically, they had been denied access to hospitals and doctors, Black Americans actually pushed for the first federal healthcare programs to be created, to the eventual benefit of any American in need.
Background: Through the prism of race, gender, and overlapping identities, Kimberlé Crenshaw, co-founder of The African American Policy Forum, talks about how we experience and interact with the world.
Start with this epsiode: “What Slavery Engendered: An Intersectional Look at 1619” (November 14th, 2019)
The takeaway: Many modern Black stereotypes have complex, intersectional histories. Take, for instance, the late-20th century stereotype about the “Black welfare queen”: its origins start in the 19th century with the enslaved nurses trade all the way through the 20th century public anxiety that led to President Bill Clinton’s Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. Knowing this history reminds us that we need to understand history and its long-reaching consequences to dismantle negative stereotypes—and to promote justice and dignity for all.
Speaking of Racism
Background: Tina Strawn and Jen Kinney have honest conversations about race and racism.
Start with: “Practical Insights Into Anti-Racism with Andre Henry” (June 8, 2020)
The takeaway: Long after people stop “taking to the streets,” writer and speaker Andre Henry points out how critical our continued commitment and participation are to help enact anti-racist social change.
“We need to learn more methods for non-violent resistance,” Henry says. “Because marches are good for certain things, but marches don’t change societies by themselves.”
There are many more podcasts that can help you think and talk about race, racism, and racial justice. A quick Google search will point you in the right direction, but here are a few more to check out:
Nisha Kumar Kulkarni is a writer and creative coach in New York City. She helps women living with chronic illness and mental health challenges to pursue their passion projects without compromising their health.