Race, Identity and the (Digital) Airwaves: The Renaissance of POC-Hosted Podcasts

W. Kamau Bell and Hari Kondabolu (Image by Ana Benaroya)

First off, let’s be clear on one thing — just because a podcast is hosted and created by brown people doesn’t mean that it is exclusively for people of color (POC). It's also true that, in this so-called “golden age of podcasts,” some of my favorites happen to be by brown folks -- people who have historically been underrepresented in media jobs, and people who, mind you, actually represent this country's future majority. According to the U.S. Census, people of color will exceed white people by 2042. (Latinos already outnumber whites in the great state of California, according to the LA Times). 

A 2015 Wired article on our current podcast renaissance told readers to “Enjoy the golden age while it lasts.” I say instead: Hear ye, hear ye, enjoy the POC-cast renaissance while it lasts! Here are a few of my faves.

Our National Conversation About Conversations About Race

https://soundcloud.com/panoply/005-the-i-check-all-the-boxes-episode

The About Race podcast was the first podcast I binge-listened to after Serial. Hosted by authors Baratunde Thurston (How To Be Black), Raquel Cepeda (Bird Of Paradise: How I Became Latina) and Tanner Colby (Some Of My Best Friends Are Black) All About Race makes the listener feel smarter while also approaching topics with nuance. There’s room for disagreement, inquiry and uncomfortable interactions without disrespect or craziness. Bonus: The notes section of each episode is on point with links to articles, books and movies mentioned in each episode.

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NPR’s Code Switch

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I have patiently been waiting for the NPR Code Switch podcast to drop since I heard rumors last fall. Like a mid-summer gift arriving every Wednesday, it has been a small bit of auditory delight. The first episode, “Can We Talk About Whiteness?,” made me call up my friends from college to reminisce about reading “What’s in your Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh. Her voice has a lovely lilt. The podcast was created by a team of talented POCs working at the epicenter of whiteness -- public radio (NPR diversity stats can be seen here, KQED is yet to release theirs). The Code Switch doesn't shy away from these stats, they've spoken candidly about the whiteness of public media. While there are moments that sound a bit scripted (and one moment comes to mind in which Gene Demby sounded like he was trying to slow his excitement), this podcast is sure to keep me looking forward to Wednesdays for a while.

Politically Re-Active

Hari Kondabolu and W.Kamau Bell are two of my favorite comedians, so it only makes sense that I would appreciate this POC-cast. Politically Re-Active is, as Kondabolu describes it in the first episode, “basically what we do over the phone, except recorded and in front of white people.” It succeeds because these dudes are funny, smart and they are tackling relevant issues. The second episode features an interview with Mother Jones' Shane Bauer, who discusses his experience working as a guard in a private prison. 

Another Round

https://soundcloud.com/anotherroundwithhebenandtracy/28-hillary-clinton-for-pos

Admittedly, I am a newcomer to Buzzfeed’s Another Round podcast -- but thus far it’s like smart lady power meets cackling girlfriends (in the best way possible). It's hosted by Tracy Clayton and Heben Nigatu; if you're looking for a starting point, the episode in which they interview Secretary Hillary Clinton is particularly on point.Madam Secretary, What’s Good?” placed at No. 8 of The Atlantic’s 50 best Podcast Episodes of 2015. As that article states, “You’d be hard-pressed to find another show that does a better job balancing scholarship with laugh-out-loud humor.” 

There Goes the Neighborhood

“Black folks are disappearing… What we don’t talk about is race...Racism and systemic racism...” these are just some of the opening lines in “There Goes the Neighborhood.Hosted by editor of The Nation, Kai Wright and in partnership with WNYC Studios, this is a close-up examination of gentrification in Brooklyn and the integral role that race plays in the process. Oakland even gets a shoutout as the fifth most expensive rental market in the country (yeah — ugh), but it’s not just about real estate. It’s about humanizing information that is overwhelming. How do you really understand the exponential increase in real estate transactions? What is gentrification and how does it persist? The nine-episode series finished in May, so you can binge-listen at your leisure.

A Few More to Keep an Ear Out For

Sooo Many White Guys

Hosted by Phoebe Robinson (one part of Two Dope Queens),  this podcast will soon be available every Tuesday. Tired of being the token black woman, Sooo Many White Guys will feature interviews people who aren’t white dudes. However, Robinson plans to have one token white guy at the end of the season: “He will have to speak for the entire white race,” she says in the teaser. 

Sarcasmic

The best part of the “Speaking up and speaking out” episode is when host Dhaya Lakshminarayanan and Karinda Dobbins talk about macaroni and cheese and the absurdity of fancy versions.

Shout-Outs

Shout outs to Truth Be Told hosted by Joshua Johnson, Reveal hosted by Al Letson, The Cooler and Call Your Girlfriend.

What did I miss? Comment below or tweet me with your favorite POC-cast.

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