8 Podcasts To Better Understand The Black Experience
Podcasts For Activists & Allies
The Black Lives Matter movement and its refrain-turned-hashtag are often embraced and empowered in times of tragedy. In these not-so-instant instances when yet another Black human is unjustly killed, harmed, or discriminated against, the experience resonates in both solidarity and sound. It reverberates from the streets to social media, to—hopefully—the Supreme Court.
But these aren’t the only moments that we should explore and seek understanding about the persisting victimhood of people of color—though “moments” implies they are far more fleeting than actuality. If the experiences are daily, so too can be the education. If systemic racism has a long history, you can expect its unlearning will also take a while.
If you’re looking to expand your education and/or improve your allyship, we’ve rounded up a few podcasts that offer explanations and observations from every angle. Find what works best for you—first-person narratives? Expert insights?—then tune in and take notes.
If you’re looking to take action to support this movement, head here for how you can support the Black Lives Matter movement right now.
1. The United States of Anxiety
For Lessons in History
Produced by public media podcast studio WNYC, “The United States of Anxiety” explicitly intends to connect the present with the past. Journalist and host Kai Wright is joined by guests who together examine the tangled yet connected web between America’s current events and its history, and the stronghold the latter still has on our future. Using historical context, the show probes matters like what women in power should “sound” like and how the confederate flag unites disaffected white Americans.
2. The Stoop
For Stories on the Black Experience
The stoop is where you hear stories, of course. On their show of the same name, journalists Leila Day and Hana Baba are unafraid to question cultural commonalities; instead, they discuss with guests the pressure that’s felt to buy all things Black or the resistance to always giving “The Nod.” But it also celebrates and protects Black joy; in a conversation about if being vegan makes you bougie, they debate who makes the best jollof rice (Is it Ghana? Nigeria?) and in an ode to Black introverts, they reveal how to correct the ways such personalities are treated.
3. Pod Save the People
For Engagement in Activism
DeRay Mckesson has been a community organizer since he was a teenager, but he (with his signature blue vest) became a frontline figure back in 2014 after police officer Darren Wilson fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. On the weekly “Pod Save the People,” Mckesson teams up with fellow activists Brittany Packnett Cunningham, Sam Sinyangwe and writer Dr. Clint Smith to tackle overlooked issues that impact people of color. Sitting down with additional guests, they unpack ideas like the need for mail-in ballots for upcoming elections or coronavirus-related injustices like discriminatory rationing.
4. Co-Conspired Conversations
For Checking Your Privilege
Myisha T is a mental health activist and author. On her “Co-Conspired Conversations” show, she sits down with white mothers, mentors, community leaders, entrepreneurs, and more to have candid and revealing discussions about the guest’s own relationship with power, privilege, and racism. They dive into the erasure of Black, brown, and indigenous women of color throughout history, as well as their silencing now, and how well-intentioned associates still often suffer from blind spots.
5. Seeing White
For Conversation Starters
”Seeing White” is, in fact, the Peabody Award-winning second season of the “Scene on Radio” podcast. Released in 2017, it is a 14-episode series led by producer John Biewen and regular guest Dr. Chenjerai Kumanyika. The hosts dive into the construction and meaning of whiteness, and subject matters include the structural innovations upon which American slavery was built, as well as the scientists who sought (and claimed to have) proof of racist hierarchies. An invitation for conversation, the show comes equipped with a downloadable study guide full of questions for comprehension and discussion.
6. Code Switch
For Practical Advice
Hosted by journalists of color Gene Demby and Shereen Marisol Meraji, NPR’s weekly “Code Switch” show explores how race plays a role in everything from beauty ideals to networking. Previous episodes have touched on the limitations of empathy, why xenophobia spreads, and how to determine exactly who gets reparations. Using researched data and audio clips from experts, each installment offers listeners tangible suggestions on how to apply their learnings to everyday life.
7. Intersectionality Matters!
For Lessons in Intersectionality
Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term “intersectionality” in 1989. The Professor of Law, at both UCLA and Columbia Law School, used it to describe how race, class, gender, and other identifiers “intersect” with one another. Now the term is often used to explain how persons with multiple signifiers can experience double (or triple) the discrimination, and how persons who advocate for one indicator should not ignore its overlapping others. On Crenshaw’s show, presented by the African American Policy Forum, she explores topics through intersectional lenses, including how white supremacy unveils itself in times of crisis.
8. Hear to Slay
Tressie McMillan Cottom, Ph.D., describes “Hear to Slay” as a group chat. And with fellow writer Roxane Gay as co-host, you can expect this text thread to be full of Black feminist perspectives on everything from pop culture to politics. Both critical and comical, conversations have covered what livability looks like for Black women across America and how to leverage astrology in pursuit of social justice.
Danielle Cheesman was born and raised in New Jersey, where she lived until moving to Philadelphia to study journalism at Temple University. She has spent her years writing and developing editorial visions for music, art, and lifestyle brands. Now residing in Los Angeles, you can usually find her taking pictures, making playlists, or cuddling her pup. Say hi on Instagram!