By Sandy Wiegand, Copyeditor and Writer at Joining Vision and Action
Before I take any trip that involves a lot of driving or flying, my to-do list includes downloading a slew of recent episodes of my favorite podcasts. I love podcasts. They keep me entertained during a long drive through Kansas and distracted during a choppy flight through a storm.
And it turns out they’re also a great way to keep your mind active while you’re (say, stuck at home during a pandemic) cleaning house, cooking, painting a room, etc.
I listen to a lot of different shows, but in light of JVA’s work to codify our values in a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Statement, I was thinking about podcasts that grapple with issues related to these principles. I’ve learned a lot from—and have enjoyed—these stories and discussions, and I’d like to tell you about some of them. Let’s start with a few that consistently highlight the stories of groups that have been marginalized.
Podcasts with a DEI lens
Revisionist History is hosted by author Malcolm Gladwell. Although the program does sometimes focus on reframing historical events, other times it simply holds up a magnifying glass to a societal phenomenon to try to understand its components.
Recently I listened again to two episodes that had affected me deeply. One is Carlos Doesn’t Remember, which delves into the reasons why elite universities’ offers of tuition-free education do little to increase the percentage of gifted low-income students who attend them. Another is Miss Buchanan’s Period of Adjustment, which describes how the Brown vs. the Board of Education Supreme Court decisions led to mass firings of Black teachers, contributing to a shortage of Black educators to this day. On a related note, the episode cites research on the profound positive effect that having even a single Black teacher has on a Black child today.
Code Switch addresses issues of race, ethnicity and culture. It asks difficult, sometimes uncomfortable questions and can cover a lot of history. Its hosts share insights from their own experiences, as well as consult with academic and other experts. In some ways, Code Switch helps me realize just how much I don’t know.
Among the thought-provoking episodes I have listened to recently is Code Switch Census Watch 2020. The episode considers how the citizenship question on the 2020 census could affect congressional and legislative districts and distribution of federal funds; how the census helped lead to broader use of the terms Hispanic and Latino; and the phenomenon of people checking “Hispanic or Latino” for ethnicity and “some other race” for race because they don’t see themselves as white, black or any of the other “racial” categories. Also educational for me was the Members of Whose Tribe episode, which discussed different definitions of Jewish identity, based on religion, racial or ethnic ties, traditions or other identifiers.
Ear Hustle was featured in a recent Mother Jones article, which is how I discovered it. Hosted by Earlonne Woods, an inmate in the San Quentin State Prison, and volunteer Nigel Poor, each episode highlights an aspect of life at the prison. Though I’ve only listened to a few episodes so far, I learned a lot from the first one, Cellies (about cellmates), and from The SHU, about solitary confinement. Looking Out is a bittersweet story about an inmate’s prison “pets.”
Podcasts with DEI episodes
In addition to the podcasts that focus on topics related to diversity, equity and inclusion every week, many podcasts touch on these issues in certain episodes.
Radiolab is fascinating because it so often finds the intersection of “hard” science and the social sciences. A recent series of episodes (starting here) has focused on the (astounding) biology that makes a fetus male or female and gone on to ask both biological and philosophical follow-up questions about sex, gender and gender identity. Its hosts are always curious and frequently skeptical. Every show, I learn new facts and also have new questions about meaning to contemplate. Another compelling episode that touches on questions of race is Nazi Summer Camp, about German prisoners of war in the United States. (Yes, that happened!)
More Perfect is an offshoot of Radiolab, dealing with Supreme Court questions and decisions. (Honestly, it’s not as wonkish as it sounds.) A great episode I caught up on recently is Sex Appeal, about a gender equity case that then-lawyer Ruth Bader Ginsburg argued, which centered on a law that let women buy beer at an earlier age than men. And Justice, Interrupted reveals how frequently female Supreme Court justices are interrupted not only by male justices but also by male attorneys—something court rules prohibit.
Have you discovered any enlightening podcasts or podcast series? I’d love to hear about them. There’s still so much ground to cover.