Gene Demby

Gene Demby is the co-host and correspondent for NPR's Code Switch team.

Before coming to NPR, he served as the managing editor for Huffington Post's BlackVoices following its launch. He later covered politics.

Prior to that role he spent six years in various positions at The New York Times. While working for the Times in 2007, he started a blog about race, culture, politics and media called PostBourgie, which won the 2009 Black Weblog Award for Best News/Politics Site.

Demby is an avid runner, mainly because he wants to stay alive long enough to finally see the Sixers and Eagles win championships in their respective sports. You can follow him on Twitter at @GeeDee215.

Our latest episode of Code Switch, we took a look at vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris's record as a prosecutor, and how she used her power as San Francisco's district attorney and later, as California's attorney general to shape the criminal justice system.

On this week's episode of Code Switch, we dove into Kamala Harris's past as a prosecutor, both as the district attorney of San Francisco and attorney general of California. It's a history that she has touted on the campaign trail, but it's also earned her flak from those who criticize what they see as a harsh and unyielding approach to prosecuting and incarcerating people—especially Black people—without due consideration of the ways the system discriminates against those defendants.

With the distance of time, I can see that my first McDonald's was an unremarkable thing. There were the antagonistically hard plastic seats. The interior lights that seemed meant to shoo you away. The PlayLand with the broken-down carousel that yelped out tinny renditions of John Philip Sousa songs. And of course, there was that smell: maybe a little bleach, but mostly the aroma of cooking french fries that seemed engineered to induce a limbic response.

How — and to whom — should America distribute its resources? Who gets to be American? Those were the questions roiling the country 40 years ago this week when Morning Edition debuted. It's a time frame that encompasses most of post-civil rights America, and many of the issues that gripped the nation in 1979 are still being debated today.

But some of those issues have mutated in unexpected ways and are playing out in a country that has grown steadily browner, and more queer.

In September of 1885, a mob of about 150 white men, armed with rifles, descended upon the Chinatown in Rock Springs, Wyo. They issued an ultimatum to the people who lived there: you have an hour to leave town.

The assembled horde was angry at Chinese laborers in the region, who they blamed for keeping the choicest mining areas and depressing their wages. They felt that the Chinese were working the choicest areas of the coal mines, the part that would yield the most coal and thus the most compensation. The Chinese, they felt, were taking what was rightfully theirs.

When Angela Saini was 10 years old, her family moved from what she called "a very multicultural area" in East London to the almost exclusively white Southeast London. Suddenly her brown skin stood out, making her a target. She couldn't avoid the harassment coming from two boys who lived around the corner. One day, they pelted her and her sister with rocks. She remembers one hit her on the head. She remembers bleeding.

In 1996, the New Republic ran a bright, red cover that perfectly captured the tenor of the contemporary debate over welfare. "DAY OF RECKONING," a cover line read, above a photograph of an unidentified black woman. She was smoking a cigarette in one hand and holding a baby with a bottle in the other. The text beneath that image read "Sign the Welfare Bill Now." The racial optics were not subtle.

In Virginia, Governor Ralph Northam's press conference this weekend, regarding a racist photo from his yearbook, he said that he hoped the uproar over his yearbook photo would present an opportunity.

An opportunity for productive dialogue where we could address the difficult issues that "contribute to the greater racism and discrimination that defines so much of our history."

Jazmine Barnes, a 7-year-old black girl, was buried this week in Harris County, Texas. She was fatally shot while sitting in the car with her mother and siblings on the morning of Dec. 30.

Initial reports stated that the shooter was a white man. Those reports led to a national outcry that this was a racially motivated attack. Activists and politicians demanded that the shooting be investigated as a hate crime. But in the days since the shooting, deputies in Harris County have charged two black men in relation to the shooting.

When Boys Can't Be Boys

Nov 2, 2018

Editor's note: This column contains a racial epithet.

One day in the 1930s, a very young Martin Luther King Jr. was sitting in the passenger seat of his father's car when his dad accidentally ran a stop sign on a Georgia street.

It was a week into the bizarre "red pill" Kanye West tour that the whole affair seemed to reach its zenith — or its nadir, depending on where you're sitting. Kanye completed his transmogrification into a sentient Reddit thread when he appeared on TMZ this week, parroting well-worn talking points about black-on-black crime and calling slavery in America "a choice." Van Lathan of TMZ was not having it.

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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

All right. Protesters took over a Starbucks shop in Philadelphia today.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Chanting) A whole lot of coffee, a whole lot of wack.

Last week, John Boehner, the retired congressman from Ohio and former Speaker of the House of Representatives, announced on Twitter that he was getting into the weed game:

"I'm joining the board of #AcreageHoldings because my thinking on cannabis has evolved," Boehner wrote. "I'm convinced de-scheduling the drug is needed so we can do research, help our veterans, and reverse the opioid epidemic ravaging our communities."

The suspect in the Austin bombings has been described as "troubled" by both police and the media. NPR's Audie Cornish speaks to NPR Code Switch reporter Gene Demby about why people seem reluctant to call him a terrorist.

: 3/25/18

In this report, we incorrectly refer to the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooter as being of Arab descent. In fact, his parents came to the United States from Afghanistan.

In 2009, the former UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon took on the NCAA in a lawsuit that challenged the organization's ability to profit from the likenesses of college athletes in a video game. But as the case heated up, its stakes and scope began to sprawl, opening a can of worms that threatened to upend one of the bedrock principles of college sports: amateurism.

On the afternoon of April 13, 2014, Dontre Hamilton was lying on the ground near a bench in a Milwaukee city park. A police officer on patrol walked over to Hamilton and asked him to stand up. Their encounter would end in disaster.

It's a ritual that plays out every year or so, whenever a Very Important Black Film is about to drop. Black fraternities, sororities, churches and civic organizations, aunties and teachers and coaches, plan trips by the busload to the cineplex. Maybe it's Malcolm X or 42 or 12 Years A Slave. Maybe someone holds special screenings followed by panels of cast members, academics or public intellectuals.

When the Eagles clinched their first-ever Super Bowl victory on Sunday — that will always feel wild to say — my friends and I joined the joyful, inebriated throngs in a spontaneous pilgrimage to Philadelphia's City Hall. And at Thursday's championship parade, you'd likely hear many of the same full-throated chants that we heard right after the win. The Eagles fight song, obviously.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

And now to that game that happened last night.

(SOUNDBITE OF SUPER BOWL LII)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: The Philadelphia Eagles are Super Bowl champions. Eagles fans everywhere, this is for you.

On Tuesday, President Trump painted a rosy picture of the economy during his first State of the Union speech: rising wages, a boom in manufacturing jobs, jobless claims were at their lowest in nearly half a century.

When Arline Geronimus was a student at Princeton University in the late 1970s, she worked a part-time job at a school for pregnant teenagers in Trenton, N.J. She quickly noticed that the teenagers at that part-time job were suffering from chronic health conditions that her whiter, better-off Princeton classmates rarely experienced. Geronimus began to wonder: how much of the health problems that the young mothers in Trenton experienced were caused by the stresses of their environment?

One of the biggest stories in a year of big stories was the intersection of sports, race and politics, and it's looking like that story won't go away in 2018.

And at several key moments one of the people who seemed right in the middle of this story was ESPN's Jemele Hill.

Back in February, ESPN relaunched the evening edition of its flagship sports news show, SportsCenter, with Jemele Hill and Michael Smith as its new anchors.

One of the paradoxes of racial discrimination is the way it can remain obscured even to the people to whom it's happening. Here's an example: In an ambitious, novel study conducted by the Urban Institute a few years ago, researchers sent actors with similar financial credentials to the same real estate or rental offices to ask about buying or renting a home or apartment.

We take black mega-celebrity endorsers as a given today — Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, Beyonce, the husk that was once Tiger Woods. They wield a perculiar kind of agency that seems to continually reset the upper limits of black aspiration, while remaining more or less incidental to the median black condition.

As we struggled this week to make sense of what happened in Charlottesville, Va., some big questions bubbled up:

What lessons does history teach about white resentment in the United States? How is the experience of other countries and other times — like Germany — relevant? How are those in power reacting to President Trump's shifting response?

Younger white people are much more likely than older white people to say that black people face a lot of discrimination. Most Republicans reject the idea that black people do. Black people are the racial group least likely to support same-sex marriage but the group most opposed to laws that would allow businesses to refuse service to LGBTQ people.

A sinewy, grayish, vaguely human thing sits on the ice cap somewhere in the Arctic, before plunging into the water below. That's when a very unfortunate whaling vessel arrives and harpoons a whale, setting the thing on a rampage. It won't take long for readers put the pieces together: The creature is the Monster — as in Frankenstein's monster — and his encounter with the whaling ship sets him on a mission to destroy, pitting him against the humanity that rejected him centuries ago.

UPDATE: On April 26, 2018, Bill Cosby, the comedian and philanthropist, was convicted on three counts of sexual assault. The following essay was published in June 2017, during Cosby's first trial on sexual assault charges in 2017. Those proceedings ended in a mistrial.

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