Gene Demby

Gene Demby is the lead blogger 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.

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One of the most notorious, oft-watched moments in the O.J. Simpson murder case was his nationally televised slow-speed escape from police on the freeways of Los Angeles in a white Ford Bronco. It's a testament to Ezra Edelman's riveting, unsettling five-part ESPN documentary O.J.: Made In America that the filmmaker finds a new lens through which to view it: the real-time collision of a city's sordid racial history with one black celebrity's seeming lifelong project to sidestep the tidal forces of race in America.

The death of Muhammad Ali — one of the world's greatest boxers — has come with a wave of tributes and memorials. We've been taken back to his most triumphant fights and were reminded of just how handsome he was. (I mean, did we ever really forget?)

At long last — the first episode of the Code Switch podcast! We decided to start off with a question we've been fixated on over the past few months: Why is it so hard to talk about whiteness?

Ahead of our forthcoming podcast, I've been heads-down in some reading and interviews about the way we talk about, well, white people. Whiteness has always been a central dynamic of American cultural and political life, though we don't tend to talk about it as such.

The "monoculture" has supposedly been dead for at least a decade, but it ain't necessarily so. World-devouring pop music phenomena do still exist, but today that universe is made entirely of Beyoncé — a Michael Jackson/Madonna/Prince figure whom everyone who cares about popular culture is supposed to grapple with and have big thoughts about.

There's a strong argument to be made that Chicago's South Side is the cultural capital of black America, a place that a far-reaching who's who of black luminaries have called home — Mahalia Jackson, Louis Armstrong, Ida B. Wells, Barack Obama. But even as the South Side has played a key role in the Great Migration, it was and continues to be shaped by entrenched segregation that has choked it off from resources and development.

There's a strong argument to be made that Chicago's South Side is the cultural capital of black America, a place that a far-reaching who's who of black luminaries have called home — Mahalia Jackson, Louis Armstrong, Ida B. Wells, Barack Obama. But even as the South Side has played a key role in the Great Migration, it was and continues to be shaped by entrenched segregation that has choked it off from resources and development.

One way to take the temperature of the Republican Party's ongoing tumult this election cycle is to consult The National Review, the conservative magazine founded in 1955 by William F. Buckley. The magazine has been so opposed to Donald Trump that it pitched its entire January issue against his candidacy.

On Friday night, I finally got to see Hamilton, the critically acclaimed musical I've been surprisingly obsessed with since Frannie Kelley's glowing write-up of the cast album last fall.

It's been only a year and a half since the social protest movement around police violence commonly referred to as Black Lives Matter emerged as a major political force.

Much of this movement's momentum-building and organizing happened on Twitter, and a fascinating new study by media scholars Charlton McIlwain, Deen Freelon and Meredith Clark mapped out how it happened and who drove.

You may have read something like this over the past few weeks, in the run-up to this year's hotly contested Academy Awards ceremony:

So. Macklemore. I suppose we have to talk about Macklemore.

Over at The Atlantic, Angelica Jade Bastîen has a smart essay pushing back on the supposed benefits of "colorblind casting" in Hollywood — that is, putting actors of color in roles that weren't explicitly written as people of color.

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A few weeks ago, I was chatting with a young black woman who recently graduated from Louisiana State. I asked her how she liked it there. She smiled, then sighed in exasperation. Without prompting, she brought up race. She had enrolled at LSU knowing Louisiana is one of the blackest states in the country, but once she got to campus, she realized black students made up a proportionately tiny fraction of the student body.

This summer, football players at Northwestern University came very close to successfully forming a union — not to demand that they be paid, but to demand better scholarships and safety protocols. Had their bid succeeded, it might have changed college athletics — and, indeed, higher education — in some fundamental ways.

In 1890, a shoemaker from Louisiana named Homer Plessy indentified himself as "black" on the decennial U.S. Census population survey. Plessy did this even though, as a Creole who was one-eighth black, he was light-skinned enough to pass for white.

Over at the New York Times Magazine, ambivalence toward capital "D" diversity courses through Anna Holmes' excellent essay "Has 'Diversity' Lost Its Meaning?" Holmes, the founding editor of Jezebel and now an executive at Fusion, notes that while corporate odes to "diversity" are de rigeur these days at places like SXSW and fancy media conferences, these lofty pronouncements often deflate back at the office.

Over at the New York Times, Jack Hitt considers the ubiquity of one particular icon of the post-Confederate South. "In front of nearly every courthouse or at the main intersection of nearly every town in the South, you will find a Confederate memorial," Hitt writes. "From the late 19th century to the early 20th, the icon of choice was not a fountain or an obelisk but a young man in the prime of courage. He is Johnny Reb, staring attentively ahead, at something."

Back in the heyday of Jet magazine, that weekly digest of short, fizzy articles about black life, there was a back-page feature simply called "Television." It was a no-frills rundown of nearly every black person who would be appearing on prime-time TV over the coming week, just their names, which show and what time.

A few years ago, a good friend and I were walking near downtown Philadelphia, not far from my old elementary school, Thomas C. Durham, on 16th and Lombard. The school was built on the edge of a black neighborhood in South Philly in the early 1900s, and its design earned it a spot on the National Register of Historic Places when I was in the third grade. I nudged my friend to take a quick detour with me.

On an unbearably hot August afternoon last summer, I was walking along West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Mo., notebook in hand, when I ran into two good friends who were also on the clock, Joel Anderson of BuzzFeed and Jamelle Bouie of Slate. A few nights later, we got dinner with a couple of other black journos from D.C. We'd all known each other for years, and joked about how we rarely get together back home and here we were, eating wings at a gastropub in St. Louis.

Last week, the Internet exploded after an episode of the WTF! Podcast with Marc Maron went online. The guest was the comedian Wyatt Cenac, who talked about being a writer and correspondent on The Daily Show for several years. He recalled getting into a heated argument with Jon Stewart over the host's impression of Herman Cain, which Cenac had found troubling:

Last week, I wrestled with an idea that admittedly made me very uncomfortable: the possibility that for many defenders of racially loaded symbols like the Confederate battle flag and the Washington Redskins' brand, their affinity for these icons may be more understandable and — crucially — more relatable than many of us might like to admit.

Friday's ceremony to remove the Confederate battle flag from South Carolina's state Capitol grounds was scored by loud cheers and applause from the huge, largely black crowd who came to see it off. The contrast between the cheers and the official pomp — marching soldiers in dress grays funereally handling the furled flag — was yet another example of the wildly divergent orientations people have toward the Confederate flag.

A few months ago, my girlfriend and I were driving south on Interstate 95 from D.C. to Richmond, Va., where we had tickets for a comedy show. On an otherwise nondescript stretch of highway not long into the drive, we were startled by the sight of an enormous Confederate flag billowing over the trees. It's hard to convey how huge this flag was; its bigness seemed to imply a middle finger.

We both reflexively broke out some blue exclamations, looking at each other like, "Is this for real?"

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