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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Code Switch
3:17 pm
Tue February 24, 2015

How Birthright Citizenship For American Samoans Could Threaten 'The Samoan Way'

Pago Pago Harbor, on the American Samoan island of Tutuila.
Taiger808 Flickr

Originally published on Wed February 25, 2015 8:28 am

American Samoans are in a very peculiar political limbo: Unlike on any other patch of U.S. soil in the world, children born on the small Pacific Islands are not automatically granted American citizenship. They are U.S. nationals, but not U.S. citizens.

Leneuoti Tuaua, one of the plaintiffs in a case for birthright citizenship in American Samoa that's currently before the Supreme Court, wrote an op-ed in Samoa News back in 2012 laying out what that means for everyday life:

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Code Switch
3:22 pm
Thu February 19, 2015

A White Supremacist's Legacy Looms Over Schools In South Carolina

A statue of Benjamin Tillman, a governor and proud white supremacist, stands in front of the state house in Columbia, S.C.
Mary Ann Chastain AP

Earlier this week, the board of trustees at Clemson University in South Carolina decided not to change the name of the school's iconic clock tower, Tillman Hall, despite protests by grad students and professors.

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Code Switch
5:01 pm
Tue February 17, 2015

Did South Carolina Sabotage Its Public Historically Black College?

Supporters of South Carolina State University rallied at the state's capitol on Monday to protest a proposal that would close the historically black college for two years.
Jeffrey Collins AP

Originally published on Tue February 17, 2015 6:18 pm

Last week, South Carolina lawmakers proposed shutting down the state's only public historically black college for two years.

"We are looking at a bankrupt institution," state House Rep. Jim Merrill told reporters. "No one takes any pleasure in recommending this."

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Code Switch
4:58 pm
Thu February 12, 2015

Study: Locking Lots Of People Up Did Not Cause The Great Crime Drop

California's prison population had boomed since the 1990s. The Supreme Court ruled in 2011 that the levels of overcrowding were unconstitutional.
AP

The long-running debate over what's driving the country's staggering (and ongoing) drop in crime just got more complicated. With a major new report, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU has effectively squashed one popular theory: throwing massive amounts of people in prison did not bring down crime.

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Code Switch
1:49 pm
Tue February 10, 2015

NYPD's Top Cop Wants To Make It A Felony to Resist Arrest

Bill Bratton, the NYPD commissioner, told reporters that "we need to get around this idea that you can resist arrest ... and we need to change that, and the way to change that is to start penalties for it."
John Minchillo AP

Originally published on Tue February 10, 2015 2:37 pm

Last week, at a New York state Senate hearing on protests against police brutality, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton asked lawmakers to raise the penalty for resisting arrest from a misdemeanor to a felony.

"We need to get around this idea that you can resist arrest," he later told reporters. "It results in potential injuries to the officer, to the suspect. And we need to change that, and the way to change that is to start penalties for it."

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Code Switch
4:57 pm
Tue February 3, 2015

Lots Of Confusion Over Teacher Firings At Howard University Middle School

Students protest outside Howard University Middle School of Mathematics and Science.
Victoria M. Walker Howard University

Originally published on Wed February 4, 2015 1:41 pm

Updated on Feb. 4 at 12:30 p.m. ET: The board of directors for the Howard University Middle School of Mathematics and Science issued a statement on the dismissal of three social studies teachers, indicating that the school is governed by an independent nonprofit organization and regulated by the D.C. Charter School Board. Its also confirms that three teachers resigned from the university effective Jan. 27. From the statement:

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Code Switch
1:54 pm
Fri January 30, 2015

What Research Says About The Consequences Of PC Culture

One of the most popular arguments against political correctness is that it stifles speech, but a Cornell study found that it boosted creativity in mixed-gender groups.
Tamir Kalifa AP

Originally published on Fri January 30, 2015 3:32 pm

By now, you've surely seen Jonathan Chait's sprawling takedown of what he describes as a dangerous resurgence of political correctness in the 21st century. In his telling, a "PC culture" that flourished on college campuses in the '90s is back, stronger than ever thanks to Twitter and social media, and it's been crippling political discourse — and maybe even democracy itself.

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Code Switch
5:00 pm
Thu January 29, 2015

Join Us Tonight To Talk About The 'Whiteness Of Public Radio Voice'

is public radio too white?
Ben McLeod Flickr

Originally published on Thu January 29, 2015 6:21 pm

When Chenjerai Kumanyika sat down to record his first public radio piece last summer, he was thrown off by his own voice.

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Code Switch
12:43 pm
Sun January 18, 2015

King's Family Builds Its Own Legacy Of Legal Battles

Bernice King is in a protracted legal battle with her brothers over control of their father's bible and Nobel Peace Prize.
John Bazemore AP

At the end of Selma, the new movie about a pivotal campaign in the Civil Rights Movement, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (played by David Oyelowo) rises to address a crowd in front of a courthouse.

It's a recreation of the moment in which King gave one of his most well-known speeches: "How Long? Not Long." You know the one: "The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

But as the scene goes on, none of the actual language from that speech shows up.

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Code Switch
12:09 pm
Fri January 16, 2015

A Search For The Story In A Long-Buried, Jim Crow-Era Photo

Gordon Parks wrote in his notes about the photo that "although the Negro woman serves as nurse-maid for the white woman's baby, the two would not be allowed to sit and eat a meal together in any Atlanta restaurant."
Gino Domenico AP

Originally published on Fri January 16, 2015 3:52 pm

James Estrin of The New York Times' Lens blog and his colleagues have become fixated on a old, recently rediscovered old photo taken by Gordon Parks, the legendary Life magazine photographer. So they've put out a call to their readers for any helpful info about it.

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Code Switch
6:00 pm
Thu January 8, 2015

A Familiar Debate On Comedy In Which Contexts Collide

Mourners around France created makeshift memorials to the victims of the massacre at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.
Claude Paris AP

Originally published on Fri January 9, 2015 6:45 am

In the aftermath of the massacre Wednesday at Charlie Hebdo, the satirical French magazine, there are obviously big questions about the attackers, their motives and what it might mean for French society. For more of NPR's coverage of the attack and of Charlie Hebdo, check out the Two-Way.

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Code Switch
4:50 pm
Mon December 15, 2014

Serial Isn't About Ferguson. (But It's Kind Of About Ferguson.)

Serial focuses on Adnan Syed, who was a teenager when he was convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, despite big question marks in the case. (But you almost certainly knew that already.)
Courtesy of Serial

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 5:16 pm

As The Conversation About Serial reaches a fever pitch in certain circles, those of us behind Code Switch and Monkey See have been talking quite a bit about the show. You can read Matt Thompson's initial entry in this conversation here.

Below is the second part of our exchange, from Code Switch blogger Gene Demby.

Matt, Linda and Kat,

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Code Switch
2:04 pm
Thu December 11, 2014

Flitting Between Solutions For Police Violence

Since the unrest in Ferguson this summer, there have been calls to diversify police forces. But the results of studies on whether police forces that are more diverse can reduce tensions are decidedly mixed.
Jeff Roberson AP

Originally published on Thu December 11, 2014 4:38 pm

Take a look at the flier for this weekend's planned "Justice For All March" in Washington, D.C., which is centered on several recent police-involved killings of unarmed black men. There's no specific policy demand on that flier — perhaps because the problem doesn't lend itself to a singular fix.

A look at the post-Ferguson headlines shows how different ideas to fix this problem have caught on, even before we know how well those ideas might work.

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Code Switch
6:50 am
Sun November 30, 2014

Updating Centuries-Old Folklore With Puzzles And Power-Ups

The story in Never Alone is based on a Native Alaskan legend about a quest to end a never-ending blizzard.
E-Line Media

Originally published on Mon December 1, 2014 12:41 pm

Never Alone, a new video game by E-Line Media, has been generating a lot of buzz in recent months. Its developers teamed up with the Cook Inlet Tribal Council, a nonprofit that works with Native Alaskans, creating Never Alone as a way to help transmit traditional tribal stories to younger indigenous kids.

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Code Switch
1:16 pm
Sat November 22, 2014

Who Will Get The Biopic Treatment Next?

After Chadwick Boseman played Jackie Robinson in 2013's 42, he starred as a suspiciously tall James Brown in 2014's Get On Up.
Universal Pictures

Movie award season is upon us once again, which means that it's peak biopic season. You know what I mean — those big, sweeping epics about the life of a Very Important Person portrayed by a Very Serious Actor.

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Code Switch
11:33 am
Wed November 12, 2014

Why The KKK Is Reaching Out Beyond White Folks

Back in 1925, thousands of Ku Klux Klan members paraded past the U.S. Treasury building in Washington, D.C., as part of a big rally. Throughout its iterations, the KKK has tried to position itself as a respectable, mainstream civic organization.
AP

Originally published on Sat November 15, 2014 10:21 am

As America's longest-lived white supremacist organization, the Ku Klux Klan has achieved a rare kind of name recognition. You know the way people say "Xerox" when they mean "to photocopy" or "Kleenex" when they mean "tissue"? "KKK" functions something like that, except it shorthands to "racial terrorism and extrajudicial killings."

It's a dilemma that some Klan groups are trying to address by being less, well, Klan-ish.

Back in April, after a 73-year-old Klansman went on a deadly shooting spree in Kansas City, a whole lot of avowed racists condemned the shootings.

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Code Switch
12:49 pm
Fri November 7, 2014

Why We Have So Many Terms For 'People Of Color'

Leigh Wells Getty Images/Ikon Images

Originally published on Sat November 8, 2014 4:14 pm

A heads-up to our readers: We use some language in this post that some folks might find offensive.

Last week, the Toronto Star found itself in the midst of one of those blink-and-you-missed-it Internet kerfuffles over race.

Here's what happened. The Ontario Human Rights Commission had settled on a term to use in reference to people of color — "racialized people."

The commission wrote:

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Code Switch
10:10 am
Fri October 31, 2014

The Creepiest Ghost And Monster Stories From Around The World

Popobawa promo.
Phoebe Boswell for NPR

Originally published on Fri October 31, 2014 4:32 pm

It's Halloween — a time for Frankenstein monsters and vampires and werewolves. But many of us have our own monsters from different cultures, and When we threw out a call to our readers asking what ghost stories and folktales they grew up with in their own traditions, we got back stories of creatures stalking the shadows of Latin American hallways and vengeful demons from South Asia with backwards feet. (And that's before we get to the were-hyenas and the infernal bathroom stalls.) Below are some of the best we've found or that were told to us from Code Switch readers.

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Code Switch
3:46 pm
Fri October 24, 2014

Tips For Avoiding Racial Missteps From The Makers Of 'Dear White People'

It's a minefield out there.
Ashley Nguyen AP

Originally published on Fri October 24, 2014 5:03 pm

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Code Switch
8:03 am
Tue October 21, 2014

Apps Make Googly Eyes At Riders Tired Of Being Snubbed By Cabbies

Cities like New York and Washington, D.C., have strict penalties for taxi drivers who don't pick up passengers based on their race or destination. But some investigations show that drivers routinely pass up black and brown customers.
Richard Drew AP

Originally published on Tue October 21, 2014 12:50 pm

One night last fall, I was walking through Chinatown in Washington, D.C., with my friend Terryn. We were not far from a dude who was in his mid-20s — slim, with neat, shoulder-length locks, skinny chinos, loafers and a leather briefcase slung across his torso — standing on the corner, his arm raised skyward. He was trying without luck to hail a cab.

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