‘Code Switch’ is having nuanced conversations on race, identity, and culture

Society & Culture February 23, 2022
Code Switch
Listen to ‘Code Switch’

Unflinching, outspoken, and deeply empathetic, NPR’s “Code Switch” has only grown in popularity as audiences search for more nuanced conversations about race. What started as a blog and evolved into a podcast in 2016, “Code Switch” faces the uncomfortable head on to talk about relevant racial issues. Through their warm humor, thoughtful discussions, and incredible journalistic prowess, they have become one of the most important (and popular) podcasts of today.

With over 330 episodes, “Code Switch” has shown that it is here to stay. Episodes are typically just 35 minutes long, but they have been known to reach the 50-minute mark on occasion. With a rotating cast of journalists of color including Gene Demby and Karen Grigsby Bates, each episode dives into new territory, whether it be music, food, television, community, overcoming trauma, systemic violence, or moral panic over Critical Race Theory.

Original co-host and senior producer Shereen Marisol Meraji left the show in September of 2021 to join the Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University, but her contributions to the show cannot be overstated. Her last episode on “Code Switch” looks back on her early days as a journalist two decades ago in the summer of 2001. While media at the time had fully focused their attention on the tragic disappearance (later assumed murder), of Chandra Levy, a congressional intern with whom Congressman George Condit had been having an affair.

But Meraji wasn’t reporting on that. She had traveled to Durban, South Africa to report on a global conference on racism that had attracted thousands. For the majority of the episode, she tells us the details of the conference, what was being laid out, and why it had filled her with hope before all of that hope was swept away once that first plane hit the World Trade Center. It’s a shocking but fascinating and deeply informational episode.

This show was named Apple Podcasts’ first-ever Show of the Year in 2020 – for obvious reasons. Especially in the summer of 2020, they gained an immense amount of listenership as the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum across the country. People came out in search of gaining more insight and knowledge on the movement and the Black experience in the United States. They released episodes like “Why Now White People?,” looking at what made George Floyd’s murder the catalyst for nationwide protests as opposed to other BLM protests in Ferguson, Mo. in 2014 and Minnesota in 2016.

“Code Switch” features a variety of perspectives from their journalists and producers, focusing on all areas of race, diversity, and cultural issues. Recent episodes are exploring whether therapy can solve racism (or at the very least, heal systemic and generational trauma), as well as the tensions between indigenous fishermen and commercial fishermen in Canada, why people lie about being Native American, and the connective tissue that holds together the genre of Latin music. The show also frequently shares episodes from their NPR podcast cousins like “Planet Money,” “The Limits,” and “It’s Been A Minute.”

See for yourself why “Code Switch” has earned nothing but praise. The show has an all-encompassing warmth around it, making it feel like each episode is an intimate conversation despite its thousands upon thousands of listeners, but it does not shy away from directness. Be sure to check out this NPR classic to be a part of the narrative.

Listen to ‘Code Switch’

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