Podcasts connect listeners directly with journalists, artists, critics, and big thinkers of all kinds. They are a way to digest the world around us while hearing from a diverse range of perspectives. For white individuals, who have always had the privilege of seeing themselves reflected in the media, podcasts can be a great tool to expand our knowledge of race by hearing directly from folks committed to uncovering and dismantling how racism has led to oppression.
Podcasts can also be a long-term tool used to build knowledge and stamina to do the work of anti-racism in everyday moments. In these series, listeners hear from vibrant, intelligent voices not just in response to newsworthy events that have to do with racism, but in conversation about all kinds of topics on which their voices deserve to be heard. Find a podcast that can be your go-to for expanding your knowledge of anti-racism, and stick with it, checking in with yourself throughout the process about how listening to in-depth analysis and conversation is affecting how you see the world.
And remember the words of writer and lecturer Rachel Cargle: “Anti-racism work is not self-improvement work for white people. It doesn’t end when white people feel better about what they’ve done, it ends when black people are staying alive and they have their liberation.”
Episode: “The Birth of American Music”
From The New York Times, this Pulitzer-winning audio series examines the legacy of America’s history with slavery, from events in democracy to trends in economics to injustices within our nation’s health care system. Particularly notable is “The Birth of American Music,” in which New York Times critic-at-large Wesley Morris shows listeners how Black music is integral and often overlooked as the most influential style of sound in American music. He weaves together a historical soundscape of recordings, including voices of Americans born into slavery, popular folk songs initially written for white performers in Blackface, the pure confidence and hope of Motown, and countless other types of Black musicality that has influenced Americans of all races.
Episode: New Loop, America
Wesley Morris also lends his talents for art criticism alongside culture writer Jenna Wortham on Still Processing, where the two colleagues and friends share their thoughts and experiences with art of all kinds. From speaking up about the transphobia in Netflix’s viral Tiger King to sharing their habits for self-care during the COVID-19 pandemic, Morris and Wortham lead listeners to think more deeply about why certain types of art and media move us. In “New Loop, America,” they take turns recounting how they felt watching HBO’s Westworld and Ryan Murphy’s new Netflix show, Hollywood — both series that imagine America in an alternate reality, and in doing so, hold a mirror up to the very real injustices in our society.
Episode: “Breaking the line”
Leila Day and Hana Baba prioritize discussing Black stories that just “aren’t talked about enough.” In short 30-minute episodes, Day and Baba unpack the nuance of issues and themes that run through their lives as Black Americans. In “Breaking The Line,” Day brings up how as a young woman, her love for ballet was squelched when a teacher told her, one of the only Black girls in the class, that “ballet just wasn’t for her.” This episode expands on stories from other dancers of color. It gets inside the feeling of what it’s like to pursue ballet in an industry that is grossly dominated by white dancers and choreographers.
Episode: Bending Towards the Future with Toshi Reagon
Sisters and activists Autumn Brown and Adrienne Maree Brown want to help you learn how to survive the apocalypse – yes, really. Their podcast is a platform for professionals across many industries and identities to share practices and tools that can help listeners navigate and survive all types of societal chaos. Recorded in Boston at the Cutler Majestic Theater, this episode is a conversation with composer and songwriter Toshi Reagon about her work on the musical adaptation of Octavia E. Butler’s The Parable of the Sower. In this theatrical opera, Butler’s work teaches about what it means for a society to come together towards a more just future.
Episode: The Case
Right now, the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing a case that could potentially return 3 million acres of land in Oklahoma to The Muscogee (Creek) Nation. Host Rebecca Nagle guides listeners through the developments of the case of a man who attests he should not be able to be prosecuted by the state of Oklahoma for a crime that occurred within the boundaries of the reservation promised to the tribes by treaty. Start this 8-episode-series at the top and keep going.
Episode: Kent Monkman’s Mission to Decenter the Colonial Museum
With their series The Art Movement, Hyperallergic seeks to challenge the art world’s status quo and shed light on those fighting for greater inclusion and representation in art institutions worldwide. In this episode, Ken Monkman, a First Nations artist, reflects on his experiences with North American museums as an indigenous artist and calls for those communities to work harder in their representation of his people. In describing the dioramas of indigenous tribes at the Manitoba Museum, he said, “Here’s this idealized moment of your culture in a museum. There was nothing that told the story between what happened after colonization to the present.”
Episode: The Work of Closing a Notorious Jail
Seventy million adults in the United States have a criminal record. This interview-based podcast documents how American residents are fighting hard for criminal justice reform and to lessen the impact of jails on their communities. This episode raises awareness about the unsafe conditions at the “Workhouse” jail in St. Louis. Reporter Carolina Hidalgo investigates the activists who are trying to shut down the prison that so closely affects the residents of St. Louis and surrounding communities.
Episode: Turning the Lens (Seeing White, Episode 1)
To understand more about racism, White individuals should listen and learn about the experiences of communities of color, but they also should take time to think deeply about what it means to be White. Scene On is a podcast hosted by John Biewen from the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. This series, “Seeing White,” focuses on the origins of white supremacy in American society. Seeking to ask, “where did the notion of whiteness come from” and “what is whiteness for,” this podcast investigates the history of race through crucial points in America’s development.
Episode: Lab018: Truth Pie
Best friends Titi, an engineer, and Zakiya, a molecular biologist, are here to help you unleash your inner scientist as you respond to the world around you. Episode after episode, each lab discusses current events and trending topics through the lens of science. In their recent Thanksgiving episode, “Truth Pie,” Titi and Zakiya discuss settler colonialism through the path of ecology, or the study of people, plants, and animals in connection with their surroundings and each other. This thoughtful conversation on the historic depopulation of North American Indigenous peoples by European colonists illuminates the causes and effects of this event by getting to the scientific root of it all.
Episode: A Decade of Watching Black People Die
NPR’s Code Switch has been getting a lot of love lately, and for a good reason. From a wide variety of journalists and perspectives, this series gives essential context for how race, and specifically anti-Blackness, impacts every part of American society. In “A Decade of Watching Black People Die,” hosts Gene Demby and Shereen Marisol Meraji examine why history keeps repeating itself with incidents of police brutality against Black people in America. As Denby laments how this violence has been occurring in cycles desperate to be broken, he calls out, “It matters if people who are not affected by it do something.”
Elena Morris (she/her/hers) is ArtsBoston’s Patron Services Manager. She is a dramaturg and arts administrator passionate about forward-thinking in the arts. Elena holds a BFA in Theatre Arts from Boston University, focusing her studies on dramatic literature and movement.