Beverly Daniel Tatum is the author of an important book that I think every American should read called Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria: And Other Conversations About Race. She is also an expert at facilitating conversations around race.
I wanted to have Beverly on the podcast because discussing race in a respectful, productive manner is so critical at the current moment. Also, speaking as a white person, I know that a lot of white people would like to engage in a dialogue about race, but feel totally ill-equipped.
Beverly and I discuss many subjects in this conversation, among them:
- Why is it so difficult to talk about race?
- How can we get past the discomfort and have these conversations?
- What is racism?
- How can white people do a better job of empathizing with African Americans and understand their experiences with racism?
- How can we go beyond simply being "not racist" and instead be "actively anti-racist?"
- What is white privilege and why should white people stop being so defensive about the term?
- Why is colorblindness not a productive approach to dealing with racism?
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Race is of course at the forefront of our debate in the United States. Just yesterday, in fact, I started my day by reading two news stories. One was about how Starbucks was closing 8,000 stores for the afternoon to offer racial bias training to its employees. This decision followed a situation a few weeks ago in which a Starbucks employee called the police on two black men who were doing absolutely nothing wrong.
The other story was about how Roseanne Barr had written a racist tweet that compared Valerie Jarrett (a black woman and friend of President Obama) to an ape. The outrage to her tweet was immediate, and within a few hours, ABC cancelled Roseanne's show despite it's very high ratings.
Both of these stories show that racism and racial bias are alive and well in the United States (and these aren't even the tragic stories). But I think these stories can also give us some hope that we're slowly making progress--that many Americans are increasingly interested in calling out racism when they see it and working to actively combat it.
To get there, more white people must take the time to learn about how African Americans' daily experiences differ from their own, how privilege and discrimination impact people's lives, and how attitudes of "colorblindness" and "I'm not racist" contribute to the perpetuation of racism.
But we can't have these conversations if everyone is talking over each other, pointing fingers, and failing to ask the right questions.
I hope this podcast plays some small role in helping to facilitate the conversations we need to have.
In addition to listening to my interview with Beverly, I recommend checking out her book. There are actually two editions of the book, and from my perspective, they're quite different.
Both editions are great-- it just depends on what you're looking for.
Ep. 10 - Leaving your smartphone behind (at least sometimes) - a conversation with Joe Hollier, co-founder of Light phone
My guest today is Joe Hollier. Joe (along with Kaiwei Tang) is the co-founder of a Brooklyn-based start-up called Light. Light is an exciting technology company that recently raised $1.6 million on Indiegogo.
To get a sense of what the Light Phone is, watch this short video:
The Light phone is a very small, simple phone that you can use as a secondary phone during those times when you don't want to be distracted by your smartphone. It basically just makes and receives calls using the regular number your use for your smartphone.
Light Phone is trying to solve an important problem.
It's become increasingly clear in recent years that many smartphone apps are designed to be as addictive as possible. The addictive nature of these apps makes it hard for many people to put their smartphones down.
Smartphones also mean that we're on call 24/7. Sometimes it's nice to get away from email and social media and live in the real world without interruption.
Light Phone is like an extension of your smartphone. It makes and receives phone calls (and soon will be able to send and receive texts). That's it. When you leave your smartphone behind, any important calls you get on your regular number are routed to your Light Phone.
That way you can escape the distractions of the smartphone but still have the peace of mind that you can be reached if necessary, or can make a call in case of emergency.
I know some people will think this is crazy--why would we want to go backwards?
I would have said the same thing a couple years ago. What changed for me was when my smartphone was stolen in October 2016. As an experiment, I decided to try living for a week or two with an old flip phone.
I quickly discovered that not having a smartphone on me had a noticeably positive impact on my relationships, my productivity, my sleep quality, and my anxiety level. I then decided to make my switch to a flip phone permanent.
A few months ago, I wrote a short essay for the Los Angeles Times about the benefits of living without a smartphone. Here's a link to that piece: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-germano-life-without-smartphone-20171119-story.html
Also check out the Light Phone website. You can pre-order the Light Phone 2 here: https://www.thelightphone.com
If you're interested in learning more about how smartphones are changing how people interact, I highly recommend Sherry Turkle's book Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age. I'm also looking forward James Williams' new book Stand Out of Our Light.
I really enjoyed talking to Joe about entrepreneurship and all the challenges and rewards of starting a big venture like Light. It reminded me of another great book I read recently. It's called Shoe Dog. It's a memoir by Phil Knight about how he started Nike.
Ellen Condliffe Lagemann is the former Dean of the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University, a prolific author, and currently a Distinguished Fellow at the Bard Prison Initiative.
In this episode of Other Side, Ellen talks about her book Liberating Minds: The Case for College in Prison (The New Press) and her own experiences teaching in New York State prisons.
Ellen persuasively outlines the many benefits of college-in-prison programs.
As she points out, most incarcerated people return to society someday.
Education programs in prisons help people grow while incarcerated and return to society in a better position to contribute and avoid a life of crime. The recidivism rate for prisoners who take college courses is extremely low.
These programs also give inmates purpose and can reduce violence and instability in prisons.
Ellen also talks about the positive impacts these programs can have on inmates' children and in their communities.
College-in-programs are costly, but they are far cheaper than continuing to incarcerate the same people over and over. It really seems like a commonsense approach to helping people get on their feet, reduce crime, reduce recidivism, and save tax dollars.
I recommend that you also check out an earlier episode we did on this topic called "Prison, punishment, and rehabilitation." In that episode, I interviewed one of Ellen's former students, Wes Caines. Wes makes a very personal case for these programs from the point of view of a participant. Ellen complements Wes's perspective with a bird's eye view of what college-in-prison programs are and their larger societal benefits.
If you'd like to learn more, I recommend checking out Ellen's latest book Liberating Minds: The Case for College in Prison. Also check out a book by Ellen's colleague Daniel Karpowitz.
And if you're interested in reading more generally about race and criminal justice in the United States, I recommend Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson and The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander.
Ep. 8 - Artificial intelligence and the evolution of driverless cars - a conversation with Hod Lipson
Today I talk to Columbia University Mechanical Engineering Professor Hod Lipson about his book Driverless: Intelligent Cars and the Road Ahead (MIT Press).
I'm really interested in self-driving cars--and torn about how I feel about them.
I'm excited about them because I think they have a lot of promise in calming traffic and reducing traffic deaths.
I worry, however, that they will create all kinds of new privacy and security concerns that optimists aren't anticipating.
Hod is an expert on the robotics and artificial intelligence behind self-driving cars and his book really helped me better understand how they work.
In this podcast, Hod talks about
Learn more. Check out Hod and Melba Kurman's books on self-driving cars and 3D printing: