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:
My guest today is Ted Henken, an associate professor of Sociology and Anthropology at CUNY Baruch College and an expert on Cuba.
I wanted to talk to Ted because so much has been going on in US-Cuba relations over the past few years.
Just a couple years ago, President Obama lifted travel restrictions to Cuba. I was lucky enough to have a chance to visit the first time before the restrictions were put back in place by the Trump administration.
When I returned from Cuba, I had a ton of questions, so I got in touch with Ted. Some of the many things we talk about in this conversation include:
Ted is an interesting and captivating speaker. I think you'll learn a lot from this conversation--I know I did.
Want to learn more about Cuba and Ted's work? Follow him on Twitter at @ElYuma or read his books listed below...
If you like this episode, I know you'll love Reid's book too. Here's it is:
I'm honored to have Dr. David Burns on the podcast this week. David is a renown psychiatrist, best-selling author, and pioneer of a drug-free approach to managing anxiety and depression called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT.
I'm sure many listeners have heard of David and his work. Millions of people, in fact, have managed or conquered their anxiety and depression by reading David's bestselling book Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy.
What I find particularly interesting about David's techniques for managing anxiety and depression--and why I'm excited to tell you about them--is that they do not require taking medications.
Millions and millions of people are prescribed anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications every year, but it's becoming increasingly clear that these pills aren't very effective, and they can be difficult to stop using.
David began noticing the questionable effects of anti-depressants way back in the 1970s when he was a brain researcher at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School.
He realized that contrary to what the pharmaceutical companies would like us to believe, there isn't a "magic pill" we can take when we're having a hard time. Rather, we need to do the hard work of thinking through why we're feeling bad, anxious, or unmotivated. We need to understand, question, and change our bad habits and distorting thinking patterns. The techniques David developed are invaluable in this regard.
I wasn't quite sure where to begin the conversation with David. He's done so much in his career.
Since I'm a writer, I started by asking David how he began writing his first book Feeling Good. That simple question took us on a long and winding path through David's decision to leave academia and go into private practice, his development of CBT techniques and handouts that formed the basis of Feeling Good, and the long process of writing and promoting the book and getting his ideas out into the world.
In the course of telling the story of how he wrote Feeling Good, David talks about what cognitive behavioral therapy is and how it can make life more pleasant and exciting.
This is a fun conversation with lots of personal moments from David. I know you'll enjoy it.
David is a prolific bestselling author. I encourage you to check out these and other titles.
My guest today is a young man named Byron. Byron is originally from Guatemala and has been living in the United States with a precarious immigration status. I have decided not to use his last name in this podcast because I fear that he could be deported if political circumstances change.
Much of this discussion is about Byron's upbringing in Guatemala and his journey to the United States at age 15.
Byron went through a lot to reach the United States. His month-long journey included riding on top of trains and spending a week lost in the desert. After that traumatic experience, Byron reunited with his dad in New York, learned English, and graduated high school against all odds.
His story is the story of many immigrants--a story of risk, trauma, hard work, and success.
I chose to call this episode "Crossing the border illegally, and making America great," because I think many people assume that undocumented immigrants are harmful to America. But I believe Byron is exactly the kind of person we need in the US--honest, determined, and dedicated to education and opportunity.
I want to recommend a few excellent books about migration (some of which I assign in my Immigration & Transnationalism course at NYU). Click the covers below to learn more about them:
I'll also recommend some documentaries, including one of my own...
My guest today is Sapreet Kaur. Sapreet served as the executive director of the Sikh Coalition for nine years.
Since the 9/11 attacks and the rise of Donald Trump, Sikhs have increasingly become the targets of hate crimes because of their appearance.
In this episode we talk about:
My guest today is Os Schmitz. Os is a professor at the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and the author of The New Ecology: Rethinking a Science for the Antropocene.
In this conversation we talk about
I never quite understood why biodiversity was important until I spoke with Os. I think you'll learn a lot from his ways of thinking about the environment as an interconnected system.
In general, Os is very much on the side of humans and the environment existing and thriving together in tandem. He is not all "doom and gloom," as he puts it, and he advocates some common sense approaches that will allow us to continue making economic progress and better enjoy the nature around us.
If you'd like to learn more about the topics we discussed in the podcast, I highly recommend Os's book, The New Ecology. It's an excellent read.