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.
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.
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:
Prison is usually thought of as a form a punishment—and in most cases, it should be. But what if prison could also be a space for helping people rehabilitate and better themselves?
The vast majority of people who go into the prison system will reenter society someday, so it’s in everyone's interest to consider this question.
Wes Caines, today’s guest, makes a compelling case for thinking of prison as a space for rehabilitation and educational opportunity. In this conversation, Wes talks about what it was like to spend 25 years incarcerated in the New York State prison system.
Although prison life was difficult, Wes was able to keep from going backward because he had the opportunity to participate in the Bard College Prison Initiative and earn two college degrees while serving out his sentence.
Today, Wes is out of prison and a contributing member of society. He's become an important voice for criminal justice reform and advocate for college-in-prison programs like the Bard Prison Initiative.
Wes tells an interesting personal story. He also makes a compelling argument for increasing funding for educational programs inside of prisons.
Check out these books about college in prison programs and incarceration: