Code Switch is a show about race from NPR. At the outset of this review, let me say – I’m a white woman who grew up in Minnesota and considers herself a liberal, so that’s my lens. In my adult life I am trying to learn more about the world I live in, from other people’s perspectives. I do see race, I do think Black Lives Matter, and I want to teach my kids about multiple walks of life, not just mine. I believe every person has value and worth and I strive to personally become more open and reduce bias. A super easy way for me to do this is by listening to shows produced and hosted by people of color and other underrepresented groups. Therefore, when I heard that NPR was starting a Code Switch podcast after the success of its Code Switch blog and occasional segments on other shows, I thought it would be up my alley.
The show is hosted by Shereen Marisol Meraji and Gene Demby, with occasional appearances by other Code Switch team members Kat Chow, Karen Grigsby Bates, and Adrian Florido, Episodes are typically 20-30 minutes and there is a great mix of voices on this show – you’re not always hearing from the same people. From the first couple of episodes, I was hooked – the show is exactly what I thought it was going to be. Intelligent discussions about race and bias, with an appropriate balance of humor, academics, research, news, and personal storytelling.
Sometimes I wish the topics would be deeper. For example, I appreciated the somewhat comedic take on having your name mispronounced because it’s not “white” in the episode with Aparna Nancherla and Maz Jobrani, but in this and other episodes, I don’t always feel like the show is leaving me with a path forward, or even a conclusion. I want to think about these issues, and I love the balanced views, but I kind of feel like the takeaway is “this is the current status of this issue” when it could be “here are some other ways to think about it or actions to take.” This isn’t true in every episode, and again, I do think the show is serving the public just by having the discussion. But I do wish some episodes went deeper and gave more ideas about what can be done going forward to reduce bias.
I’ve listened to almost every episode, and there are a few that are very memorable for me. The second episode on being “outdoorsy” when you are a person of color was eye opening – being “outdoorsy” can be scary for some people for very valid historical reasons. I loved the imagery used in the episode about O.J. where they discussed how O.J.’s lawyers redecorated his house to seem more “white” when he was on trial for the murder of his ex-wife and her friend. And a recent episode about professors using trigger warnings during college courses where sensitive material will be discussed prompted me to have a real discussion with a criminal justice professor friend about how this is approached in her school. I loved being able to speak intelligently about it and seeing the real world connection.
Code Switch does a good job of having an intelligent discussion about race, smartly focusing on what’s in the news. In a year that has seen more public discourse (and controversy and disagreement) about race than I’ve ever seen in my life, this is an important show and I plan to keep listening.
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Audible Feast Ratings
Educational Value (5 / 5)
Pop Culture Value (5 / 5)
Host Listen-ability (3 / 5)
I love the passion the hosts have for the content, and appreciate the personal flavor they bring to the conversations, it really adds authenticity without going over the top. I love when hosts seem like people you would be drawn to in “real life,” and Shereen and Gene seem very cool. But they talk so fast that sometimes the conversations feel rushed. I’ll get used to it, but I do have to re-calibrate when I listen because of the fast pace.
Flow & Production Value (5 / 5)
Humor (3 / 5)
Investigation (5 / 5)
Storytelling (4 / 5)
Makes Me a Better Person (4 / 5)
Overall Audible Feast Rating: (4 / 5)
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