Thursday, November 20, 2008

swpd on npr and abc

Today I spoke with Farai Chideya and L'Heureux Lewis on the National Public Radio program "News & Notes." The title of the 17-minute segment was "Inside The Thorny Landscape Of Racial Stereotypes." Topics included Obama Bucks, Obama Waffles, whether a stereotype can be positive, basketball, Dave Chappelle, the meaning of my email address, Peggy McIntosh, dinner parties, Gone with the Wind, and much more.

I can't find a way to embed the show in this post, but you can go and listen to the segment here on NPR's site. If you want to skip ahead, I joined the discussion at a little over four minutes.

This also seems like a good place to note that I woke up awhile ago at 3 a.m. to do an interview for an Australian Broadcasting Corporation program, "Sunday Night Safran." The hosts, John Safran and Father Bob, were curious about the whole idea of Columbus Day, and what it means for Italian Americans and whiteness.

Since the ABC provides mp3 versions of their shows, I embedded this one below. If you want to skip ahead, you can hear my interview at about 34 minutes.

"Sunday Night Safran"


  1. Great interview on NPR...that's how I found your blog. It really opened my eyes to some stereotypes that I didn't really think about before. Thanks!

  2. Perhaps you could elaborate on the dinner parties you discussed in the interview. You mentioned asking a couple of Asian students about the food they brought and their families. That hardly strikes me as unusual or stereotypical. In fact, talking with someone you don’t know about the food they brought to a potluck strikes me as a very logical way to connect with them.

  3. Glad you found the interview useful, Levi! Thanks for letting me know.

    Dod, did you read my recent post about those dinner parties? There's some elaboration there, and the comments are enlightening too. I thought it was a logical thing to do too, until I encountered the differing perspectives on such encounters of some Asians and Asian Americans.

  4. Someone needs to tell those guys that the word "octoroon" is dead. If the NAACP didn't already bury it, I will.

  5. I think you mean the Australian radio guys, or maybe, blokes? If so, let's add the word "Orientals" too.

  6. Macon, I heard your interview on NPR. I'm a white guy, but I listen to Farai regularly; she's smart, perceptive, knowledgeable, and always presents a variety of literate viewpoints, many with which I frequently agree.

    Re: food, most cultures identify with a particular cuisine. Not all of us like "our own." I was born Jewish, for example, and I don't relate to a lot of the pickles and greasy stuff - never have. But I don't think food per se is stereotypical; without our cultural influences, whether we accept or reject them, humans would be a pretty bland and boring bunch. However, I obviously agree: to define someone strictly by those influences is fallacious, limiting, and in so many other ways just plain wrong.

    Sometimes, though, I think cultural groups limit themselves by a variety of indicators. I'd be interested to hear your opinions on "black names," for example; as a black friend commented to me, "I never met a white girl named LaKeisha, but I know half a dozen black ones." Similarly, most guys named Moshe or Hillel are probably Jewish, even if they were born in North America. I think that often an ethnic-sounding name can be limiting regarding acceptance in mass culture - or at least it can make it more difficult. (Of course, with an incoming President named Barack - my new hero, by the way - the above may hereafter be inoperative!) Again, I'd appreciate your comments.

    Keep up the good work; I need to get deeper into your blog....

  7. Wow I internet hob nob with authorities on race relations. I am flattered. Great interview on NPR.

  8. Thanks Siditty, always nice to internet hobnob with ya. I'm glad you liked the interview, but I don't want to claim any special authority. I'm mostly just a white guy, trying to figure out what that means, especially the white part.

    Welcome Paul! Regarding your question about names, I don't think individuals with non-white names or their parents are the ones doing the limiting; rather, I think it's those who react negatively to such names who should be blamed, especially when they act as agents of institutional racism, in educational and work settings.

  9. You cannot escape the irony that you mention your NPR interview on your blog about the Stuff White People Do. "Listening to NPR" should be on the Stuff White People Do Top Ten List.

    Yes, I know...It's elevated discourse for the Volvo-driving, Whole Foods shopping, left-leaning elite who believe Wal-Mart and Fox News are co-conspirators in the decline of American civility.

    Kudos to you for achieving this exposure. But I have to tell you--NPR is a neck-bender after about three minutes.

    And it is definitely a white-people-thing.

  10. You sure got that right, Leigh! Although it's not only a white people thing, NPR programming in general has long struck me as very "white." I wrote about that awhile ago, here. I figure that if a lot of white people listen to "News & Notes," then they're a good audience for my efforts to get white people to think about the great unsaid, that is, whiteness.


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