White people will never know what it’s like to be Black, but that’s not the goal. The goal is to learn—sometimes just how much we don’t know—and improve our actions and eliminate the assumptions and biases toward Black people.
It may be easy to say you are not a racist, but until white people understand America was developed by taking advantage of Black people (and still does), we can’t say we are antiracist. Until Black people get to benefit from the privileges white people have from simply being white, we can’t say there is not a race problem in our country.
We need to dismantle the erroneous information we have consumed through history lessons, media representation, and politics. Instead of going to our Black friends for education, we need to do that work on our own. Black voices have already offered their stories in books, movies, TV shows, and essays. For the sake of time, and not allowing my lack of it to lead to complacency, I listen to podcasts and TED Talks while I exercise or work.
Here are 13 talks about race and racism you can use to improve your allyship to the Black community.
Ngozi Adichie is a storyteller and novelist. In her TED Talk she warns about the dangers of being led to believe that one story equals the whole of a group. “The single story creates stereotypes. And the problem with stereotypes is not that are untrue — but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” In order to truly understand race, culture, and each other, we need to listen to many stories within those groups.
Bryan Stevenson is a human rights lawyer and his TED Talk digs into the unequal and unfair way black Americans are incarcerated in disproportionate numbers. A third of the Black men in America have been in jail at some point in their lives. America’s justice and prison system needs an overhaul.
3. Code Switch
Code Switch is a podcast produced by NPR and hosted by Gene Demby and Shereen Marisol Meraji. The episodes are 20-30 minutes of conversations about every aspect of race, from current events to music and history. The hosts offer space for all of us to learn.
Nothing gets woke white ladies excited like Brené Brown. But in this podcast with Professor and author Ibram X. Kendi, she seems to nervously stumble her way through giving him space to talk about the history behind systematic racism. In some ways we are all stumbling, and that’s the only way to make progress. Kendi is the New York Best Selling author of How To Be An Antiracist and Stamped.
5. Seeing White
Season 2 of Scene On Radio, distributed by PRX, is called Seeing White and is hosted by John Biewen and collaborator Chenjerai Kumanyika. They explore the history of whiteness and ask what it means to be white. They discuss the continued racial inequities in schools, jobs, housing, and criminal justice.
Heather McGhee is very good at breaking down the economic downfall of racism in this TED Talk. She clearly illustrates how policymaking filled with racism doesn’t just hurt Black people, but white people too.
She was also on Dax Shepard’s podcast, Armchair Expert, and touches on points from her TED Talk and also gives her thoughts on the current state of our country. She graciously takes in Dax’s imperfect-but-necessary attempts at understanding his own biases.
Our biases tend to make us uncomfortable because to acknowledge them means to do the work of changing them. Verna Myers is a diversity advocate and in her TED Talk she encourages people to confront their biases and walk toward the ideas and people who make them uncomfortable. Myers uses passion and humor to deliver her message.
This TEDx Talk reminds white people that people of color do not need to be spoken for. They need their voices to be heard and amplified. That often means that white progressives and self-proclaimed allies need to stopping talking about ways to fix the problem and listen. Mohamedi served in the U.S. Marine Corps and is now a physics teacher at Boston University and Brookline High School.
Pod Save the People is on Crooked and is hosted by DeRay Mckesson. Guests and co-hosts Brittany Packnett Cunningham, Sam Sinyangwe, and Dr. Clint Smith offer their perspective on stories that impact people of color. They cover news, culture, and social justice.
10. Still Processing
I didn’t know The New York Times had podcasts, but here I am learning. Still Processing is hosted by Black, queer culture writers Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris. Each episode breaks down trends, pop culture, and social issues. The show allows us to hear two people processing hot topics through Black lenses.
Dr. Tatum is a psychologist and author of Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? and Can We Talk About Race? She discusses racial identity, self-segregation, and the psychology of racism.
1619 is another podcast from The New York Times. The show is hosted by Nikole Hannah-Jones and each episode examines the way slavery changed and created America.
Conversations led by, and centered around, Black people are the ones that need to be heard the most. There may be plenty of excuses, but there are zero reasons why folks can’t learn about systemic racism and implicit biases. Black voices are readily available and need to be consumed at ferocious rates; not just right now, but until change is made in the systems that have hurt them.