Gene Demby

Gene Demby is the lead blogger for NPR's Code Switch team.

Before coming to NPR, he served as the managing editor for Huffington Post's BlackVoices following its launch. He later covered politics.

Prior to that role he spent six years in various positions at The New York Times. While working for the Times in 2007, he started a blog about race, culture, politics and media called PostBourgie, which won the 2009 Black Weblog Award for Best News/Politics Site.

Demby is an avid runner, mainly because he wants to stay alive long enough to finally see the Sixers and Eagles win championships in their respective sports. You can follow him on Twitter at @GeeDee215.

How — and to whom — should America distribute its resources? Who gets to be American? Those were the questions roiling the country 40 years ago this week when Morning Edition debuted. It's a time frame that encompasses most of post-civil rights America, and many of the issues that gripped the nation in 1979 are still being debated today.

But some of those issues have mutated in unexpected ways and are playing out in a country that has grown steadily browner, and more queer.

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In September of 1885, a mob of about 150 white men, armed with rifles, descended upon the Chinatown in Rock Springs, Wyo. They issued an ultimatum to the people who lived there: you have an hour to leave town.

The assembled horde was angry at Chinese laborers in the region, who they blamed for keeping the choicest mining areas and depressing their wages. They felt that the Chinese were working the choicest areas of the coal mines, the part that would yield the most coal and thus the most compensation. The Chinese, they felt, were taking what was rightfully theirs.

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When Angela Saini was 10 years old, her family moved from what she called "a very multicultural area" in East London to the almost exclusively white Southeast London. Suddenly her brown skin stood out, making her a target. She couldn't avoid the harassment coming from two boys who lived around the corner. One day, they pelted her and her sister with rocks. She remembers one hit her on the head. She remembers bleeding.

In 1996, the New Republic ran a bright, red cover that perfectly captured the tenor of the contemporary debate over welfare. "DAY OF RECKONING," a cover line read, above a photograph of an unidentified black woman. She was smoking a cigarette in one hand and holding a baby with a bottle in the other. The text beneath that image read "Sign the Welfare Bill Now." The racial optics were not subtle.

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Why Blackface Endures

Feb 8, 2019

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In Virginia, Governor Ralph Northam's press conference this weekend, regarding a racist photo from his yearbook, he said that he hoped the uproar over his yearbook photo would present an opportunity.

An opportunity for productive dialogue where we could address the difficult issues that "contribute to the greater racism and discrimination that defines so much of our history."

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In Virginia Governor Ralph Northam's press conference this weekend, he said he hoped the uproar over his yearbook photo would present an opportunity.

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In 1964, the New Yorker dispatched the writer Richard Rovere to follow Barry Goldwater, the senator from Arizona, as he crisscrossed the country in his ultimately doomed bid for the presidency. A central plank of Goldwater's campaign was that federal involvement in state and local affairs had gone dangerously too far.

Jazmine Barnes, a 7-year-old black girl, was buried this week in Harris County, Texas. She was fatally shot while sitting in the car with her mother and siblings on the morning of Dec. 30.

Initial reports stated that the shooter was a white man. Those reports led to a national outcry that this was a racially motivated attack. Activists and politicians demanded that the shooting be investigated as a hate crime. But in the days since the shooting, deputies in Harris County have charged two black men in relation to the shooting.

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President Trump's feud with the media seemed to take some ominous turns this week. There was that testy exchange with CNN's Jim Acosta.

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JIM ACOSTA: Are you worried...

When Boys Can't Be Boys

Nov 2, 2018

Editor's note: This column contains a racial epithet.

One day in the 1930s, a very young Martin Luther King Jr. was sitting in the passenger seat of his father's car when his dad accidentally ran a stop sign on a Georgia street.

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For the past two seasons, NFL players have been kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial inequalities in the criminal justice system. And President Trump has used some harsh language against those players.

It was a week into the bizarre "red pill" Kanye West tour that the whole affair seemed to reach its zenith — or its nadir, depending on where you're sitting. Kanye completed his transmogrification into a sentient Reddit thread when he appeared on TMZ this week, parroting well-worn talking points about black-on-black crime and calling slavery in America "a choice." Van Lathan of TMZ was not having it.

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Lots of people are talking about Kanye West these days. He has been tweeting his support for President Trump and others on the political right. Yesterday, he told TMZ...

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All right. Protesters took over a Starbucks shop in Philadelphia today.

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UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Chanting) A whole lot of coffee, a whole lot of wack.

Last week, John Boehner, the retired congressman from Ohio and former Speaker of the House of Representatives, announced on Twitter that he was getting into the weed game:

"I'm joining the board of #AcreageHoldings because my thinking on cannabis has evolved," Boehner wrote. "I'm convinced de-scheduling the drug is needed so we can do research, help our veterans, and reverse the opioid epidemic ravaging our communities."

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Today marks 50 years since President Lyndon Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act. The law was meant to ban racial discrimination in housing. So how well has it worked? Gene Demby from NPR's Code Switch podcast spoke with Rachel Martin.

The suspect in the Austin bombings has been described as "troubled" by both police and the media. NPR's Audie Cornish speaks to NPR Code Switch reporter Gene Demby about why people seem reluctant to call him a terrorist.

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In 2009, the former UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon took on the NCAA in a lawsuit that challenged the organization's ability to profit from the likenesses of college athletes in a video game. But as the case heated up, its stakes and scope began to sprawl, opening a can of worms that threatened to upend one of the bedrock principles of college sports: amateurism.

On the afternoon of April 13, 2014, Dontre Hamilton was lying on the ground near a bench in a Milwaukee city park. A police officer on patrol walked over to Hamilton and asked him to stand up. Their encounter would end in disaster.

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It's a ritual that plays out every year or so, whenever a Very Important Black Film is about to drop. Black fraternities, sororities, churches and civic organizations, aunties and teachers and coaches, plan trips by the busload to the cineplex. Maybe it's Malcolm X or 42 or 12 Years A Slave. Maybe someone holds special screenings followed by panels of cast members, academics or public intellectuals.

When the Eagles clinched their first-ever Super Bowl victory on Sunday — that will always feel wild to say — my friends and I joined the joyful, inebriated throngs in a spontaneous pilgrimage to Philadelphia's City Hall. And at Thursday's championship parade, you'd likely hear many of the same full-throated chants that we heard right after the win. The Eagles fight song, obviously.

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And now to that game that happened last night.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: The Philadelphia Eagles are Super Bowl champions. Eagles fans everywhere, this is for you.

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