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.

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Code Switch
10:23 am
Tue August 19, 2014

In Ferguson, Mo., A City Meets The Spotlight

Demonstrators protesting the shooting death of Michael Brown listen to rapper Nelly speak.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Originally published on Fri August 22, 2014 2:17 pm

Etefia Umana says that Ferguson, Mo., is in some ways a media fiction.

We're sitting in the offices of Better Family Life, an organization that provides social services to people in the area. Umana chairs its board and lives in Ferguson.

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Code Switch
1:40 pm
Sat August 16, 2014

Code Switch Roundup: On Race, Policing And Ferguson

A protester holds up a clenched fist in front of a convenience store that was looted and burned following the shooting death of Michael Brown by police nearly a week ago in Ferguson, Mo.
Charlie Riedel AP

Originally published on Sun August 17, 2014 5:33 am

Over the past week, much of the nation's attention has been trained on the town of Ferguson, Mo., following an incident there in which a police officer shot an unarmed black teenager named Michael Brown. Like similar stories, the Michael Brown shooting has become a flashpoint for conversations about race and policing, and there have been heated, chaotic showdowns between the police there and protesters.

Here's some of what's been written about the shooting and the reaction to it in the week since.

FERGUSON AT A GLANCE

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Code Switch
11:24 am
Sat August 9, 2014

'Are You, Like, African-AMERICAN Or AFRICAN-American?'

President Obama spoke to young Africans who were held up as future leaders during this week's Africa Summit.
Charles Dharapak AP

Over at NewsOne, Donovan X. Ramsey contrasted two approaches President Obama has taken with black audiences: 1) the finger-wagging, pull-up-your-pants approach that he often takes with African-Americans, like the graduates at all-male Morehouse College ("We've got no time for excuses ... nobody is going to give you anything you haven't earned"), and 2) the laudatory tone he took with young African leaders who traveled to D.C. this week for the Africa Summit.

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Code Switch
6:03 am
Tue July 29, 2014

What We See In The Eric Garner Video, And What We Don't

Garner was confronted by police trying to arrest him on suspicion of selling untaxed, loose cigarettes on a Staten Island sidewalk, authorities said.
Family Photo via National Action Network/AP AP

Originally published on Fri August 22, 2014 2:13 pm

The rough grooves of the Eric Garner story probably feel familiar to lots of folks by now: an unarmed black man dies after an encounter with the police, agitating old tensions between residents and the officers who patrol their neighborhoods.

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Code Switch
7:46 am
Tue July 15, 2014

The George Zimmerman Trial, One Year Later

George Zimmerman's trial became the locus of heated debate about racial profiling, gun laws and the criminal justice system.
AP

Originally published on Tue July 15, 2014 9:25 am

George Zimmerman's trial for killing Trayvon Martin became a flashpoint for raucous, heated debates — conversations about racial profiling, gun laws and the criminal justice system. Zimmerman's acquittal was seen by many as an outrage, but any outcome would have been unsatisfying for many people, since criminal trials are horrible proxies for the resolutions of big, thorny social issues.

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Code Switch
6:03 am
Sat July 12, 2014

What We Talk About When We Talk About Violence In Chicago

Firefighters in Chicago hose down the scene of a shooting last fall where several people, including a toddler, were shot.
Paul Beaty ASSOCIATED PRESS

Originally published on Sat July 12, 2014 9:28 am

We have a default template for the way we process mass shootings. We scour through every available scrap of the perpetrators' interior lives – Facebook postings, YouTube videos, interviews with former roommates — to try to find out what drove them to kill. The sites of the massacres become a kind of shorthand: Columbine, Sandy Hook, Fort Hood. We conduct protracted, unsatisfying conversations about gun rights, and about mental illness, and about how we have to make sure that they never happen again.

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Code Switch
12:17 pm
Thu July 10, 2014

Dress Codes Are Open To Interpretation — And A Lot Of Contention

This spot forbids "urban wear" — and also orthodontia, apparently.
memestate flickr

Originally published on Thu July 10, 2014 1:37 pm

A Minneapolis nightspot called Bar Louie landed in the news after some local residents took issue with its new dress code.

No flat-billed hats. No long white T-shirts. No large chains. No sleeveless under shirts. No athletic apparel. No sports jerseys without collars. No excessively baggy clothing.

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Code Switch
9:03 am
Fri June 27, 2014

The Elusive Dave Chappelle Re-Emerges, But For How Long?

Chappelle alluded to his decision to walk away from his hit Comedy Central show only obliquely.
Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Originally published on Sat June 28, 2014 8:50 am

Just before Dave Chappelle took the stage Monday as part of a sold-out series of shows at Radio City Music Hall, a song featuring a loop of LL Cool J's famous opening line from "Mama Said Knock You Out" blasted over the sound system.

Don't call it a comeback!

You could take it as a suggestion that Chappelle had never really gone anywhere. Or you could read it as a coy reminder that none of us should get too comfortable, because Chappelle might bounce again at any moment.

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Code Switch
12:41 pm
Sat June 21, 2014

Some Of Us Sacrifice More To Stay In Home Sweet Home

Despite the challenges to finding affordable housing, blacks and Latinos still say they feel like home ownership is an excellent investment.
Jae C. Hong AP

Originally published on Sat June 21, 2014 2:30 pm

If it seems like we talk about housing a lot on Code Switch, it's because we do. But the fact is it's really hard to talk about all the ways race correlates to different outcomes — in health or education, say— without talking about where people live. Take household wealth, for example: The major reason whites have so much more of it is because of how much likelier they are not just to own homes, but to own homes in places where that property might appreciate in value.

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Code Switch
7:09 am
Mon June 9, 2014

What Is Your Race? For Millions Of Americans, A Shifting Answer

The race question on the census is constantly changing.
Carolyn Kaster AP

Originally published on Mon June 9, 2014 5:22 pm

This post has been updated.

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Code Switch
10:44 am
Fri May 30, 2014

In Historic First, Native American Brothers Win Lacrosse Trophy

Miles Thompson of the SUNY-Albany Great Danes broke the record for goals in a season this year — a season which also saw his younger brother and teammate, Lyle, break the record for overall points.
Mike Groll AP

Originally published on Fri May 30, 2014 1:26 pm

The Tewaaraton Award is college lacrosse's equivalent of the Heisman Trophy, given to the best player in the country each year. The award takes its name from the Mohawk word for lacrosse, as a way to honor the sport's Native American origins. The bronze trophy depicts a Mohawk man with a lacrosse stick, surging forward.

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Code Switch
5:38 pm
Wed May 28, 2014

In College Lacrosse, Two Brothers Flirt With Making History

Miles Thompson (left) and his brother Lyle Thompson of New York are finalists for the Tewaaraton Award, college lacrosse's equivalent of the Heisman.
Mike Groll AP

Originally published on Thu May 29, 2014 8:13 pm

UPDATE: The Tewaaraton Award was given Thursday night to both Miles and Lyle Thompson. This is the first time the annual award has been given to more than one individual in the same category.

The Tewaaraton Award is college lacrosse's equivalent of the Heisman Trophy, given out each year to the sport's best male and female players.

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Code Switch
6:11 am
Tue May 27, 2014

The Desire For A Reckoning Meets The Wish For A Reset

Since 1989, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., has introduced into each session of Congress a bill called HR 40, Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act.
Carolyn Kaster AP

Originally published on Tue May 27, 2014 9:45 am

The title of Ta-Nehisi Coates' much-discussed cover story at The Atlantic, "The Case for Reparations," might be something of a misnomer.

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Code Switch
2:44 pm
Mon May 19, 2014

Macklemore Plays Dress-Up And Lands In Hot Water

A costumed Macklemore performed at the opening night of an exhibition at Seattle's EMP Museum. His costume choice has become A Thing.
Suzi Pratt FilmMagic

Originally published on Mon May 19, 2014 11:57 pm

Post Updated 1:45 a.m. ET Tuesday:

Macklemore posted an apology on his website late Monday. He said he picked out items that he could use to disguise himself so he could move freely around an event. "I wasn't attempting to mimic any culture, nor resemble one. A 'Jewish stereotype' never crossed my mind," his post reads.

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Code Switch
2:16 pm
Tue April 29, 2014

How Donald Sterling Violated The NBA's Unspoken Social Contract

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling attends the NBA playoff game between the Clippers and the Golden State Warriors on April 21.
Robyn Beck AFP/Getty Images

We play for each other, for our fans, and for our families — not Donald Sterling.

That was the general message that players for the Los Angeles Clippers reiterated, off-mic, when the Sterling fiasco blew up over the weekend. They were being buffeted by questions about how, exactly, they might respond to allegations that Sterling, the team owner, had been recorded saying that he did not want black people to attend his team's games. Would they boycott? Would they be focused enough to be able to play?

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Code Switch
5:03 am
Fri April 25, 2014

What Exactly Qualifies As 'Racist,' Anyway?

Cliven Bundy, who has been locked in a dispute with the federal government for decades over grazing rights on public lands, has strong opinions on things. Things like black people.
David Becker Getty Images

Originally published on Sat April 26, 2014 8:05 am

Meet Cliven Bundy, a 67-year-old Nevada rancher and the latest person in public life recorded making pretty racist comments, only to later insist that they lack racist bones.

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Code Switch
7:32 am
Wed April 16, 2014

Revisiting Pulitzer Nominees That Touch On Issues Of Race

Washington Post writer Eli Saslow won a Pulitzer Prize for his series on the prevalence of food stamps in post-recession America.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Wed April 16, 2014 10:56 am

This week, Columbia University handed out the Pulitzer Prizes, which are widely considered among the highest honors in journalism. The occasion gives us a good excuse to shout-out some of the finalists and winning entries that touch on issues of race and culture. (Fair warning: These stories are very good journalism done in the service of illuminating some deeply dispiriting realities.)

Speak No Evil

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Race
2:58 am
Wed February 19, 2014

Another Murder Case In Florida Sparks National Outrage

Bobby Worthy, President of The Justice League, leads a chant outside of the Duval County Courthouse during the trial of Michael Dunn in Jacksonville, Fla., on Saturday.
Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Wed February 19, 2014 6:50 pm

  • The Messy Backdrop of the Michael Dunn Murder Trial

The Michael Dunn case is of a type that we see with harrowing regularity. An unarmed black man is shot and killed by a police officer or a white person. The shooter says he felt threatened.

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Race
3:25 am
Fri February 7, 2014

Coke Ad Sparks Cries On Social Media To 'Speak English'

Originally published on Fri February 7, 2014 9:26 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

At some point during tonight's opening ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, NBC will run a much-talked about television ad for Coca-Cola.

(SOUNDBITE OF AD)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: (Singing) Oh, beautiful, for spacious skies...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: (Singing in foreign language)

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Code Switch
1:50 pm
Thu December 19, 2013

Is A 'Pathway To Citizenship' The Right Concern?

Immigrants hold miniature U.S. flags as they listen to a video broadcast from President Obama during a naturalization ceremony in New York City.
Bebeto Matthews AP

Much of the debate over whether and how to overhaul the country's immigration policy has hinged on whether and how to create a pathway to citizenship. But a majority of Latinos now say that's less important for unauthorized immigrants than giving them relief from the threat of deportation.

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Code Switch
7:35 am
Thu December 19, 2013

Immigrants Are Sending More Money Back To Less Poor Countries

Originally published on Thu December 19, 2013 12:54 pm

More and more people are sending money from places like the United States to places like the Dominican Republic, according to a new analysis from the Pew Research Center.

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Code Switch
11:11 am
Wed November 20, 2013

'Go Shorty, It's Your Birthday' And Other Black Bons Mots

A quote from Bartlett's Familiar Black Quotations.
NPR

Originally published on Wed November 20, 2013 1:26 pm

A press copy of a 3-pound book recently came over the wholly metaphorical Code Switch transom. It's called Bartlett's Familiar Black Quotations, and it's kind of amazing.

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Code Switch
3:21 pm
Tue November 19, 2013

When Hollywood Movies Get 'Race-Themed' Into The Same Box

The Best Man Holiday is the latest in a long line of movies on which the fate of black cinema has rested.
Universal Pictures

Originally published on Tue November 19, 2013 4:26 pm

The Best Man Holiday, the much-anticipated follow-up to the 1999 romantic comedy The Best Man, made $30 million and nearly nabbed the No. 1 spot at the weekend box office.

That wouldn't have surprised anyone on social media or who heard the peals of delight that greeted the trailers for Holiday over the summer.

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Code Switch
11:09 am
Thu October 31, 2013

Code Switch Roundup: Status Symbols, Sriracha And Soul Food

The maker of the popular Thai hot sauce Sriracha hot sauce is under fire — get it? — for allegedly fouling the air around its Southern California production site.
Nick Ut ASSOCIATED PRESS

Here are some things we've been musing on over the last few days. Share yours on Twitter or shout us out in the comments below.

"We shine because they hate us/floss 'cuz they degrade us." After two young, black customers accused the high-end retailer Barneys of racially profiling them after they made expensive purchases there, those customers themselves came in for criticism. Just why were these kids who probably aren't rich spending their money so recklessly?

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Code Switch
12:22 pm
Tue October 29, 2013

When Will We Stop Side-Eyeing Relatives Who Don't 'Match'?

The children of the Ruseva family — at the heart of a story about a Roma child suspected of being kidnapped because she had blond hair and blue eyes — might not read to many as relatives. But they are.
BGNES AP

Originally published on Wed October 30, 2013 6:00 am

Last week, folks told us that that they found odd resonances in their lives with the stories of several Roma children in Europe who'd separated from their families. Like those blond, blue-eyed Roma children in darker-skinned, dark-haired families, people said that their own familial bonds had occasionally come under suspicion from strangers, who thought there was a "racial mismatch" between parent and child.

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Code Switch
2:43 pm
Tue October 15, 2013

Remembering The Woman Who Gave Motown Its Charm

Powell mentored Motown artists like Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye and the Supremes. "Ladies dance with their feet, not their buttocks," she'd tell the girl groups.
Tony Ding AP

Originally published on Tue October 15, 2013 4:12 pm

In 2007, decades after Maxine Powell had retired from training a generation of black artists at Motown, a reporter from a Cleveland television station asked her whether anyone had been particularly difficult to work with.

Powell cut her off before she finished. "I don't have that," she said. "No one is difficult. Each person is a beautiful, unique human being. So if you have a problem and you're acting negative, you have been conditioned."

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Code Switch
10:10 am
Thu September 26, 2013

What Parents Tell Their Kids About Race

"Nice job on the model car, son. But remember it has to be twice as good. Start over."
iStockphoto

Originally published on Thu September 26, 2013 1:59 pm

Like so much of the advice that parents give their children, conversations about race often say a great deal about the values parents hold most dear. And like so much other parental advice, kids are often keen to reject it outright — or remix it for themselves. (In July, when news broke that George Zimmerman was acquitted of manslaughter, we asked parents to share what they told their kids after the verdict was announced.)

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Code Switch
2:26 pm
Sun September 15, 2013

Who's Really Left Out Of The CrossFit Circle

CrossFitters exercise at a gym in Travis, N.Y. A blog posted to CrossFit's Facebook page has opened up a discussion about diversity in the CrossFit community.
Anthony DePrimo Staten Island Advance /Landov

Last week, the headquarters for CrossFit, the popular — and polarizing — workout genre, shared an item on its Facebook page from a blog called Stuff Black People Don't Like.

And according to an entry from February on the Stuff Black People Don't Like blog, CrossFit is anti-black:

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Code Switch
11:47 am
Tue September 10, 2013

New York Man Killed By Attacker In Possible Hate Crime

Jeffrey Babbitt was struck by a disturbed man as he walked through Manhattan's Union Square Park, above.
Mary Altaffer AP

Originally published on Wed September 11, 2013 9:01 am

Jeffrey Babbitt was walking through Union Square last Wednesday, near the Manhattan comic book store that he'd been going to for years, when he had a fatal chance encounter with a stranger.

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Code Switch
5:37 pm
Wed September 4, 2013

College Enrollment Drops Overall, But Spikes Among Latinos

The number of Latino college students has been on a steady uptick since the mid-2000s.
Michael DeLeon iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Thu September 5, 2013 8:30 am

Here's the latest dispatch from our country's changing classrooms: Overall, there were half a million fewer students nationwide enrolled in colleges between 2011 and 2012, but the number of Latinos enrolled in college over the same period jumped by 447,000. The numbers come from a recent U.S. Census Bureau report.

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