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Race Unwrapped

In America, we like to think that we’re always talking about race. Like the conversation is happening everywhere, all the time. But race is embedded in society in ways we don’t even think about — just like fish don’t see the water they’re swimming in. In Race Unwrapped, host Michelle Tyrene Johnson tackles different ways to unwrap and unpack race and identity.

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  • Who gets to use all the letters of the n-word
    “How come I don’t get to say the word n……” That’s the sound of the forever question in American society about why white people can’t use the n-word. Like mosquito bites in summer that you forget about in January, there is always some public controversy or private party chatter about why THAT word is straight-up off limits. On this episode, I talk with University of Kentucky English and African and African American Studies Professor Regina Hamilton-Townsend. We unwrap how the actual n-word — whether it ends with a hard “er” or the soft “a” — is not a word that should be coming out of the mouths of white people.
  • When to protest the use of the word riot
    Riots. Protests. Uprisings. Even insurrections. Each conjures up different images and feelings, doesn’t it? On this episode, I sit down to discuss that very thing with Dr. Ricky Jones from the University of Louisville’s Pan-African Studies department. We talk about how when Black people and Black allies come together to protest injustice, no matter how peaceful the protests, it almost always still gets characterized as a riot.
  • A Karen by any other name still Karens
    “Karen” has become shorthand for nosy, overstepping and entitled white women over the last few years. Whether it’s calling the police on a Black man birdwatching, Black children selling water or Black travelers entering an Airbnb, white women who assume that unknown Black people in their neighborhoods must be up to no good get the nickname. On this episode, I sit down with Dr. Kendra Calhoun, a linguist in the anthropology department of UCLA, to talk about the benefits and the downsides of having a cutesy name for a certain brand of racist behavior.
  • Asian-American hate often starts with words
    With the first outbreak of COVID-19 came an alarming increase in ugly language targeted at Asian Americans — from schoolyard bullies, cable news pundits, and even the White House — things like “China virus,” and worse. And those words don’t just hurt the ear but go hand-in-hand with actual harm. According to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, during the first year of the pandemic, hate crimes targeting Asian-American communities increased by 342% in eight large American cities. How do ugly words influence the rise in Asian-American hate crimes the country has seen? That’s what I talk about on this episode, with Vietnamese-American journalist Curtis Tate.
  • Race Unwrapped: When the compliment articulate doesn't sound right
    Sometimes when you’re paying a compliment, it doesn't sound like one on the receiving end. For example, calling a Black person “articulate” isn’t usually the praise you think it is. Steve Bien-Aimé, assistant professor of journalism at Northern Kentucky University, helps us unwrap how compliments like articulate and well-spoken can sometimes sound just a bit shady.
  • What Juneteenth means (and what it doesn't)
    We're back! And this season we're talking about the language of race — how specific words and phrases carry more than their share of weight when we’re talking, and when we think we’re listening. In this first episode, we cover something we're hearing a lot about this week in particular: Juneteenth. Some honor Juneteenth and others wonder what it is, knowing only that it vaguely has something to do with Black people and slavery. It’s both complicated and it isn’t, and Derrick White, Professor of History and African American and Africana Studies at the University of Kentucky, helps us understand it.
  • Attica Scott
    Attica Scott is the only black female legislator in the red state of Kentucky and she has used the tools of law and peaceful protest to seek justice for the death of Breonna Taylor. Along the way, she's battled and overcome COVID-19, which has disproportionately affected the black community. We talk about getting into “good troub Thanks for unwrapping race with us in 2020! We'll see you next season, and in the meantime, you can keep in touch at raceunwrapped@wfpl.org. We're a public radio podcast, which means we're listener supported. Help us fund future seasons at http://wfpl.org/supportraceunwrapped
  • Dawn Wilson
    As a Black trans woman, Dawn Wilson knows how race and gender is a particularly charged intersection. She talks about how religion, politics, family and societal expectations have impacted her journey and how they affect other trans women. Wilson also shares how love and acceptance have helped her own every room she walks into.
  • Sarah Nuñez
    In the middle of a pandemic, self-care can be hard to come by. Sometimes, it grows right out of the earth. Sarah Nuñez is an educator, activist, and folk healer who founded the Aflorar Herb Collective. We talk about what healing looks like, and the wake up call to justice that all women of color are caught squarely in the middle of in a rapidly shifting America.
  • Hannah Drake
    Hannah Drake is a slasher. She’s a poet/blogger/author/speaker/spoken word artist. When she sits down with Michelle, they slash right through to the chase and discuss the unique hopes and fears that a Black woman has, living in America. They unwrap how Louisville’s Breonna Taylor case illustrates that a Black woman can’t even be safe in her own home, and how the pandemic illustrates that we're all connected — but far from equal.
  • Sadiqa Reynolds
    It's our very first episode, and our guest is Sadiqa Reynolds, President and CEO of the Louisville Urban League. As a civic leader and force of nature, Reynolds shares insight on Breonna Taylor, the care taking nature of Black women, especially during COVID-19, and the importance and significance of the 2020 Election. We unwrap how all those topics connect to explain why Black women consistently vote to look out not just for our own self-interest and self-protection, but to protect the best interests of every other American.
  • Race Unwrapped... Coming Soon
    In America, we like to think that we're always talking about race. Like the conversation is happening everywhere, all the time. But race is embedded in society in ways we don't even think about -- just like fish don't see the water they're swimming in. In Race Unwrapped, host Michelle Tyrene Johnson tackles different ways to unwrap and unpack race and identity. Donate to support this and future seasons of Race Unwrapped