Code Switch

Days before Election Day, Chris Deschene's campaign to become Navajo Nation president has officially gone into limbo.

Deschene, 43, made it onto the Nations ballot after receiving 19 percent of the vote — second to Dr. Joe Shirley Jr., a former Navajo president. But Navajo law requires that all presidential candidates speak the Navajo language fluently, and Deschene quickly came under fire when he was accused of not passing that test.

The other night, at a large outdoor Halloween-themed party, I saw a young white girl, probably about 3 or 4, dressed up in a long, purple kimono. I felt an involuntary uneasiness. I wanted to ask her parents who she was supposed to be — maybe it's a character in some cartoon I don't know about, I thought — but I didn't want to embarrass anyone. Which is to say, Problematic Dress-up Season is in full swing.

This story is a consolidated version of a three-part series by St. Louis Public Radio that profiles how issues of race and class sparked by Ferguson are being discussed in St. Louis-area schools.

It was early September and Vincent Flewellen had just wrapped up his day teaching at Ladue Middle School, in an affluent suburb about 13 miles south of where protests erupted in Ferguson.

We've heard some of the same comments a lot about this fall's television lineup, which includes the shows Black-ish, Cristela, Selfie and Fresh Off the Boat: "Why is diversity all the rage now?" asked Robert Rorke of the New York Post. And Esther Breger called this season the "most diverse in recent TV history."

Navajo Nation Changes Language Law

Oct 27, 2014

In the space of a few months, the quest for one candidate to become the next Navajo Nation president has become intertwined with the changing culture of Indian Country. It has turned into what could be described as a political thriller with a distinctly Navajo hue.

Today's Irish Dancers Step Away From Stereotype

Oct 27, 2014

When Riverdance debuted 20 years ago, Irish step dancers — whether citizens of Ireland or any other country — looked, well, stereotypically Irish. The red-haired, freckle-faced lass doing a jumpy jig still comes to mind for many. But the All Ireland Dancing Championships, currently underway in Dublin, will show how that image no longer reflects the reality.

The new show Gotham has been one of fall's most successful television debuts. But earlier this month, the show found itself in hot water when it hired a white stuntwoman as a body double for a black guest star.

"They took the white stuntwoman and put her through hair and makeup and they applied the black makeup on her, so that she could pass as the black guest star," says David Robb, a reporter at Deadline Hollywood. It's a practice known as "painting down."

A rare, untitled 1913 silent film is the subject of a new exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The exhibit, 100 Years In Post-Production: Resurrecting A Lost Landmark of Black Film History, tells the story behind the silent film's production.

The film features Bert Williams, one of the era's famed black entertainers and the first black Broadway star. He performed in blackface on the stage, and does the same in this film, a romantic comedy with a large black cast of actors.

Cosmetics giant L'Oréal purchased Carol's Daughter, a beauty company that sells natural hair and skin products for black women, earlier this week. It may seem like an unlikely chapter in the story of a business that began in a Brooklyn kitchen.

Thousands of Chinese immigrants took to the seas in the 1980s and 1990s. Many stowed away on cargo ships, spending months on voyages to America organized by Chinese-American gangs in New York.

This election season is proving to be tough for Democrats, but many believe they can turn the red state of Georgia blue with the help of new voters.

One voter registration campaign led by the New Georgia Project, a "nonpartisan effort" according to its website, has targeted black, Latino and Asian-American residents.

Bethann Hardison was one of the "spiritual mothers of the supermodels who ruled the '90s," and she credited some of her rise to prominence to Oscar de la Renta, the influential Dominican-born fashion designer who died this week at the age of 82.

One night last fall, I was walking through Chinatown in Washington, D.C., with my friend Terryn. We were not far from a dude who was in his mid-20s — slim, with neat, shoulder-length locks, skinny chinos, loafers and a leather briefcase slung across his torso — standing on the corner, his arm raised skyward. He was trying without luck to hail a cab.

NPR continues a series of conversations from The Race Card Project, where thousands of people have submitted their thoughts on race and cultural identity in six words.

Jesse Dukes does not have Confederate ancestors. But in the time he has spent writing about Civil War re-enactors, he has met many who say they do.

The worst fate of all may be to make a terrible mistake and then learn the wrong lessons from the experience.

That's the thought I had reading a heartfelt column about the Boston Herald's unfortunate decision to publish a cartoon featuring a White House gate-crasher asking the nation's first black president if he had "tried the new watermelon flavored toothpaste."

A new movie about race and identity is out in select theaters today. It's called Dear White People, and it's a satire set at a fictitious ivy league college. Or, as the promotional materials say, it's "about being a black face in a white place."

Navajo Presidential Race Shaken By Language Gap

Oct 16, 2014

According to Navajo law, Navajo Nation presidents must speak the Navajo language to hold office. Chris Deschene is a strong contender for the position, but there's a problem: He's not fluent in the language.

The challenge to Deschene's candidacy has become a window into how the Navajo Nation views itself and its cultural future, as well as how Native people continue to define themselves in the face of cultural change.

Food writers have argued that Asian-American chefs are having a moment. Besides running popular food establishments, chefs David Chang, Roy Choi and Eddie Huang have each inspired his own cultlike fan base. All three have published best-selling books; Huang's Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir is the basis for a highly anticipated sitcom debuting this fall on ABC.

Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) — a holiday that celebrates those who have passed — will come alive this Thursday in the movie The Book of Life. It is director and animator Jorge Gutiérrez's first feature film, and he says it's his own take on what happens after death.

Set in the 1920s in Mexico, the animated movie centers on the fiery and brave Maria Posada (voiced by Zoe Saldana), and her two suitors: the handsome town hero Joaquin (Channing Tatum) and the soft-spoken Manolo (Diego Luna), who comes from a long line of bullfighters.

In recent years, social scientists have tried to find out whether important decisions are shaped by subtle biases. They've studied recruiters as they decide whom to hire. They've studied teachers, deciding which students to help at school. And they've studied doctors, figuring out what treatments to give patients. Now, researchers have trained their attention on a new group of influential people — state legislators.

This year's Columbus Day holiday will have a slightly different, more Native flavor in the city of Seattle. Thanks to a unanimous vote this summer by the city council, the federal holiday will now be known by a different name: Indigenous Peoples' Day.

In her book A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life, Allyson Hobbs delves into the personal histories of light-skinned African-Americans who, because of their fair complexions and social circumstance, were able to "pass" as white. Code Switch's Karen Grigsby Bates spoke with Hobbs, who explained that, in the past, passing was really a group effort that involved the complicity of a person's family and community.

Editor's Note: In an earlier version of this story, we had two videos of encounters with the police. They contained graphic language and violence, so we've removed them from the story. If you still want to see them, we've included links.

Several years ago, Stanford historian Allyson Hobbs was talking with a favorite aunt, who was also the family storyteller. Hobbs learned that she had a distant cousin whom she'd never met nor heard of.

Which is exactly the way the cousin wanted it.

Hobbs' cousin had been living as white, far away in California, since she'd graduated from high school. This was at the insistence of her mother.

Earlier this year, a judge ruled that Alaskan election officials were in violation of the Voting Rights Act because they did not provide election materials in two dying indigenous languages. They were given until this Friday to comply with the ruling.

The court's decision applies to everything from the buttons that poll workers wear that read "Can I Help?" to candidates' statements to the ballots themselves. There are four regional election pamphlets that are more than 600 pages, and they must be translated into Yupik and Gwich'in.

The beginning of the NFL's 2014 season has been marked by scandals around players' off-field behavior. But each time the league mustered an official response, it seemed to invite even more criticism — especially in the case of Ray Rice, the former Baltimore Ravens running back who was seen on surveillance video punching his then-fiancee and knocking her unconscious.

Does Television Spanglish Need A Rewrite?

Oct 4, 2014

I watched the season premiere of Law & Order SVU, and I was excited to see that it covered a topic I've reported on for the last year — sex trafficking of women in Mexico — and that a very rich cast of Latino actors were featured on the show. But man, that good feeling stopped almost as soon as I heard them speak.

The Spanish and Spanglish used in the show was embarrassing. When it comes to Latinos on the screen, Hollywood keeps missing the mark on the way we speak.

There's a common argument around Muslim extremism that calls for moderate Muslims to denounce and condemn radical adherents of Islam. Many folks push back on that idea by pointing out that Islam isn't a monolith, that there are well north of a billion Muslims in the world, and that it's wrong to conflate the small number of dangerous radicals with everyone who belongs to the faith.

Those very tensions are playing out right now in the Somali immigrant communities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

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