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
3:50 pm
Mon December 15, 2014

Serial Isn't About Ferguson. (But It's Kind Of About Ferguson.)

Serial focuses on Adnan Syed, who was a teenager when he was convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, despite big question marks in the case. (But you almost certainly knew that already.)
Courtesy of Serial

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 4:16 pm

As The Conversation About Serial reaches a fever pitch in certain circles, those of us behind Code Switch and Monkey See have been talking quite a bit about the show. You can read Matt Thompson's initial entry in this conversation here.

Below is the second part of our exchange, from Code Switch blogger Gene Demby.

Matt, Linda and Kat,

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Code Switch
1:04 pm
Thu December 11, 2014

Flitting Between Solutions For Police Violence

Since the unrest in Ferguson this summer, there have been calls to diversify police forces. But the results of studies on whether police forces that are more diverse can reduce tensions are decidedly mixed.
Jeff Roberson AP

Originally published on Thu December 11, 2014 3:38 pm

Take a look at the flier for this weekend's planned "Justice For All March" in Washington, D.C., which is centered on several recent police-involved killings of unarmed black men. There's no specific policy demand on that flier — perhaps because the problem doesn't lend itself to a singular fix.

A look at the post-Ferguson headlines shows how different ideas to fix this problem have caught on, even before we know how well those ideas might work.

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Code Switch
5:50 am
Sun November 30, 2014

Updating Centuries-Old Folklore With Puzzles And Power-Ups

The story in Never Alone is based on a Native Alaskan legend about a quest to end a never-ending blizzard.
E-Line Media

Originally published on Mon December 1, 2014 11:41 am

Never Alone, a new video game by E-Line Media, has been generating a lot of buzz in recent months. Its developers teamed up with the Cook Inlet Tribal Council, a nonprofit that works with Native Alaskans, creating Never Alone as a way to help transmit traditional tribal stories to younger indigenous kids.

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Code Switch
12:16 pm
Sat November 22, 2014

Who Will Get The Biopic Treatment Next?

After Chadwick Boseman played Jackie Robinson in 2013's 42, he starred as a suspiciously tall James Brown in 2014's Get On Up.
Universal Pictures

Movie award season is upon us once again, which means that it's peak biopic season. You know what I mean — those big, sweeping epics about the life of a Very Important Person portrayed by a Very Serious Actor.

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Code Switch
10:33 am
Wed November 12, 2014

Why The KKK Is Reaching Out Beyond White Folks

Back in 1925, thousands of Ku Klux Klan members paraded past the U.S. Treasury building in Washington, D.C., as part of a big rally. Throughout its iterations, the KKK has tried to position itself as a respectable, mainstream civic organization.
AP

Originally published on Sat November 15, 2014 9:21 am

As America's longest-lived white supremacist organization, the Ku Klux Klan has achieved a rare kind of name recognition. You know the way people say "Xerox" when they mean "to photocopy" or "Kleenex" when they mean "tissue"? "KKK" functions something like that, except it shorthands to "racial terrorism and extrajudicial killings."

It's a dilemma that some Klan groups are trying to address by being less, well, Klan-ish.

Back in April, after a 73-year-old Klansman went on a deadly shooting spree in Kansas City, a whole lot of avowed racists condemned the shootings.

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Code Switch
11:49 am
Fri November 7, 2014

Why We Have So Many Terms For 'People Of Color'

Leigh Wells Getty Images/Ikon Images

Originally published on Sat November 8, 2014 3:14 pm

A heads-up to our readers: We use some language in this post that some folks might find offensive.

Last week, the Toronto Star found itself in the midst of one of those blink-and-you-missed-it Internet kerfuffles over race.

Here's what happened. The Ontario Human Rights Commission had settled on a term to use in reference to people of color — "racialized people."

The commission wrote:

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Code Switch
9:02 am
Fri October 31, 2014

The Creepiest Ghost And Monster Stories From Around The World

Popobawa promo.
Phoebe Boswell for NPR

Originally published on Fri October 31, 2014 3:32 pm

It's Halloween — a time for Frankenstein monsters and vampires and werewolves. But many of us have our own monsters from different cultures, and When we threw out a call to our readers asking what ghost stories and folktales they grew up with in their own traditions, we got back stories of creatures stalking the shadows of Latin American hallways and vengeful demons from South Asia with backwards feet. (And that's before we get to the were-hyenas and the infernal bathroom stalls.) Below are some of the best we've found or that were told to us from Code Switch readers.

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Code Switch
2:11 pm
Fri October 24, 2014

Tips For Avoiding Racial Missteps From The Makers Of 'Dear White People'

It's a minefield out there.
Ashley Nguyen AP

Originally published on Fri October 24, 2014 4:03 pm

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Code Switch
7:03 am
Tue October 21, 2014

Apps Make Googly Eyes At Riders Tired Of Being Snubbed By Cabbies

Cities like New York and Washington, D.C., have strict penalties for taxi drivers who don't pick up passengers based on their race or destination. But some investigations show that drivers routinely pass up black and brown customers.
Richard Drew AP

Originally published on Tue October 21, 2014 11:50 am

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.

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Race
5:06 am
Wed October 8, 2014

Videos Of Deadly Police Encounters Grab The Media Spotlight, But Why?

The casket of Michael Brown sits inside Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis, awaiting the start of his funeral in August.
Robert Cohen AP

Originally published on Thu October 9, 2014 12:26 pm

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.

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Code Switch
9:24 am
Fri October 3, 2014

Muslims In Minnesota Weigh Whether To Expel Or Engage At-Risk Youth

Ahmed Ismail, a soccer coach, runs the West Bank Athletic Club in Minneapolis. His players practice near a large Somali community where young people have been recruited to fight in overseas conflicts.
Craig Lassig AP

Originally published on Fri October 3, 2014 10:39 am

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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Code Switch
9:29 am
Fri September 19, 2014

Is Corporal Punishment Abuse? Why That's A Loaded Question

Adrian Peterson (right) was ordered to stay away from his team, the Minnesota Vikings, while he addresses child abuse charges in Texas.
Charlie Neibergall AP

Originally published on Sat September 20, 2014 12:10 pm

Over the past week, Adrian Peterson, the Minnesota Vikings' all-world running back and one of the NFL's biggest stars, has become the face of corporal punishment in America. Peterson turned himself in to police over the weekend on charges of child abuse after he allegedly hit his son with a switch that left welts on his body.

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Code Switch
3:09 pm
Thu September 4, 2014

Scenes From The Ferguson We Didn't See On TV

Many of the shops on the protest route were temporarily closed. This cross is the third in a series of pictures on this store's wall. Together, they read: "Oh The Blood."
Eric Kayne for NPR

Originally published on Sun September 7, 2014 7:24 pm

Before I went to Ferguson, Mo., to cover the aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting, a reported friend who was already joked that he was certain that he was sure that every person in the town had already been interviewed. And sure enough, the media crunch on was intense on West Florissant, the main boulevard that was the site of protests and clashes with the police in the wake of the shooting of Michael Brown.

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Code Switch
1:58 pm
Wed September 3, 2014

What Does It Mean To Prevent 'The Next Michael Brown'?

Demonstrators last month chanted on West Florissant, one of the main boulevards in Ferguson, Mo. According to a state report, nearly 9 in 10 people stopped by the police in 2013 were black.
Eric Kayne for NPR

Originally published on Wed September 3, 2014 4:38 pm

Since the recent unrest in Ferguson, Mo., there have been a host of changes to the way the local police do business that are meant to prevent another incident like the shooting death of Michael Brown. Gov. Jay Nixon has appointed Dan Isom, an African-American, as the state's new public safety director.

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Code Switch
11:23 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 3:17 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
2:40 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 6:33 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
12:24 pm
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
7:03 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 3:13 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
1:19 pm
Wed July 23, 2014

Code Switch Roundup: Big Stories On Race And Criminal Justice

Pedestrians stand beside a memorial for Eric Garner, a Staten Island man who died while being arrested by New York City police.
John Minchillo AP

Originally published on Wed July 23, 2014 6:59 pm

The past few days have brought a whole lot of important (and pretty sobering) news around race and policing. Here are some of the biggest stories that have landed on our radar.

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Code Switch
1:25 pm
Sat July 19, 2014

Americans Really Like Jews. Muslims And Atheists? Not So Much

Rabbi Aaron Raskin plays the shofar as Jews mark Rosh Hashanah during a traditional Tashlich ceremony in September 2013 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. A new Pew poll asked how warmly Americans felt toward people of varying religious groups.
Mario Tama Getty Images

Originally published on Mon July 21, 2014 7:41 am

Late last week, the Pew Research and Public Life Project dropped a fascinating new survey on Americans' feelings toward different religious groups.

The pollsters used a "thermometer" that went up to 100 for respondents to plot just how warmly they felt toward different communities. They deemed a rating of more than 50 as positive, while a rating of less than 50 was deemed negative.

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Code Switch
8:46 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 10:25 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
7:03 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 10:28 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
1:17 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 2:37 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
10:03 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 9:50 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
12:07 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 3:30 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
2:03 pm
Wed June 18, 2014

Cute Middle-Schoolers Make A Hit. Cue The Drama

The Y.N. RichKids' ode to Hot Cheetos — that bane of school administrators — became a viral smash.
YouTube

Originally published on Wed June 18, 2014 2:40 pm

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Code Switch
8:09 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 6:22 pm

This post has been updated.

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Code Switch
1:34 pm
Wed June 4, 2014

The Modest Bus Station At The Center Of A World-Changing Confrontation

When the Freedom Riders arrived in Montgomery, they were greeted by an armed, racist mob, while the local police were conspicuously absent.
Anonymous AP

Originally published on Wed June 4, 2014 2:38 pm

EDITOR'S NOTE: This summer, we'll be regularly spotlighting sites on the National Register of Historic Places that have some significance to issues of race and culture.

The Montgomery Greyhound Station, Montgomery, Ala.

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Code Switch
9:51 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 2:26 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
7:11 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 10:45 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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