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
1:29 pm
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 10:21 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
10:10 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 4:32 pm

It's Halloween β€” 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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Race
6:06 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 1:26 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
10:24 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 11:39 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
11:47 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 1:10 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
12:23 pm
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 4:17 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
3:40 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 7:33 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
1:24 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
8:03 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 11:28 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 β€” 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
2:17 pm
Thu July 10, 2014

Dress Codes Are Open To Interpretation β€” And A Lot Of Contention

This spot forbids "urban wear" β€” and also orthodontia, apparently.
memestate flickr

Originally published on Thu July 10, 2014 3:37 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
11:11 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 10:50 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
2:41 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 4:30 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 β€” in health or education, sayβ€” 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
11:59 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 7:22 pm

This post has been updated.

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Code Switch
9:14 am
Thu June 5, 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 3:38 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
12:45 pm
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 β€” 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 3:26 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
7:23 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 10:13 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
1:23 pm
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 11:45 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
2:42 pm
Thu May 22, 2014

How To Tell Who Hasn't Read The New 'Atlantic' Cover Story

Ta-Nehisi Coates' cover story is kicking up a lot of dust in the same way several other recent much discussed Atlantic think pieces and cover stories have.
The Atlantic

Originally published on Fri May 23, 2014 10:34 pm

The Atlantic does this a lot: use the magazine's covers to launch large, provocative conversations that you later hear endlessly dissected on cable news, in the blogosphere, and on Twitter. It is a think piece factory.

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Code Switch
4:16 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 β€” 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
7:03 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 10:05 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
9:32 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 12:56 pm

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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Code Switch
3:25 pm
Fri April 11, 2014

How Stereotypes Explain Everything And Nothing At All

The City College of New York basketball team in 1932.
New York Daily News Archive New York Daily News via Getty Images

Originally published on Thu October 9, 2014 10:17 am

A few days ago, I wrote a post in which I was mulling just why so few Asian-Americans played Division I basketball. The numbers were striking: of the 5,380 men's players in the top tier of college basketball during the 2012-2013 season, only 15 were Asian-American. Asian-American ballers weren't just underrepresented. They were practically invisible.

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Race
4:58 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 8:50 pm

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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Code Switch
1:20 pm
Mon January 13, 2014

Who Gets To Be A Superhero? Race And Identity In Comics

Orion Martin reimagined several iconic X-Men covers, recasting the superheroes as people of color. The move sparked a discussion on race in comics, both on the page and in the writers' rooms.
Orion Martin

Originally published on Sun January 12, 2014 7:20 pm

The X-Men comic franchise has proven remarkably sturdy in the half-century since its launch. They've spawned dozens of animated series and four major Hollywood films with a fifth due out this summer. A big part of that is due to its central premise β€” a minority of superpowered humans called mutants are discriminated against by their government and fellow citizens β€” which has functioned as a sci-fi allegory for everything from the civil rights movement to the AIDS crisis.

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Code Switch
3:50 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
8:05 am
Tue November 12, 2013

What The New Ms. Marvel Means For Muslims In Comics

The Arabian Knight, an early, ham-fisted attempt at a superhero from Central Asia, wore a turban, wielded a mystical scimitar and rode on an indestructible flying carpet. Seriously.
Marvel.com

Originally published on Tue November 12, 2013 3:34 pm

Marvel Comics recently said that it is reimagining Ms. Marvel, one of its superheroines, as an American teenager named Kamala Khan. But the news has gotten so much attention because Khan is Muslim.

Some quick background: The old Ms. Marvel was a blond military pilot who could fly, shrug off bullets, and shoot energy blasts from her hands. (Because aliens or something.) But Khan is a teenager from New Jersey who will be able to grow and shrink different parts of her body, and eventually she'll be able to shape-shift.

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Code Switch
1:09 pm
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 β€” get it? β€” 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
2:22 pm
Tue October 29, 2013

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

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

Originally published on Wed October 30, 2013 8:00 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
3:57 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 6:12 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
6:20 pm
Wed October 2, 2013

Howard's President Steps Down Amid Tumult And Uncertainty

Sidney Ribeau's tenure saw the university's endowment recover from the 2008 downturn and its alumni giving rate quadruple. But a trustee said the school was in "serious trouble" and called for a no-confidence vote against him.
The Washington Post/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed October 2, 2013 7:55 pm

Is Howard University facing an existential crisis?

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