Tag Archives: podcasts

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What’s the Verdict? Racism and the Case Against Serial

By Guest Contributor Priya R. Chandrasekaran, special to Racialicious

A month or so ago, I got into a debate with a friend at work about racism in the podcast Serial.

Serial, a widely popular production of WBEZ Chicago, follows journalist Sarah Koenig week to week as she investigates a fifteen-year old case in which an eighteen year-old Korean American girl was found strangled after she went missing. Her then eighteen year-old Pakistani American ex-boyfriend was charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping. He has been in prison since 2000, all the while maintaining his innocence.

Specifically, my friend and I had different responses to an article by Jay Caspain Kang accusing Koenig of “white reporter privilege.” She felt that Kang was too quick to read an exoticizing impulse into Koenig’s reactions when, for example, Koenig was probably startled by how “normal” a young woman’s diary seemed on the eve of its author meeting a violent death. Also, she said, Koenig the storyteller has to make her characters relatable to her listeners. But “relatability” is precisely what Kang problematizes, I replied, it assumes an underlying “colorblind ideal” that “reads ‘white.’” I brought up Julia Carrie Wong’s charge that Koenig “fail[s] to draw an distinctions between…. a first-generation Korean immigrant [experience] and [a] second-generation life in a Pakistani-American family,” and that she gives her subjects “model minority treatment.” But then… the descriptions Koenig uses were offered by the people she interviewed, not ones she coined.

So is she accountable for them?

A colleague joined in: Koenig probably assumes her audience has racial sensitivity.

I disagreed: Kang is right that the journalist comes “from the same demographic as her ‘intended audience’” in a context where “staffs of radio stations, newspapers, and magazines tend to be overwhelmingly white.”

But if being white is the fact of her experience, this colleague said, do we hold it against her? Continue reading

Race + Comedy: W. Kamau Bell Rises Above The Curve With New Show

By Guest Contributor Caitlin M. Boston

Courtesy: W. Kamau Bell

W. Kamau Bell stands out. Tall, broad, and Black, with a coife au naturale, his physicality doesn’t exactly lend itself to anonymity; equipped with a booming base for a voice, he really doesn’t have a hope in hell of ever going unnoticed in an American crowd. But come this autumn, the impulses behind the diffident stares and sideways glances on the street will be a little bit more difficult for Bell to decipher, hoodie up or otherwise.

That’s because Bell, a comedian who could do a stand-up routine featuring nothing but heckler retorts at this point in his career, just inked a six-episode deal with the FX network (the “coolest of all the Fox’s,” as he calls them) executive-produced by Chris Rock.

In case that last part didn’t make your eyebrows shoot up, for Bell to garner Rock’s participation amounts to an endorsement from a comedy doyen: having established himself in the game as a headliner who can perform in any comedy club, anywhere, on his own terms, praise and a partnership from Rock is synonymous to a weighty nod of approval from Yoda (albeit, Bell says, a foul-mouthed, microphone-wielding version).

Bell officially announced last Thursday that his show would be called Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell, debuting Aug. 9th at 11 pm. With the show set to follow Louie, created by and starring biracial comedian Louis C. K., the two programs together constitute a rarity in network television–a progressive comedy block not led by white people.

Continue reading