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Gene Demby

"If the system was fair, would I be OK with prison? I'm saying that if the system was fair, there would be no prison."

-- Morehouse College professor Marc Lamont Hill

There was perhaps no movie more buzzed-about coming out of the Sundance Film Festival in January than Nate Parker's directorial debut, The Birth of A Nation, a retelling of Nat Turner's 19th century rebellion of enslaved people in Virginia.

One of the most surprising stories of the Olympics, which end on Sunday, was the unseeded Monica Puig's improbable march to the gold medal in women's singles tennis. Puig's win captured Puerto Rico's first-ever gold medal in the Olympics and set off massive celebrations across the island. It was a big-ass deal.

Why aren't more of my white friends on Facebook talking about this stuff?

It was two years ago this week that a police officer shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in a case that became an inflection point in the way Americans talk about race and policing.

On the final night of the Republican National Convention last month, as Donald Trump formally accepted his party's nomination for president, my Code Switch co-host Shereen Marisol Meraji fired off a tweet about how unnerved she was watching Trump's address, with its angry denunciations of Muslims and Mexican immigrants.

"This speech is difficult to listen to as a Latina and an Iranian," she wrote. "So much fear-mongering."

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One of the most notorious, oft-watched moments in the O.J. Simpson murder case was his nationally televised slow-speed escape from police on the freeways of Los Angeles in a white Ford Bronco. It's a testament to Ezra Edelman's riveting, unsettling five-part ESPN documentary O.J.: Made In America that the filmmaker finds a new lens through which to view it: the real-time collision of a city's sordid racial history with one black celebrity's seeming lifelong project to sidestep the tidal forces of race in America.

The death of Muhammad Ali — one of the world's greatest boxers — has come with a wave of tributes and memorials. We've been taken back to his most triumphant fights and were reminded of just how handsome he was. (I mean, did we ever really forget?)

At long last — the first episode of the Code Switch podcast! We decided to start off with a question we've been fixated on over the past few months: Why is it so hard to talk about whiteness?

Ahead of our forthcoming podcast, I've been heads-down in some reading and interviews about the way we talk about, well, white people. Whiteness has always been a central dynamic of American cultural and political life, though we don't tend to talk about it as such.

The "monoculture" has supposedly been dead for at least a decade, but it ain't necessarily so. World-devouring pop music phenomena do still exist, but today that universe is made entirely of Beyoncé — a Michael Jackson/Madonna/Prince figure whom everyone who cares about popular culture is supposed to grapple with and have big thoughts about.

It's been only a year and a half since the social protest movement around police violence commonly referred to as Black Lives Matter emerged as a major political force.

Much of this movement's momentum-building and organizing happened on Twitter, and a fascinating new study by media scholars Charlton McIlwain, Deen Freelon and Meredith Clark mapped out how it happened and who drove.

You may have read something like this over the past few weeks, in the run-up to this year's hotly contested Academy Awards ceremony:

This summer, football players at Northwestern University came very close to successfully forming a union — not to demand that they be paid, but to demand better scholarships and safety protocols. Had their bid succeeded, it might have changed college athletics — and, indeed, higher education — in some fundamental ways.

In 1890, a shoemaker from Louisiana named Homer Plessy indentified himself as "black" on the decennial U.S. Census population survey. Plessy did this even though, as a Creole who was one-eighth black, he was light-skinned enough to pass for white.

A few years ago, a good friend and I were walking near downtown Philadelphia, not far from my old elementary school, Thomas C. Durham, on 16th and Lombard. The school was built on the edge of a black neighborhood in South Philly in the early 1900s, and its design earned it a spot on the National Register of Historic Places when I was in the third grade. I nudged my friend to take a quick detour with me.

Last week, the Internet exploded after an episode of the WTF! Podcast with Marc Maron went online. The guest was the comedian Wyatt Cenac, who talked about being a writer and correspondent on The Daily Show for several years. He recalled getting into a heated argument with Jon Stewart over the host's impression of Herman Cain, which Cenac had found troubling:

In his column this week, Charles Blow of The New York Times broke down the difference between "bikers" and "thugs" in the wake of the deadly biker gang shootout in Waco, Texas:

Despite the fiery, complicated past of the 6200 block of Osage Avenue in West Philadelphia, Gerald Renfrow is bullish on its future.

He's one to know; he has lived here forever. His parents bought one of the bigger houses on the corner of 62nd and Osage Avenue and he grew up there. When it was time for him to buy his own home, he landed just up the block and raised his own kids there.

Talk to some of the folks who lived through the bombing of 62nd and Osage Avenue in West Philadelphia 30 years ago, and you'll notice that they refer to the event by its full date. May 13, 1985.

That's how Gerald Renfrow refers to it when we talk about the inferno. His house is about 30 yards from the compound on which the bomb was dropped — practically ground zero. He'd been living there since long before the bombing, and now he's the block captain, trying to hold on to the home where he grew up and raised his own family.

New York City's public school system is vast, with more than a million students spread across thousands of schools. And like the city itself, it's remarkably diverse — about 15 percent Asian, just under 30 percent black, about 40 percent Latino, and about 15 percent white, with all sorts of finer shadings of ethnicity, nationality and language in that mix.

Even before the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., or the Eric Garner incident in New York City last summer, Charles Ramsey, Philadelphia's police commissioner, called on the federal government to look into how the officers in his department used force, and how their use of force might contribute to the department's often strained relationship with the city's residents.

A closely watched case before the Supreme Court Wednesday could have big consequences for religious rights in the workplace. It involves Abercrombie & Fitch, the preppy, mall-based retailer, and a young Muslim woman who wore a headscarf to a job interview at the company seven years ago.

Updated on Feb. 4 at 12:30 p.m. ET: The board of directors for the Howard University Middle School of Mathematics and Science issued a statement on the dismissal of three social studies teachers, indicating that the school is governed by an independent nonprofit organization and regulated by the D.C. Charter School Board. Its also confirms that three teachers resigned from the university effective Jan. 27. From the statement:

By now, you've surely seen Jonathan Chait's sprawling takedown of what he describes as a dangerous resurgence of political correctness in the 21st century. In his telling, a "PC culture" that flourished on college campuses in the '90s is back, stronger than ever thanks to Twitter and social media, and it's been crippling political discourse — and maybe even democracy itself.

At the end of Selma, the new movie about a pivotal campaign in the Civil Rights Movement, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (played by David Oyelowo) rises to address a crowd in front of a courthouse.

It's a recreation of the moment in which King gave one of his most well-known speeches: "How Long? Not Long." You know the one: "The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

But as the scene goes on, none of the actual language from that speech shows up.

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.

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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