March 13, 2009

Wrong Side of History

Bernie Epton went down in history as the Other Guy: the white opponent who almost defeated the first black mayor of Chicago. But what's the real story of someone who ended up on the wrong side of history? That and other stories of people with wildly popular or unpopular views for one moment in time, and how those views stand up years, decades, even centuries later.


Host Ira Glass speaks with Harold Wilshinsky about a piece of advice he gave to his daughter and son-in-law over 15 years ago: Take your money out of the hands of Bernie Madoff, and diversify. Reluctantly, they listened to Harold, even though his son-in-law's family was making a fortune investing with Madoff. But as history would have it, Harold would come out in the know. (8 minutes)
Act One

Hey Mister Dj

For NPR's Adam Davidson, dropping out of college is the worst thing any young person can do in this economy. So when Adam's favorite cousin DJ does just that, Adam brings in a professor of economics from Georgetown University to help persuade DJ to get back on the right track. Only after hearing them both out, the professor thinks Adam, not DJ, might be the one on the wrong side of things. (10 minutes)

Act Two

Does This Suit Make Me Look Terrorist To You?

Rany Jazayerli was thrilled when one of his closest friends, Mazen, was hired by the Obama campaign as the liaison to the Muslim community, in the months before the presidential election. It only took 3 weeks for a newspaper to attack his character, and for Mazen to resign from the job of a lifetime. Rany reads about the incident, from a piece he wrote for FiveThirtyEight.com. (7 minutes)

Act Three

Family Feudalism

Sketch comedy troupe Kasper Hauser performs a radio game show, where a race car driver, a guy fluent in middle English, and a teacher take turns cramming all the 21st century wisdom they can into a 30 second phone call to the 14th century. (4 minutes)

Act Four

The Other Guy

When Bernie Epton ran for mayor of Chicago in 1983, he was a long shot—Chicago historically voted in democrat mayors, and Bernie himself didn't think he stood a chance. Beyond that, Bernie was a moderate republican, with some liberal tendencies: He was a opponent of McCarthyism, he marched in Memphis after Dr. King's assassination, and his kids went to majority black schools.

Until Harold Washington was chosen as the democratic candidate to beat, and the run for mayor of Chicago quickly became about race, and Bernie became a real contender for mayor. In the weeks leading up to the election, Bernie became the symbol of white hope for voters who sought to place race before party.

Reporter Alex Kotlowitz speaks to Bernie Epton's daughter Dale and son Jeff, to find out what happened during the election of 1983 and the years to follow, and the legacy that Bernie Epton even now can't escape. (25 minutes)