January 7, 2022

Talking While Black

Think back to two summers ago, the summer of 2020, when a series of violent, highly-publicized killings of Black Americans sparked outrage and a national movement to eradicate racism and its evils. That movement gave way to a newer, reactionary one, a backlash that is playing out in schools and school board meetings across America. Host Emanuele Berry shares stories about Black people who got tangled up in this current backlash in both extreme and very personal ways. 

This episode won a 2023 duPont-Columbia Award.

Illustration by Trevor Davis. Photos from Getty Images. 



As a new high school principal, Dr. Whitfield felt moved by the national renouncement of racism he saw all around him in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. It prompted him to write a thoughtful email to parents and teachers in his district. He got lots of praise for it. Less than a year later that same email would threaten his job. (12 minutes)

Act One


During her sophomore year in high school, Nevaeh was targeted in a secret text message chain by a handful of her peers. She’d come to learn the text chat was a mock slave trade where her photo and photos of other Black classmates were uploaded, talked about as property and bid on. Emanuele Berry talks to Nevaeh about what these messages mean to her now, and how she’s navigated her town’s reaction over this, and her close friendships with kids who mostly aren’t Black. (20 minutes)

Act Two

The Farce Awakens

After the murder of George Floyd, sales of books by Black authors skyrocketed. Now, there are efforts to ban many of the same books. Producer Chana Joffe-Walt talks to author Jerry Craft, who is caught up in this backlash with his graphic novel New Kid. (21 minutes)