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
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 — 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 — And A Lot Of Contention

This spot forbids "urban wear" — 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
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 — in health or education, say— 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
9:43 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
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 — 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
7:15 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
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 — 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
10:41 am
Mon February 24, 2014

Remembering Buddy Esquire, The King Of Hip-Hop Flyers

Buddy Esquire was a prolific handbill artist in hip-hop's early days in the South Bronx. He taught himself how to draw and different styles of lettering by checking out books from the local library — and his flyers are some of the only surviving documents from hip-hop's birth.
Courtesy of Cornell University Hip Hop Collection

Originally published on Sat February 22, 2014 5:12 pm

Forty years after its birth, hip-hop is everywhere, a global signifier of youthfulness and subversion and opulence and Americanness and blackness and menace, sometimes all at once.

But for all the glorification of hip-hop's early days in the South Bronx — the brilliant improvisation, the block parties — there isn't a whole lot of supporting documentation. A lot of what we know is from the fading memories of aging b-girls and b-boys who were present at the creation.

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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 Messy Backdrop of the Michael Dunn Murder Trial

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
7:59 am
Mon December 30, 2013

The Best Of Code Switch In 2013

Like many Japanese-Americans, Yuri Kochiyama was place in an internment camp during World War II. She became an outspoken civil rights activist, and began an unlikely friendship with Malcolm X.
Courtesy of the Kochiyama family/UCLA Asian American Studies Center

Originally published on Wed December 25, 2013 7:19 pm

Everyone else is doing their year-end lists, and we didn't want to be left out. The Code Switch crew compiled our favorite and best-received coverage from the past year: a novel revisiting of a pivotal year a half century ago; attending homecoming at a historically black college that is now nearly all-white; and rounding up some alternately hilarious and excruciating stories our readers told us about race.

When Our Kids Own America

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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
1:42 am
Mon December 16, 2013

Taking A Magnifying Glass To The Brown Faces In Medieval Art

It became an artistic convention during the Middle Ages to depict Balthazar, one of the fabled Magi who come to greet the newborn Christ, as a dark-skinned man. This painting, Adoration of the Magi, is by Bartolome Esteban Murillo.
Wikimedia Commons

Originally published on Fri December 13, 2013 5:10 pm

The Tumblr sounds a bit like a college course: People of Color in European Art History.

And its goal is pretty ambitious. The blog's author, Malisha Dewalt, says that her goal is to challenge the common perception that pre-Enlightenment Europe was all white, which she argues is a much more recent and deliberate invention.

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Code Switch
12:48 pm
Fri November 8, 2013

Dolphins' Story Is About Race And Bullying, But Not The Way You Think

Jonathan Martin would have been the first fourth-generation African-American Harvard student ever, had he not opted to go to Stanford instead. Teammates and his high school coach said that other players had trouble relating to him because of his background.
Wilfredo Lee AP

Originally published on Fri November 8, 2013 4:02 pm

Over the last few days, the sports media has been transfixed by the story of Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito, two burly offensive lineman who play for the Miami Dolphins. Martin, a 24-year-old, second-year pro, abruptly walked away from the team last week after an incident with Incognito, 30, his frequent tormentor and the offensive line's unofficial leader.

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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 — get it? — 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 — at the heart of a story about a Roma child suspected of being kidnapped because she had blond hair and blue eyes — 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
9:46 am
Fri October 4, 2013

A Rapid Shift For Jews Away From Religion, But Not Jewishness

Are Jews becoming less religious because they're marrying non-Jews or are they marrying non-Jews because they're becoming less religious? It's hard to say.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed October 2, 2013 12:49 pm

A big survey by the Pew Center is out today on Jewish life in America, and it shows a stark shift away from religious belief and toward cultural identification.

Nine in 10 American Jews born before World War II identify themselves as Jewish by religion, but nearly a third of Jewish millennials — that is, people born after 1980 — identify as having no religion at all.

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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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Code Switch
3:04 pm
Thu September 26, 2013

What Parents Tell Their Kids About Race

"Nice job on the model car, son. But remember it has to be twice as good. Start over."
iStockphoto

Originally published on Thu September 26, 2013 3:59 pm

Like so much of the advice that parents give their children, conversations about race often say a great deal about the values parents hold most dear. And like so much other parental advice, kids are often keen to reject it outright — or remix it for themselves. (In July, when news broke that George Zimmerman was acquitted of manslaughter, we asked parents to share what they told their kids after the verdict was announced.)

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Code Switch
1:13 pm
Tue September 24, 2013

What Did Your Parents Tell You About Race?

Originally published on Sat September 21, 2013 6:48 pm

Earlier this week, a school in Hartford, Conn., made headlines after parents complained about its, uh, novel approach at making America's racial history resonate with seventh graders.

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Code Switch
4:18 pm
Sun September 15, 2013

Who's Really Left Out Of The CrossFit Circle

CrossFitters exercise at a gym in Travis, N.Y. A blog posted to CrossFit's Facebook page has opened up a discussion about diversity in the CrossFit community.
Anthony DePrimo Staten Island Advance /Landov

Originally published on Sun September 15, 2013 4:26 pm

Last week, the headquarters for CrossFit, the popular — and polarizing — workout genre, shared an item on its Facebook page from a blog called Stuff Black People Don't Like.

And according to an entry from February on the Stuff Black People Don't Like blog, CrossFit is anti-black:

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Code Switch
3:36 pm
Tue September 10, 2013

New York Man Killed By Attacker In Possible Hate Crime

Jeffrey Babbitt was struck by a disturbed man as he walked through Manhattan's Union Square Park, above.
Mary Altaffer AP

Originally published on Wed September 11, 2013 11:01 am

Jeffrey Babbitt was walking through Union Square last Wednesday, near the Manhattan comic book store that he'd been going to for years, when he had a fatal chance encounter with a stranger.

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Code Switch
7:37 pm
Wed September 4, 2013

College Enrollment Drops Overall, But Spikes Among Latinos

The number of Latino college students has been on a steady uptick since the mid-2000s.
Michael DeLeon iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Thu September 5, 2013 10:30 am

Here's the latest dispatch from our country's changing classrooms: Overall, there were half a million fewer students nationwide enrolled in colleges between 2011 and 2012, but the number of Latinos enrolled in college over the same period jumped by 447,000. The numbers come from a recent U.S. Census Bureau report.

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