Code Switch

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.

George Romero's zombie masterpiece Night of the Living Dead turns 45 on Tuesday; it was released in theaters on October 1, 1968.

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.)

On Wednesday, the MacArthur Foundation announced its newest class of fellows — "geniuses" who have made remarkable contributions to their fields. We wanted to know what happens to a "genius" after the fellowship is over, so we spoke with Ramón Gutiérrez, a Preston and Sterling Morton Distinguished Service Professor in U.S. history at the University of Chicago, and one of the MacArthur fellows in 1982.

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.

The latest estimate by the Pew Research Center puts the number of immigrants living illegally in the U.S. at 11.7 million.

This new number, based on U.S. government data, can be found in a report released Monday titled "Population Decline of Unauthorized Immigrants Stalls, May Have Reversed." The key word in that headline is "may." As the authors write in the report:

Is It Racist To 'Call A Spade A Spade'?

Sep 23, 2013

What happens when a perfectly innocuous phrase takes on a more sinister meaning over time?

Case in point, the expression "to call a spade a spade." For almost half a millennium, the phrase has served as a demand to "tell it like it is." It is only in the past century that the phrase began to acquire a negative, racial overtone.

During one of our morning editorial meetings here at Code Switch, we chuckled heartily at this bit from Dave Chappelle's ongoing comeback tour. In this recording, Chappelle was recalling a conversation with a mixed-race couple in the front row of a recent performance. The comedian wanted to know: Where are you from?*

"The wife was obviously Asian. The husband his [expletive] was more mysterious. Might have been Mexican, might have been from Bangladesh — could have gone a lot of different ways.

"I'm an Iranian-American Muslim female," says comedian Negin Farsad in her stand-up act. "Where my Muzzies at? Come on guys, where my Muzzies at?," she asks the crowd.

A few years ago, Brown University commissioned a study of its own historical connection to the Atlantic slave trade. The report found that the Brown family — the wealthy Rhode Island merchants for whom the university was named — were "not major slave traders, but they were not strangers to the business either."

A War Of Tweets Erupts Over Latest Miss America

Sep 17, 2013

Editor's note: After the crowning of Nina Davuluri as Miss America, we solicited this commentary from writer Anna John, one of the co-founders of the blog Sepia Mutiny. This post includes several embedded tweets that contain explicit language.

Last week, Julie Chen revealed on The Talk that she had double eyelid surgery to make her eyes look "less Chinese" in order to advance her TV career.

The poet Langston Hughes liked to wryly describe the Harlem Renaissance — the years from just after World War I until the Depression when black literature and art flourished, fed by an awakening racial pride — as "the period when the Negro was in vogue." Note the past tense. Two new books published Tuesday explore the blossoming of black cultural life in two different decades.

On Tuesday, Congress will bestow its highest civilian honor — posthumously — on the young victims of a deadly Alabama church bombing from the civil rights era.

The Congressional Gold Medals for Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley come 50 years after the black girls were killed by a Ku Klux Klan bomb.

Just as the federal recognition is long in coming, so was justice.

The most recent entry in our roundtable on race and online feminism caused a firestorm on Twitter. People were angry that we had invited Jill Filipovic to participate in the conversation and hadn't invited Mikki Kendall, who started the #solidarityisforwhitewomen hashtag that sparked the whole conversation to begin with.

Jury Says You Can't Say That Word. Period

Sep 4, 2013

This a post about a racial slur, and there's no way around using it. Be warned.

Is it racist if a black boss calls his black employee nigger?

A federal jury in New York thinks so.

The revered Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, 72, announced this weekend at the Venice Film Festival that he's retiring from making full-length feature films. (He previously went into "semi-retirement" after directing Princess Mononoke in 1997.)

About This Miley Cyrus Business ...

Sep 3, 2013

So people have been hitting us up on Twitter and asking us to weigh in on the disasterpiece that was Miley Cyrus' performance at Sunday's MTV Video Music Awards. Perhaps you've heard someone mention it? There was twerking and teddy bears and boatloads of, uh, racial tone deafness.

"You can't take it back! Don't be an Indian giver."

Sound familiar? It's the schoolyard taunt that's been used for generations by children (and others) to describe people so ungenerous that they take back gifts as soon as they are given or immediately demand a present in return.

Comedian Louis CK calls the phrase "one of most offensive things you can call someone."

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