Listen, I know. Just saying the word “podcast” makes a lot of people groan. Before I found podcasts featuring diverse voices, I assumed the only ones that existed were stodgy or dry or just a thing people were doing to bolster their personal brand. (Or they were Serial.) But you know what happens when you assume? You miss out on a lot of cool podcasts.
Like most popular media, podcasts have had a diversity problem. Networks rely heavily on cross-promotion to make audiences aware of new podcasts, both within their own networks and on others. This method of growing audiences through cross-promotion may be great for creating a stronger podcast ecosystem as a whole, but it isn’t necessarily great for creating a diverse one. As Charley Locke over at Wired points out, “When a white, male host recommends another podcast hosted by a white, male host to a white, male listener, there’s not much room for a diversity of voices.”
Representation matters. It’s important for everyone to see diversity in movies and TV and to hear diverse voices in books and in your earbuds. It’s important for everyone to know that diverse stories deserve airtime.
So if you, like me, were skeptical about whether podcasts were for you, or if you’re looking to make your playlist more diverse, here are five podcasts you should consider listening to the next time you press play.
1 'Sooo Many White Guys'
You probably know host Phoebe Robinson from her podcast with Jessica Williams, 2 Dope Queens. If you’re like, “What is 2 Dope Queens?” you better educate yourself on all 24 of their available episodes right now. Then, get started on Sooo Many White Guys, Robinson’s direct response to the lack-of-diversity issue in the podcast world. Each episode, Robinson interviews a non-white and/or non-male guest. But have no fear, white dudes! She has one token white guy on each season to speak on behalf of all white dudes everywhere. (Gee, what's that like?)
Episode that's my new favorite: #14 Phoebe and Margaret Cho Hope They Die Alone
2 'Code Switch'
Code Switch is NPR’s podcast on race, ethnicity, and identity. It’s hosted by journalists Gene Demby and Shereen Marisol Meraji. They describe the podcast as being definitely not "post-racial," focusing explicitly on how race intersects with culture and society.
Episode that got me hooked: Nate Parker's Past, His Present, And The Future Of "The Birth of A Nation"
Listen on NPR's website.
3 'Still Processing'
Still Processing is a podcast from The New York Times hosted by Wesley Morris and Jenna Wortham. They cover all your pop culture favorites, from RuPaul to Girls to Beyoncé. You’ll laugh, you’ll learn, and if that lineup of topics doesn’t sell you on the show, Morris and Wortham’s fun, natural banter will.
Episode I need to re-listen to: The Kanye-thon
Listen on iTunes.
4 'Hidden Brain'
While not exclusively about race, Hidden Brain is about the unconscious patterns and biases that shape us. It’s hosted by NPR’s Shankar Vedantam, and if he had been my science teacher, maybe I would have retained some of what I learned in AP Biology. Each episode focuses on an aspect of science or human behavior often unexamined or unnoticed, explaining it in an approachable way through storytelling.
Episode I keep telling people about: Encore of Episode 20: Remembering Anarcha
Listen on NPR's website.
5 'Our National Conversation About Conversations About Race'
I’ve got good news and bad news. Good news: If you, like me, just discovered this podcast for the first time, you have 2 years of episodes to catch up on. Bad news: Show About Race unfortunately wasn’t renewed for another season. You can still listen to the archives of hosts Anna Holmes, Baratunde Thurston, Raquel Cepeda, and Tanner Colby having candid conversations on race in America. That's what I'll be marathoning for the foreseeable future.
Episode I’ll be starting with: #1701, "Will You Be My Black Friend?"
Listen on the Show About Race website.