What Are the Best Podcasts on Race and History?: raceAhead

Have you listened to a podcast that opened your eyes to some little-known history behind race or bigotry in America? We’d love to hear about it!

In our quest for creative ways to tap the collective wisdom of the greatest audience in newsletter history, we’re starting an occasional feature called, According To Y’all.”

For our first installment, we’d like your best recommendations for a podcast series or episode that offers unique insight into race, history, and that helps to explain current events. 

My recommendation: Bundyville, an astonishingly well–reported series by public radio reporter Leah Sottile, working jointly with Longreads and Oregon Public Broadcasting.

She starts with the 2014 stand-off between Cliven Bundy and federal agents at his Nevada ranch over grazing rights, and follows up with the 2016 occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.

Sottile slowly discovers is that this isn’t simply a story of Western bravado, states’ rights, and land management conflict. It highlights a dark alliance. “A group of armed men took over a wildlife refuge in the far southeastern corner of [Oregon],” she says. “Among them were militias and white racists who had really radical ideas about the federal government, race, and religion.”

Honestly, this is a bit of an insult to really radical ideas. 

Sottile’s reporting took her on a journey through these radical ideas and includes extraordinary first-person interviews with many current true believers and their families. She also paints a terrifying picture of people who feel affirmed by the hate speech and bigotry now bandied about in mainstream circles, especially modern politics. To them, the shocks to our democracy read like opportunities in the making.

Sottile uncovers in stunning detail (and sensitivity) a toxic, often underground world of hate, racism, violence, terrorism, and twisted, Bible-fueled dominionism that has been largely ignored by law enforcement, mainstream media, and the public at large. She even independently confirmed the first-ever suicide bombing committed by a white supremacist—one that has gone largely unreported.

Her reporting journey began by accident in January 2011, when a bomb nearly went off during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade in her neighborhood in Spokane, Wash. A white supremacist named Kevin Harpham had dropped a backpack along the route that looked suspicious, and parade route workers called it in. “Inside the backpack was a six-inch-long pipe bomb welded to a steel plate. The bomb was packed with more than a 100 lead fishing weights coated in rat poison and human feces,” Sottile says.

It got her attention.

“Violence like what was narrowly missed on Martin Luther King Jr. Day has plagued this part of the Northwest for decades. But that history was something I’d had the privilege to navigate around as a white person living in a majority white city in the whitest part of the country. When I was a kid I had an excuse: No one told me. But as an adult, I’d come to believe that good always had, and always would, prevail.” 

I realize that this doesn’t sound much like a breezy listen. But if you want to understand the coded speech and complex history of a big part of today’s white supremacist movement, you can’t get a better primer than this. 

So, what say you? Hit us back by email (below) or just dash over to this form with your recommendations. Let’s piece together the true backstory of the world.

Because according to y’all, we all have work to do.

Ellen McGirt
[email protected]

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Rachel Meadows

Rachel Meadows

Trending topics news writer who enjoys cooking, walking her dog and travel.

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