Gene Demby

A sinewy, grayish, vaguely human thing sits on the ice cap somewhere in the Arctic, before plunging into the water below. That's when a very unfortunate whaling vessel arrives and harpoons a whale, setting the thing on a rampage. It won't take long for readers put the pieces together: The creature is the Monster — as in Frankenstein's monster — and his encounter with the whaling ship sets him on a mission to destroy, pitting him against the humanity that rejected him centuries ago.

Every Friday morning when I was very little, the women who ran the daycare center I went to would gather all the kids into a circle and goodnaturedly quiz us on what happened the night before on The Cosby Show.

I distinctly remember the first time I sat in that circle having no idea what The Cosby Show was, feeling whatever pre-kindergarteners understand as shame. The center's staffers were all black, as were we, the assembled moppets. Watching the Huxtables was quite literally my first homework assignment.

Do black and white children who live in assisted or subsidized housing experience different life outcomes?

That question was at the center of a new study by Sandra Newman and C. Scott Holupka, two researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. They combed through federal data on households in public housing or those that received housing vouchers from the 1970s through the first decade of the 2000s.

In recent weeks, the stories of missing black and Latina girls sparked an outcry on Twitter and Facebook because there seemed to be a flurry of new cases that were being under-reported by local news in the Washington D.C. area.

Gene and guest host Glen Weldon (our play cousin from Pop Culture Happy Hour) explore how comics are used as spaces for mapping race and identity. Gene visits Amalgam Comics and Coffeehouse in Philadelphia and chats with proprietor Ariell Johnson, who is reclaiming the comic book store, which once made her uneasy as a black fan. Meanwhile, C. Spike Trotman, another black woman, has made a name for herself as an online comics publisher of Iron Circus Comics in Chicago.

Last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York attended an event at a Manhattan synagogue in which he sharply criticized the city for not closing Rikers Island, the city's notorious jail.

Charles Collins and his wife, Joyce, were cruising down one of the main streets in Milwaukee's North Side one spring evening in 2014, headed home after a day of babysitting their infant granddaughter. They had just dropped the little girl off with his son.

"You know how you have a leisurely ride?" Collins said this week by telephone. "That's just what we were doing, just enjoying my lady."

Do voter ID laws hurt minority turnout? Study says: Absolutely

The unrest in Ferguson, Mo., following the death of Michael Brown in summer 2015 drew renewed scrutiny to police violence and revealed just how little the public knew about its pervasiveness. At first, there were widespread calls to address what officers looked like since Brown was African-American and the officer who shot him is white.

Barack Obama took to the podium in the press briefing room on Wednesday, the second-to-last day of the first black presidency, and after eight years of that becoming increasingly normal, the moment made it all start to seem strange again. So this whole black leader-of-the-free-world thing really happened, huh?

The details of the story are unambiguously disturbing. Last week, a white 18-year-old man from suburban Chicago was found walking in the cold, disoriented and bloodied. Four people, all black, had held him against his will for four hours, tied him up, and assaulted him while livestreaming part of it on Facebook.

In the summer of 1822, Denmark Vesey planned to destroy Charleston, S.C.

He had been born into slavery in the Caribbean and brought by his owner to the United States, where he purchased his freedom for $600 in lottery winnings. But Vesey could not secure the emancipation of his wife and children, as South Carolina changed its laws in 1820 to effectively prohibit the owners of enslaved people from setting them free.

There is popular wisdom out there that conversations about race are most productive when the people engaged in them are deeply, emotionally vested in the well-being of one another. Family might be a rejoinder to that wisdom. Perhaps there's such a thing as being too vested.

As you probably have guessed, there has been a lot of conversation about race this week — So. Much. Conversation. — as folks, including us, try to wrap their brains around Donald Trump's election to the presidency. Here are some Code Switch recommendations for things you should hear and read.

A few years ago, the Urban Institute undertook a massive experiment to measure discrimination in home rentals and sales. The researchers sent hundreds of people in dozens of cities across the country to act as applicants trying to rent or buy apartments and houses. The "testers" were given similar credit histories and financial qualifications.

So the family lore goes something like this: My mother was getting a checkup and some shots before a trip to Ghana with her boyfriend, who was from Accra. Then her doctor told her she was pregnant. Then more tests and more news: She was pregnant with twins. She would have to cancel her long-anticipated sojourn to the Motherland.

A few years ago, a pair of sociologists named Andrew Papachristos and Christopher Wildeman decided to study gun violence in Chicago. They focused on a specific community on the west side: overwhelmingly black and disproportionately poor, with a murder rate that was five times higher than the rest of the city.

Their approach was to look at gun violence the way epidemiologists study disease — examining the way it spread by social connections. And like a virus, they found that there were certain people who were especially at risk of being touched by it.

"If the system was fair, would I be okay with prison? I'm saying that if the system was fair, there would be no prison."

-- Morehouse College Professor Marc Lamont Hill

There was perhaps no movie more buzzed-about coming out of the Sundance Film Festival in January than Nate Parker's directorial debut, The Birth of A Nation, a retelling of Nat Turner's 19th century rebellion of enslaved people in Virginia.

One of the most surprising stories of the Olympics, which end on Sunday, was the unseeded Monica Puig's improbable march to the gold medal in women's singles tennis. Puig's win captured Puerto Rico's first-ever gold medal in the Olympics, and set off massive celebrations across the island. It was a big-ass deal.

Why aren't more of my white friends on Facebook talking about this stuff?

On the final night of the Republican National Convention last month, as Donald Trump formally accepted his party's nomination for president, my Code Switch co-host Shereen Marisol Meraji fired off a tweet about how unnerved she was watching Trump's address, with its angry denunciations of Muslims and Mexican immigrants.

"This speech is difficult to listen to as a Latina and an Iranian," she wrote. "So much fear-mongering."

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One of the most notorious, oft-watched moments in the O.J. Simpson murder case was his nationally televised slow-speed escape from police on the freeways of Los Angeles in a white Ford Bronco. It's a testament to Ezra Edelman's riveting, unsettling five-part ESPN documentary O.J.: Made In America that the filmmaker finds a new lens through which to view it: the real-time collision of a city's sordid racial history with one black celebrity's seeming lifelong project to sidestep the tidal forces of race in America.

The death of Muhammad Ali — one of the world's greatest boxers — has come with a wave of tributes and memorials. We've been taken back to his most triumphant fights and were reminded of just how handsome he was. (I mean, did we ever really forget?)

At long last — the first episode of the Code Switch podcast! We decided to start off with a question we've been fixated on over the past few months: Why is it so hard to talk about whiteness?

Ahead of our forthcoming podcast, I've been heads-down in some reading and interviews about the way we talk about, well, white people. Whiteness has always been a central dynamic of American cultural and political life, though we don't tend to talk about it as such.

The "monoculture" has supposedly been dead for at least a decade, but it ain't necessarily so. World-devouring pop music phenomena do still exist, but today that universe is made entirely of Beyoncé — a Michael Jackson/Madonna/Prince figure whom everyone who cares about popular culture is supposed to grapple with and have big thoughts about.

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