Gene Demby

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.

It's been only a year and a half since the social protest movement around police violence commonly referred to as Black Lives Matter emerged as a major political force.

Much of this movement's momentum-building and organizing happened on Twitter, and a fascinating new study by media scholars Charlton McIlwain, Deen Freelon and Meredith Clark mapped out how it happened and who drove.

You may have read something like this over the past few weeks, in the run-up to this year's hotly contested Academy Awards ceremony:

"The fact that there is an absence of African-American nominees at the awards this year is something I'm less concerned about than how that reflects on what's happening within the industry," [the film producer Preston Holmes told a reporter].

"We need more opportunities for African-American filmmakers and crafts people. There needs to be more of an African-American presence in the various unions and guilds."

This summer, football players at Northwestern University came very close to successfully forming a union — not to demand that they be paid, but to demand better scholarships and safety protocols. Had their bid succeeded, it might have changed college athletics — and, indeed, higher education — in some fundamental ways.

A few years ago, a good friend and I were walking near downtown Philadelphia, not far from my old elementary school, Thomas C. Durham, on 16th and Lombard. The school was built on the edge of a black neighborhood in South Philly in the early 1900s, and its design earned it a spot on the National Register of Historic Places when I was in the third grade. I nudged my friend to take a quick detour with me.

On an unbearably hot August afternoon last summer, I was walking along West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Mo., notebook in hand, when I ran into two good friends who were also on the clock, Joel Anderson of BuzzFeed and Jamelle Bouie of Slate. A few nights later, we got dinner with a couple of other black journos from D.C. We'd all known each other for years, and joked about how we rarely get together back home and here we were, eating wings at a gastropub in St. Louis.

Last week, the Internet exploded after an episode of the WTF! Podcast with Marc Maron went online. The guest was the comedian Wyatt Cenac, who talked about being a writer and correspondent on The Daily Show for several years. He recalled getting into a heated argument with Jon Stewart over the host's impression of Herman Cain, which Cenac had found troubling:

In his column this week, Charles Blow of The New York Times broke down the difference between "bikers" and "thugs" in the wake of the deadly biker gang shootout in Waco, Texas:

After my stories last week on the 30th anniversary of the MOVE siege in West Philadelphia in 1985, in which Philadelphia police dropped a bomb on a residential neighborhood, leaving 11 dead — including five children — we were surprised by how many people told us they'd never heard of the bombing.

Despite the fiery, complicated past of the 6200 block of Osage Avenue in West Philadelphia, Gerald Renfrow is bullish on its future.

He's one to know; he has lived here forever. His parents bought one of the bigger houses on the corner of 62nd and Osage Avenue and he grew up there. When it was time for him to buy his own home, he landed just up the block and raised his own kids there.

Talk to some of the folks who lived through the bombing of 62nd and Osage Avenue in West Philadelphia 30 years ago, and you'll notice that they refer to the MOVE bombing simply by its full date. May 13, 1985.

That's how Gerald Renfrow recalls to it when we talk about the inferno. His house is about 30 yards from the compound on which a bomb was dropped — practically ground zero. He'd been living there since long before that bombing, and today he's the block captain, trying to hold on to the home where he grew up and raised his own family.

It was a few days after the funeral for Freddie Gray, and the Baltimore streets that had exploded into violence this week had mostly calmed down.

It's really hard to catch up with Nick Mosby.

The young Baltimore Democrat walks fast, which I discovered when I finally managed to catch up with him. It was early Wednesday afternoon, and Mosby was in the lunchroom of Carver Vocational-Technical High School in West Baltimore, fresh from a TV hit on CNN.

New York City's public school system is vast, with more than a million students spread across thousands of schools. And like the city itself, it's remarkably diverse — about 15 percent Asian, just under 30 percent black, about 40 percent Latino, and about 15 percent white, with all sorts of finer shadings of ethnicity, nationality and language in that mix.

Even before the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., or the Eric Garner incident in New York City last summer, Charles Ramsey, Philadelphia's police commissioner, called on the federal government to look into how the officers in his department used force, and how their use of force might contribute to the department's often strained relationship with the city's residents.

Jackie Robinson is a household name, a book report staple, an American hero. News of his 1947 debut in the major leagues appeared on the front page of the New York Times, above the fold. Fifty years after he first took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers, teams across the MLB held moments of silence on the field, and the league's commissioner retired Robinson's number across baseball.

It wasn't supposed to be "Leonard Nimoy + Biracial Kids Day" here at Code Switch, but the news takes you where it takes you.

The number of people who identify as belonging to two or more races keeps climbing with each Census. The number of people identified as both black and white, for example, more than doubled between 2000 and 2010, from about 780,000 to 1.8 million.

A closely watched case before the Supreme Court Wednesday could have big consequences for religious rights in the workplace. It involves Abercrombie & Fitch, the preppy, mall-based retailer, and a young Muslim woman who wore a headscarf to a job interview at the company seven years ago.

American Samoans are in a very peculiar political limbo: Unlike on any other patch of U.S. soil in the world, children born on the small Pacific Islands are not automatically granted American citizenship. They are U.S. nationals, but not U.S. citizens.

Leneuoti Tuaua, one of the plaintiffs in a case for birthright citizenship in American Samoa that's currently before the Supreme Court, wrote an op-ed in Samoa News back in 2012 laying out what that means for everyday life:

Earlier this week, the board of trustees at Clemson University in South Carolina decided not to change the name of the school's iconic clock tower, Tillman Hall, despite protests by grad students and professors.

Last week, South Carolina lawmakers proposed shutting down the state's only public historically black college for two years.

"We are looking at a bankrupt institution," state House Rep. Jim Merrill told reporters. "No one takes any pleasure in recommending this."

Updated on Feb. 4 at 12:30 p.m. ET: The board of directors for the Howard University Middle School of Mathematics and Science issued a statement on the dismissal of three social studies teachers, indicating that the school is governed by an independent nonprofit organization and regulated by the D.C. Charter School Board. Its also confirms that three teachers resigned from the university effective Jan. 27. From the statement:

By now, you've surely seen Jonathan Chait's sprawling takedown of what he describes as a dangerous resurgence of political correctness in the 21st century. In his telling, a "PC culture" that flourished on college campuses in the '90s is back, stronger than ever thanks to Twitter and social media, and it's been crippling political discourse — and maybe even democracy itself.

At the end of Selma, the new movie about a pivotal campaign in the Civil Rights Movement, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (played by David Oyelowo) rises to address a crowd in front of a courthouse.

It's a recreation of the moment in which King gave one of his most well-known speeches: "How Long? Not Long." You know the one: "The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

But as the scene goes on, none of the actual language from that speech shows up.

It's Halloween — a time for Frankenstein monsters and vampires and werewolves. But many of us have our own monsters from different cultures, and when we threw out a call to our readers asking what ghost stories and folktales they grew up with in their own traditions, we got back stories of creatures stalking the shadows of Latin American hallways and vengeful demons from South Asia with backwards feet. (And that's before we get to the were-hyenas and the infernal bathroom stalls.) Below are some of the best we've found or that were told to us from Code Switch readers.

Editor's Note: In an earlier version of this story, we had two videos of encounters with the police. They contained graphic language and violence, so we've removed them from the story. If you still want to see them, we've included links.

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