April 15, 2013
Emerson Brown, NPR




The U.S. is no longer a mostly-white country with a few prominent minorities; it is well on its way to being a truly multiracial society. In the series "Changing Races," NPR's Code Switch - a team of journalists reporting on race, ethnicity and culture - explores how this transition has been unfolding in different ways across the country. The multimedia series includes a special online package at NPR.org and segments airing today through Thursday, April 18, on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Talk of the Nation and Tell Me More.

"Changing Races" launches with an online build out at NPR.org, centered on a piece by Code Switch blog host Gene Demby. Demby delves into the shifting understanding of cultural ownership in the U.S. Partially using examples of how hip-hop has moved from a black American export to a global, multi-ethnic phenomenon, he traces how familiar narratives about race and culture are changing for upcoming generations of Americans.

On air, "Changing Races" stories explain what exactly code-switching means, and travels to Oakland, CA, and Brooklyn Park, MN, to offer snapshots of two cities that have seen dramatic demographic shifts in recent decades. The series also spotlights a Korean-American rapper who is making a name for himself while also breaking down stereotypes. Series pieces include (schedule subject to change):

  • Code Switching: What does it mean to code switch, why do we do it, and what does it say about us? In an introductory piece, Demby explains the many ways people shift how they express race and culture in daily conversation. Morning Edition; Monday, April 15

  • Korean Hip-Hop: Asian-American men have become prominent in many of the behind-the-mic aspects of hip-hop in the U.S., such as b-boying and DJing, but haven't yet become the most visible faces of the genre. Audiences meet a Korean-American rapper who's making strides in front of the mic. All Things Considered; Monday, April 15

  • Oakland In Transition: Oakland, California, historically thought of as an African-American city, is now a diversely multiracial place, with a large and growing Latino population and a white plurality. Reporter Shereen Marisol Meraji offers a snapshot of a modern city in transition. Morning Edition; Thursday, April 16

  • Changing Suburbs: America's suburbs will see some of the most dramatic demographic shifts over the next three decades. Hansi Lo Wang visits Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, to find out what happens when a predominantly white Midwestern suburb becomes dramatically more diverse. All Things Considered; Thursday, April 16

  • In addition to the series reports, the conversation continues across NPR shows the rest of the week: listeners can weigh in on the subject of forming and trying on ethnic identities during Talk of the Nation on Wednesday, April 17, and Code Switch correspondent Karen Grigsby Bates joins Tell Me More on Thursday, April 18.

    "Changing Races" is the first major effort of NPR's Code Switch, the team formed with a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to deepen coverage of race, ethnicity and culture. Demby, serves as lead blogger and correspondent, and was founder of the blog PostBourgie, and former journalist at the New York Times and Huffington Post. Meraji and Bates are NPR veterans based at NPR West in Culver City, CA. Completing the team are apprentice journalists Wang, who joins from NPR's Weekend Edition, and Katelin Chow, whose past work includes NPR Member station WGBH, the Cambodia Daily and Seattle Weekly; unit supervisor Matt Thompson; and NPR senior editor for diversity Luis Clemens.

    Code Switch provides a portal for new listeners and readers, while enriching the content that NPR provides today to an audience of 26 million on radio and nearly 23 million online. The team will also work across NPR to infuse more story ideas and diverse sources that reflect the world - spanning beats and platforms to touch more of NPR. This initiative will serve as a model for future topic-focused channels.

    This initiative is part of a multi-year strategic imperative: to ensure that NPR "looks and sounds like America on air and online." Over the past two years, NPR has improved its staff profile, which is one of the most diverse in American media, infused its journalism with more diverse sources, experts and story ideas, and stoked the conversation about these important issues with staff-run workshops.