Us & Them Us & Them explores all sides of the cultural issues that too often divide us. Peabody Award-winner Trey Kay brings us stories that may make you rethink your opinions on religion, sexuality, and other important issues
Us & Them

Us & Them

From West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Us & Them explores all sides of the cultural issues that too often divide us. Peabody Award-winner Trey Kay brings us stories that may make you rethink your opinions on religion, sexuality, and other important issues

Most Recent Episodes

Us & Them: The 'Toxic Stew' Of School Discipline

Across the nation, students of color and those from poor families are more likely to be suspended from school and data from West Virginia reflects this national trend. In fact, research shows when a teacher thinks a student of color is misbehaving on purpose, they're more likely to get suspended or expelled. Missing just two days of school each month makes a student less likely to graduate which has a big impact on their prospects for the future. On this episode of Us & Them, host Trey Kay looks at discipline disparities in our schools - a new West Virginia law designed to get tough on misbehaving students - and the way one alternative Kanawha County school gives students the support to recover.

A Fiddler Contemplates The Fate of the Mountain State

Phillip Bowen grew up playing the fiddle. The 38-year-old learned classical violin as well as how to improvise on the fiddle, combining musical styles and genres. Now, the West Virginia native has turned to song writing, becoming a phenomenon on social media. Bowen releases his first album soon, with a wide range of offerings. Us & Them host Trey Kay talks with Bowen about his music and the songs that focus on memories of things past as well as the Mountain State reality of today. Bowen sings about his small hometown of Montgomery along the Kanawha River; another song mourns the loss of family members, while yet another may just steal the show. "Vampire in Appalachia" offers a heartbreaking look at the ways his native state has become overshadowed by black lung illness from the coal industry and an opioid crisis that continues to take lives.

Us & Them Encore: The Gun Divide

Us & Them was recently honored with a first place award for best documentary from Virginias Associated Press Broadcasters. Our episode called "The Gun Divide" looks at gun ownership in America, and the way our social, political and racial divisions fuel gun purchases. 2020 showed a historic rise in gun violence. Guns killed a record 45,000 people, the majority of them by suicide. Us & Them host Trey Kay explores the foundations of the Second Amendment and the cultural and historical beliefs and myths that contribute to our very American divide over guns. Gun ownership is at record levels across the country with 40 percent of adults saying they have at least one firearm in their home. But what rights does the Second Amendment give us? We're sharing this award-winning episode with you again, from our archives.

Diminishing OB Care In Rural America

Children are the future - it's a common refrain. However, in isolated, rural communities across America, there are people traveling many miles from their home to deliver babies. Since 2010, nearly 150 rural hospitals have shut down - a victim of the financial stresses facing U.S. health care. One survey finds that about 40 percent of rural hospitals lose money offering obstetric care, since it costs $18,000 on average to have a baby. So, when small hospitals look at cost-cutting measures, delivery and obstetrics units are often casualties. Just under 10 percent of rural hospitals have shut down their delivery services. For this Us & Them episode, host Trey Kay hears from families facing that change, and how it's affecting prospects for their rural cities and towns.

Changing A State's Mind About Health

West Virginia often ends up at the bottom of national health reports — the rates of obesity and diabetes, conditions that can lead to cardiac and kidney disease. The region's legacy of active, manual mining work has given way to a more sedentary lifestyle that relies on processed food to feed families quickly and cheaply. More than a decade ago, Huntington, WV made headlines as the "fattest city in the nation." That spotlight led to some changes with doctors and dieticians focusing more on health and nutrition. On the new episode of Us & Them, host Trey Kay looks at continuing efforts around the Mountain State to teach new dietary habits and train the next generation a healthy approach to cooking and eating. In some counties without close access to full-service grocery stores, new farmer's markets have sprung up and health clinics offer produce boxes with fresh fruits and vegetables.

Compassion Fatigue

Homelessness has been on the rise since 2016 and the pandemic only exacerbated an acute shortage of resources to help people living on the streets. Now, many communities are struggling to provide support as some homeless people turn away from emergency shelters and remain in outdoor encampments. In Charleston, West Virginia, the city's opioid response program also now focuses on homelessness. Outdoor encampments have been a focus at the state legislature as debate continues over how best to help people living on the street. At the same time, some people say they're more afraid of people living on the street than in the past. Providing sustained care for homeless people continues to elude and divide even well-meaning and determined communities.

Us & Them: Re-Entry

America's prison system incarcerates millions of people, but at least 95% of all state prisoners are released after they serve their sentence. Some struggle to navigate that transition successfully. On this Us & Them episode, host Trey Kay hears about the challenges of reentry. How do we want men and women coming back after prison? How do victim advocates feel about programs designed to help formerly incarcerated people succeed on the outside? Some suggest an important starting point is to recognize that many of the men and women serving time are victims themselves. Recognizing that trauma may be a powerful step to help people make a new life after they serve their time.

The Fight For The Youth Vote

Nothing divides Americans like politics. At the same time, young people are showing up to vote. Turnout in America among 18 to 29 year olds shot up in the 2020 election to 55% — a level of participation not seen since the 1970s Recent voting trends also show the number of young people engaging in conservative politics is on the rise. In 2020, four in ten young people — from 18 to 29 — voted for former President Donald Trump and Trump won that youth vote in seven states. In this Us & Them episode, host Trey Kay talks with author Kyle Spencer who's studied that trend and says it's not an accident. She's researched the decades-long conservative organizing strategy to engage and mobilize young people. The money connected to values and beliefs can play an enormous and often invisible role in our democratic society. But while money can fund power, it doesn't necessarily create a singular conservative or progressive vision.

The Housing Struggle

America is staring down the barrel of its long term housing issues. Now, there are added complications and divisions created over the last few years. On this episode of Us & Them, host Trey Kay looks at the outcome of the country's housing shortage. While rent increases have slowed, nationally, costs are still well above where they were pre-COVID. If you're trying to buy a house, mortgage rate hikes make it prohibitively expensive for many. These days, emergency pandemic relief programs are mostly gone and temporary moratoriums on foreclosures have expired. Plus, American wages haven't kept up with inflation. Add the two together...and you get a set of housing hurdles many people simply cannot afford.

Finding Your Family

International adoption helped many Americans build families, but a dark side victimized poor people in developing countries. The practice began in the 1950s to help Korean War orphans and more than 70 years later hundreds of thousands of children born in other countries are part of a complex cultural legacy. By the early 2000s, corruption scandals scaled back or shut down programs in some of the most popular countries for adoption - South Korea, Romania, Russia, and Guatemala. On this Us & Them episode, host Trey Kay talks with Laurie Stern and her 24-year-old son about their adoption journey. Their podcast called "Defining Diego" chronicles Diego's growing understanding of his Guatemalan legacy and family. Changing social and geopolitical attitudes have made for a dramatic drop in the number of international adoptions - from more than 20,000 in 2004 to just about 3,000 in 2019. We'll hear about that shift and how one young man finds his new name and his future, by looking back.