United States of Anxiety The United States of Anxiety is a show about the unfinished business of our history and its grip on our future. Many of the political and social arguments we're having now started in the aftermath of the Civil War, when Americans set out to do something no one had tried before: build the world's first multiracial democracy. The podcast gives voters the context to understand what's at stake in this election. WNYC Studios is a listener-supported producer of other great podcasts including Radiolab, Death, Sex & Money, and On the Media.
United States of Anxiety

United States of Anxiety

From WNYC Radio

The United States of Anxiety is a show about the unfinished business of our history and its grip on our future. Many of the political and social arguments we're having now started in the aftermath of the Civil War, when Americans set out to do something no one had tried before: build the world's first multiracial democracy. The podcast gives voters the context to understand what's at stake in this election. WNYC Studios is a listener-supported producer of other great podcasts including Radiolab, Death, Sex & Money, and On the Media.

Most Recent Episodes

How Martin Luther King, Jr., Changed American Christianity

And what MLK's uniquely Black theology can teach us about the relationship between faith and politics in 2021. Rev. Dr. Yolanda Pierce, dean of the Howard University School of Divinity and author of the forthcoming book "In My Grandmother's House: Black Women, Faith, and the Stories We Inherit," walks Kai through the history of the Black Church and Dr. King's place in its evolution. And Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis, senior minister of Middle Collegiate Church, explains how her own ministry — centered on love and inspired by King's message — attempts to build a new and diverse progressive movement. Her new podcast, Love.Period, debuts on Valentine's Day. A special thanks to the New York City Municipal Archives and WNYC's archivist Andy Lanset for audio recordings of Dr. King. COMPANION LISTENING: "In Jesus's Name...We Legislate" (6/13/17) A court battle over LGBTQ rights in Mississippi reveals the segregationist history of the religious right's effort to avoid anti-discrimination laws. "Dissent, Dissent, Dissent" (9/20/20) We reflect on the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, including her political roots in a progressive, Jewish tradition. "The United States of Anxiety" airs live on Sunday evenings at 6pm ET. The podcast episodes are lightly edited from our live broadcasts. To catch all the action, tune into the show on Sunday nights via the stream on WNYC.org/anxiety or tell your smart speakers to play WNYC.

The American Story, in a Single Day

January 6, 2021, offered a hyper-condensed version of our country's entire political history--with all of its complexity, inspiration, and terror. In a special national radio broadcast of our show, we walk through a day that began with the historic election of a Black man and ended with a horrifying insurrection led by white nationalists. Newly elected Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) explains why he's introduced a bill to investigate white nationalists' infiltration of the Capitol Police. And Kai takes calls from around the country with Dr. Christina Greer, author of "Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream" and co-host of the podcasts "FAQ-NYC" and The Grio's "What's In It For Us". COMPANION LISTENING: "The Racist History of Georgia's Runoff" (12/21/20) Journalist Ari Berman connects a system created by segregationists in 1957 to the 2020 elections, and a modern-day, Black-led organizing effort to reverse history. "MAGA, the New Confederate Lost Cause" (11/16/20) Historian Douglas Blight explains how secessionist mythology survived after the Civil War, and how it echoes in Donald Trump's movement today. "The United States of Anxiety" airs live on Sunday evenings at 6pm ET. The podcast episodes are lightly edited from our live broadcasts. To catch all the action, tune into the show on Sunday nights via the stream on WNYC.org/anxiety or tell your smart speakers to play WNYC.

The (Un)Making of a 'Model Minority'

An odd racial pecking order puts Indian Americans in a curious place — outside of whiteness, but distinct from other people of color. How'd that come to be? And is it changing? We explore these questions by revisiting a story from Arun Venugopal, senior reporter with WNYC's Race & Justice Unit, about how a Kansan community grappled with one of the first widely reported hate crimes following the 2016 election. Then he joins us to check in on that community today and walk through the history of the "model minority" myth — and how perceptions may or may not be about to change, yet again. Most recently, Venugopal penned "The Truth Behind Indian American Exceptionalism" for the January/February 2021 issue of The Atlantic. COMPANION LISTENING: "White Like Me" (10/20/2016) A history of what it means — and has meant — to be white in the United States of America, and what that meant for the 2016 election. "A Secret Meeting in South Bend" (6/18/2020) How a group of Black families in the mid 20th Century carved out a neighborhood for themselves, and tried to make their American Dreams real, despite the terrorism of Jim Crow. "The United States of Anxiety" airs live on Sunday evenings at 6pm ET. The podcast episodes are lightly edited from our live broadcasts. To catch all the action, tune into the show on Sunday nights via the stream on WNYC.org/anxiety or tell your smart speakers to play WNYC.

Lessons From a Year in Isolation

A first draft of history for 2020, told through three very personal efforts to find — and keep — human connection amid a pandemic. We hear from 13-year-old Adiva Kaisary about how 2020 has complicated her relationships with her school friends and new neighborhood. Producer Veralyn Williams brings us a story from WNYC's own reporter Cindy Rodriguez who faced COVID-19 head-on this year - while living alone as so many have. Finally, reporter Jenny Casas checks in with Chicagoan Niky Crawford, following a social experiment that they crafted to bring strangers in isolation together. COMPANION LISTENING: "An Invitation to Dream" (11/2/2020)An exercise in radical imagination for a post-Trump world, with some of our favorite guests. "Rage, Grief, Joy" (6/18/2020)Stories about catharsis — and the ways we gather to fight, to grieve, and to show up for each other. "The United States of Anxiety" airs live on Sunday evenings at 6pm ET. The podcast episodes are lightly edited from our live broadcasts. To catch all the action, tune into the show on Sunday nights via the stream on WNYC.org/anxiety or tell your smart speakers to play WNYC.

The Racist History of Georgia's Runoff

Segregationists gamed the system 57 years ago. But this year, Black organizers may have finally slipped the knot that Jim Crow tied around democracy in the state. Ari Berman, senior reporter at Mother Jones and author of "Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America" (2016), joins us to explain the history of runoff elections in Georgia — and to talk about what might have changed in 2020. We also talk to Nsé Ufot, the CEO of The New Georgia Project, about the organization's work to get out the vote on the ground right now. COMPANION LISTENING: "They've Never Wanted You to Vote" (10/26/2020) Historian Carol Anderson walks Kai through the history of voter suppression since the Voting Rights Act. "A Historian's Guide to the 2020 Election" (9/28/2020) Eric Foner explains the Reconstruction amendments to our Constitution--and why we don't actually have an affirmative right to vote, among other oddities. "The Right Kind of Woman" (10/31/2018) Kai drops in on Stacey Abrams's 2018 gubernatorial campaign and talks with her about her strategy for turning Georgia purple. "The United States of Anxiety" airs live on Sunday evenings at 6pm ET. The podcast episodes are lightly edited from our live broadcasts. To catch all the action, tune into the show on Sunday nights via the stream on WNYC.org/anxiety or tell your smart speakers to play WNYC.

Tell It To Me Straight, Doc

Two Black physicians describe the racist history the medical world carries into the COVID-19 vaccine rollout — and answer listeners' questions about why we should still get vaccinated. A recent Pew Research Center survey, among others, revealed that Black Americans are by far the most likely to know someone who's been hospitalized or killed by COVID-19. It also found Black people are most reluctant to trust the vaccine. When Dr. Brittani M. James "rage Tweeted" that she totally gets why her patients are skeptical of the medical system, her thread went viral. She joins Kai to offer insights on the apprehension that many Black Americans are feeling, through the lens of her own experience as a practitioner and a patient. And Dr. Oni Blackstock, who has served on the frontlines of both COVID-19 and HIV interventions in New York City, responds to callers' questions about the coming vaccine. What's in it? How'd it get done so fast? And why should we trust pharmaceutical companies? She's got answers. Companion listening for this episode: "Why Covid-19 Is Killing Black People" (April 24, 2020) and "Keep Calm and Check Your Bias" (March 26, 2020) "The United States of Anxiety" airs live on Sunday evenings at 6pm ET. The podcast episodes are lightly edited from our live broadcasts. To catch all the action, tune into the show on Sunday nights via the stream on WNYC.org/anxiety or tell your smart speakers to play WNYC.

ACT UP, Fight Covid

The HIV epidemic is nearly 40 years old. So what can we learn from that pandemic, as we approach a year of living with COVID-19? When COVID-19 overwhelmed New York City this spring, our executive producer Karen Frillmann was reminded of life in this city in the 1980s. She reached back into the far corners of a closet in her apartment, and dug out a recording that she made decades ago. In this episode, Karen shares parts of that intimate conversation, as an act of remembrance. Also, Kai talks with epidemiologist Gregg Gonsalves, who helped start ACT UP more than 30 years ago, about how his decades of AIDS activism color his view of the fight against COVID-19. Gregg is now co-director of the Global Health Justice Project at Yale University, and writes about COVID-19 for The Nation. Companion listening for this episode: "Rage, Grief, Joy" (June 18, 2020) and "Why Covid-19 Is Killing Black People" (April 24, 2020) "The United States of Anxiety" airs live on Sunday evenings at 6pm ET. The podcast episodes are lightly edited from our live broadcasts. To catch all the action, tune into the show on Sunday nights via the stream on WNYC.org/anxiety or tell your smart speakers to play WNYC.

One Family's Land of Opportunity

A family's legend about "40 acres and a mule" takes host Kai Wright on a fact checking mission to the Mississippi Delta. He finds an unexpected solution to wealth inequality in the U.S. We first told the Lester family's story in February, when we began exploring the unfinished business of Reconstruction. Now, as the country transitions out of the chaos of the Trump administration, we revisit the story and reflect on the effort to bring about economic justice in the Biden era. Elbert Lester has lived his full 94 years in Quitman County, Mississippi, on land he and his family own. That's exceptional for Black people in this area today, but at one time, Black farmers owned the majority of this land. What happened to change that? Kai's reporting leads him to a question still at the core of our national political debate: Who are the rightful owners of this country's staggering wealth? Companion listening from our archives: "Who Owns the Deed to the American Dream""A Secret Meeting in South Bend" "The United States of Anxiety" airs live on Sunday evenings at 6pm ET. The podcast episodes are lightly edited from our live broadcasts. To catch all the action, tune into the show on Sunday nights via the stream on WNYC.org/anxiety or tell your smart speakers to play WNYC.

Affirmative Action: Truths and Lies

"Reverse racism" has haunted the fight for job equity for generations. How'd this bizarre idea become such a bugbear? One Supreme Court case, 50 years ago helps explain. This week, our reporter Marianne McCune tells the story of that case — and its aftermath — to help explain why the American workplace is still so segregated. It's the story of an affirmative action program at an aluminum plant on the banks of the Mississippi River. Marianne introduces us to a Black family that finally found economic opportunity through the plant's affirmative action program — and to a white man who argued that the program violated the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and took his case all the way to the Supreme Court. The outcome will surprise you. Companion listening from our archives: Two Schools In Marin County (02/06/2020) and A Secret Meeting in South Bend (02/27/2020) "The United States of Anxiety" airs live on Sunday evenings at 6pm ET. The podcast episodes are lightly edited from our live broadcasts. To catch all the action, tune into the show on Sunday nights via the stream on WNYC.org/anxiety or tell your smart speakers to play WNYC.

MAGA, the New Confederate Lost Cause

White supremacist myths turn defeated leaders into heroic victors. Will Donald Trump now get the same transfiguration as Robert E. Lee? If history is our guide — as it often is on this show — then there's reason to worry about the answer to that question. Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Dr. David Blight (Sterling Professor of History at Yale University and the author of "Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom") joins Kai to tell the story of the Confederacy's Lost Cause mythology — how it was created, why it still matters today, and how similar it may feel to the new Lost Cause of Donald Trump. Plus, we open our pre-election time capsule of your wildest dreams. Before the election, we asked you to imagine a future for the country, your communities, and yourselves. In this episode, we share some of the dreams you sent us — including a dream of cross-species telepathy! Really, though. Companion listening from our archives: An Invitation to Dream (11/02/2020) https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/anxiety/episodes/invitation-dream A Historian's Guide to the 2020 Election (09/28/2020) https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/anxiety/episodes/historians-guide-2020-electionThe Life and Work of Ida B. Wells (05/08/2020) https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/anxiety/episodes/life-and-work-ida-b-wells "The United States of Anxiety" airs live on Sunday evenings at 6pm ET. The podcast episodes are lightly edited from our live broadcasts. To catch all the action, tune into the show on Sunday nights via the stream on WNYC.org/anxiety or tell your smart speakers to play WNYC.

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