As the lead blogger for Code Switch, Gene Demby has built a diverse and sizable audience with his blend of humor, insight and reporting on matters of race, ethnicity and culture. He’s taken a fraught subject and opened it up into a rich, surprising conversation.
His post mapping the racial boundaries of “bro”-ness is a great example of Gene’s modus operandi. Funny, engagingly written, and filled with the voices of the Code Switch community, the piece posits a taxonomy of bros, with Ryan Lochte at its “chewy, nougat-y core.” With the help of the NPR Visuals team, Gene presents a Venn diagram of bros. Alongside it, he brings in the insights of the crowd by Storifying a Twitter conversation, and inviting readers to roll their own bro-maps using Google Forms. (The form logged more than 400 responses.)
But Gene can also operate on a much more serious register. In October, he teamed up with his Code Switch teammate Shereen Marisol Meraji to take readers and listeners to Bluefield, W.V., to explore the fascinating story of a historically black college with a student body that’s 90 percent white. Gene’s essay on Bluefield State College ably situates the college’s unique circumstances amidst a churning landscape of questions about the purpose and future of the HBCU in contemporary higher education. And after the story was published, Gene and Shereen followed up their work with an AMA on Reddit.
And then there are the times when Gene manages to take the seemingly frivolous and the serious and mash them together into the sublime. He took a question from a commenter on one of his posts and answered it with a rich, thought-provoking exploration of the era when Jewish-American players dominated U.S. basketball. Along the way, he wraps this history into a striking reflection on racial stereotypes — how they’re formed, how they persist and how they affect us.
We can’t say it better than one of the commenters on that piece: “This article is a perfect example of why I read Code Switch.