Karen Grigsby Bates

There is a saying a friend with Louisiana roots has about people who keep doing the same thing, even while that keeps yielding less-than-felicitous results. Those people, my friend says, are "stuck on stupid."

I have a confession: I am not a fan of the passing trope.

In the early 1900s, Greenwood — a Black neighborhood in Tulsa, Okla. — was a thriving, successful, independent town. But on May 31, 1921, a mob of white people stormed the town, killing an estimated 300 people, burning down homes and businesses, and leaving thousands homeless. There are competing theories as to what ultimately incited what came to be known as the Tulsa Race Massacre — but author Jewell Parker Rhodes says it was likely related to the perception that Black people "shouldn't be educated, shouldn't be uppity, shouldn't be, enjoying this kind of success."

Writer Paula Yoo was 13 years old and finishing up seventh grade when Vincent Chin was killed. Chin was a 27-year-old draftsman who was celebrating his impending wedding at a strip club in Detroit, when he was bludgeoned to death by a pair of white men. Those men were apparently upset by their perception that American auto jobs were disappearing as a result of Japanese success in the auto industry. (Chin was Chinese.)

The Smithsonian museums, like so many public spaces, have been closed down for more than a year now. Buildings that were once overflowing with admirers of art, history and science are now largely empty. Before the pandemic hit the U.S., the National Museum of African American History and Culture was one of D.C.'s most sought after destinations. So we decided to ask for a private (virtual) tour from Lonnie G. Bunch III, the creator of the Blacksonian and the current Secretary of the Smithsonian (translation: he runs the place — all 19 museums, 21 libraries and the National Zoo).

After the Capitol was cleared of insurrectionists on Jan. 6, there was work to be done. You may have seen the video of a group of Capitol workers cleaning up the great halls, trying to restore order and dignity to rooms that had been trashed and defaced.

When Kamala Harris stepped to the podium in Delaware on Saturday night to speak to supporters as vice president-elect, she made all kinds of history: She'll become the first woman to serve as vice president. The first woman of African descent (on her father's side) and also the first Asian American (on her late mother's side). The first graduate of a historically Black college or university (Howard)—and the first member of a Black sorority to sit a heartbeat away from the presidency.

This week on the Code Switch podcast, we tried to settle a months-long debate we've been having on the team: Which kind of books are best to read during the pandemic? Ones that help you escape our current reality? Or ones that connect you to it on a deeper level? In doing so, we got a chance to catch up with the authors of some of our favorite pandemic reads.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.


There was already a lot embedded in the name Karen. But it really caught on after this incident in New York.


Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.