With the current political climate and election, tensions within our country seem to be at an all-time high. However, podcast host Baratunde Thurston seeks to: “redefine citizen as a verb and reclaim it by those who weaponize it.”
The show not only is helping to alleviate current tensions within our nation but to also redefine the American understanding of the term: us because the political, economic, environmental, etc issues within our nation are not issues of us vs them Black vs White or Red vs Blue, but problems that impact our entire nation. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” With Baratunde’s work in the political space, he is helping to bring a sense of accountability and unity through effective dialogue.
With having difficult conversations, comes understanding and empathy for others. In episode nine of How to Citizen, Baratunde meets with an artist from the southside of Chicago- the place I also call home- to discuss the great disparities between the city’s south and north side. Tonika unites the segregated city through the Folded Map Project. Even though Tonika is from the southside of Chicago, our realities and understandings of the south side are different. My neighborhood was filled with Black Ivy League grads, Jack and Jill mothers, summers in the Vineyard, and private schools. In the way, concentrated crime on the south side is often highlighted, especially by political campaigns, the Black elitism that thrives here is ignored. I was exclusively educated on the south side until college because high-quality education was easily accessible to me due to my zip code and privilege. With Tonika’s work and through her dialogue with Baratunde I along with Baratunde’s audience gained a better understanding of the city I call home and the diverse realities on the south side.
Baratunde and I also discussed his previous project, the blog, “Jack and Jill Politics” written from the Black Bourgeoisie perspective. The blog title took inspiration from the Black mother’s organization Jack and Jill which is headquartered in his home of D.C. In many ways, Baratunde himself is a product of Black elitism graduating from the prestigious Sidwell and Friends School and later Harvard, however, he also lost his father to gun violence and was raised by a single mother. His perspective in many ways is what is absent in the political arena because his version of being Black in his own words: “Adheres as much to stereotypes as it dramatically breaks them.” Baratunde offers something that has been missing in the political commentary space and that is someone who challenges the public understanding of Blackness and the diversity and uniqueness of the Black experience in America. Black people aren’t a monolith but we share many experiences, and his work is helping to show that while attempting to unite our nation.