A new podcast explores how America can move beyond racism and live up to its creed of liberty and justice for all.
“I’ve never been so optimistic about the possibility of positive change in America as I am now,” says journalist, author and podcaster Osha Gray Davidson. It’s a bold statement, especially since he’s talking specifically about race relations during a summer rocked by deadly protests against racial injustice.
More than ever, Davidson says, Americans are eager to learn about institutional racism, from the U.S. government’s theft of freed slaves’ land to the policies that intensified the racial wealth gap and disparities in infant mortality. The Phoenix resident tackles all these issues in his new podcast, The American Project. The first season is a deep dive into the controversial topic of reparations for slavery, segregation, violence, murder and mass incarceration.
“I was one of those kids who, in school, took the Pledge of Allegiance seriously – that idea of pledging liberty and justice for all,” Davidson says. “Reparations seem to me to be one of the most powerful tools for bringing this country closer to the creed of liberty and justice for all.”
The seeds of the podcast began in the 1990s, when Davidson wrote The Best of Enemies, a book about the unlikely friendship between civil rights activist Ann Atwater and Ku Klux Klan leader C.P. Ellis. In 2019, the book was made into a movie starring Taraji P. Henson and Sam Rockwell. Though Davidson was not involved with the production of the film, he knew it would give him a platform. So he launched the podcast to explore America’s ongoing experiment in democracy through archival audio and interviews with eminent race scholars and activists.
The episodes focus on solutions, because discussions of racism from a white perspective often get stuck on guilt, he says. “The best way to replace guilt is through action. And it’s really fulfilling. It’s the most fulfilling work I’ve ever done.”
Davidson’s recommended reading list:
• The History of White People by Nell Irvin Painter
• From Here to Equality by William Darity Jr. and A. Kirsten Mullen
• So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo