S2 E1: Turning the Lens

February 15, 2017

Events of the past few years have turned a challenging spotlight on White people, and Whiteness, in the United States. An introduction to our series exploring what it means to be White. By John Biewen, with special guest Chenjerai Kumanyika.


Download a transcript of the episode.

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86 comments on “S2 E1: Turning the Lens

  1. Bunny Goree Feb 15, 2017

    I am a 74 year old white woman and I am sick with sorrow. I too flinch at my whiteness. I was in Tuscaloosa Alabama when George Wallace stood in the door at the University of Alabama. I was there when my President, John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The white children cheered in their all white schools. I stood in the kitchen of the kindergarten where I worked with my only friend, Zolina. She and I clung to each other, crying and praying when it was still unclear whether he would survive or not. Oh, such horror and heartbreak. I am a white woman. She, a beautiful black woman. I can’t imagine her heart was breaking any more than mine. But I know that can’t be right. She went home to cross burnings, hopelessness and terrors I can’t even imagine. And then, all these years later, the miracle of President Obama! I was over joyed and amazed and he proved to be a very great President. Maybe even the best ever. Now, here we are. What does it mean. How can we change this? Can we change it? As I said, I am sick with sorrow. I know love is the answer. But how and when?

    • Johnny O. Jun 29, 2017

      The greatest President ever?! LOL!

      • Mark Lakeman Jul 17, 2017

        Yes, in so many ways the best ever. That’s not just because so many of the white presidents were lame. It was because of all that he really did accomplish. The areas where he deserves great criticism involved dynamics that deserve great scrutiny, involving the military industrial complex for instance, or vast corporate power.

        • Michelle Jul 30, 2020

          Greatest ever because he was a man of integrity. Because he represents our hopes and dreams. Because he overcame insurmountable odds and obstacles. Greatest because despite all the hate and racism he experienced daily he held his head high and knew he deserved to be in the Oval Office. He also happens to be the most educated President we have ever had. In my house, when we say “My President” it will forever mean President Obama. He is likely to be the only president in my lifetime that I will feel a deep connection to. I miss him greatly as well as the respect for the office.

    • >”I too flinch at my whiteness”
      So you are racist, based on skin color.

      • Mahina Nightsage Apr 9, 2020

        There is no such thing as reverse racism, or white racism. She cannot be racist against herself. Racism is not just personal, but a system that privileges some people while disadvantaging others. The system in the US is based on white supremacy, so as long as that is the case, only white people can rightly own the label of racist and white people do not experience racism. And understanding how that system has harmed black people, and continues, any intelligent, aware, compassionate white person should feel ambivolent about their whiteness. That you don’t means that you are lacking in awareness and understanding, and possibly empathy.

        • Corey Jul 7, 2020


          Agree on the reverse racism.

          She can experience internalized racism. Sometimes it becomes conflated with white guilt or maladaptively it may even be a cause. If the racism is a cultural disease and the standard of judging racism is based upon thoughts, feelings, beliefs and behaviors; then individual racism can be expressed by non-white people. Two ways:

          1) Directly, overtly or covertly. Now, its perceived expression is more nuanced and contextual given how often white fragility is used as a defense.

          2) Within group, think about how some Black people see other blacks as being inferior.


    • Boston Dee Feb 26, 2020

      Thank you for your comments. I live with that sorrow all the time. I grew up in Boston during the school bussing crisis (white around 16 years old). We had always gone to catholic schools (from money we earned in the summer) because the Boston Public school system in poor neighbor hoods were terrible and violent. I was there the first day of bussing and I was appalled to see parents & neighbors (not my parents) throw those rocks as the busses carrying black students. There was nothing I could do, I couldn’t cry, I couldn’t talk to someone about it (did trust anyone any more). I felt like an alien in my own community. I left the Boston area a year after high school graduation and never moved back. Racism is everywhere but I couldn’t live in such a hateful community. They did not ever buss students form “nice” “richer” neighborhoods in to poverty areas they only pitted the poor families against the poor families. that was over 45 years ago….

    • You responded with so much honest, heartfelt truth. I greatly appreciate everything you wrote.

    • Antoinette P Nov 11, 2020

      That’s all you took from here comment. That is sad keep you negativity to yourself.

  2. Shelly Musgrove May 3, 2017

    Thank you, thank you.
    I’m a white woman. My hero growing up was MLKjr.
    I’ve never understood the attitude about skin color.
    I have many moles on my skin. Growing up I was secretly proud of being both white and black.
    I live in CA in a very diverse area.
    I have tried explaining what I can to my f/b page.
    I’ve graduated in intercultural communication. I’m passionately curious about society.
    This is the perfect page for me to listen to and post.

  3. terry allen Jun 30, 2017

    Cant get the podcast on pocket casts, on android. is there any alternative other than itunes?

    • cdsduke Jun 30, 2017


      We send the podcast to Stitcher, IHeartRadio, and a couple of other places — there are so many that we frequently can’t catch them all! I’ll look into PocketCasts, but in the meantime if your podcast catcher of choice allows you to subscribe using an RSS feed, our RSS feed is: http://cdspodcast.libsyn.com/rss?

      You should be able to pop that into any podcast catcher.

      Thank you!

  4. This whole series has been outstanding, and inspiring. I come away each time with more thoughts and questions, and I wish I could encourage every person I know, of any color, and any culture to hear this. I also think it’s been educational in the sense each episode I hear, feeds from the last, and I don’t know if I had heard this episode, Turning the Lens, in the first couple of installments, that I would have got as much out of it because it hurts your head, the amount I have missed or dismissed being white, So much to think about. So much to ask. Thanks to John, Chenjerai and all participants and contributors for this remarkable piece of work.

  5. Miguel Jul 22, 2017

    Do you have links to the books of the authors you had on as guests for this 3-part series?

  6. Jen Margulies Sep 11, 2017

    Part of what we who have been raised and trained into whiteness need to learn is how to be rigorous in our practice of researching and crediting where people of color have done things and had ideas before we have. Here, for example, the first episode of NPR’s Codeswitch podcast, from May 2016: http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2016/05/31/479733094/the-code-switch-podcast-episode-1-can-we-talk-about-whiteness

    (Sara Ahmed has recently discussed this politics of citation; older discussions from the early 1990s include Norma Alarcón’s work on Anglo-American feminist appropriation and Katie King’s work on feminist bibliography.)

    That said, I caught an episode of Seeing White after Charlottesville and am now going back to the start of the project and looking forward to listening to the rest of the episodes..

  7. Jena Doolas Sep 11, 2017

    I was wondering if there are transcripts for this wonderful series. There are many people I’d like to pass this on to and not all are connected to ‘listening’ devices. I am so grateful for what I am hearing and learning and understanding and the DKDK (didn’t know I didn’t know).

    • cdsduke Sep 11, 2017


      We’re currently working on getting full transcripts for the Seeing White episodes ready — when they are, they’ll be posted on the series page (podcast.cdsporch.org/seeing-white) and I’m sure John will tweet/Facebook about it.

      Thanks for listening!

  8. Julie Elhard Dec 8, 2017

    Thank you!

  9. Pat Adams Dec 9, 2017

    Thanks for this.
    I have one alternate view.
    Seems you say that this racism is institutionalized, and that it continues under its own power. I’ve encountered this thought before, that institutional racism has a power of its own, that it continues unless stopped. Perhaps so.
    My view is that institutionalized racism is a fragile construct, requiring continuous maintenance and shoring up. It is a diaphanous sphere appearing solid, massive, ubiquitous. But like all lies, like all untruths, it has no substance. It requires continuous attention, continuous tweaking, continuous patching, continuous and consuming energy.
    This effort is expended every day, indeed every minute by white people who cannot allow the fallacy of white supremacy to collapse.
    I know that my children and grandchildren have access to superior education I know that my children and grandchildren have access to better nutrition. The list goes on and on. I know that the children and grandchildren of poor black parents have access only to inferior education and to variations on starvation. This is the way to make white superiority real. I know this is wrong. I know that I continue to support this lie every day in every way, in countless decisions I know are wrong, as if my children’s lives depend on it. . I spend my life actively blocking the opportunities of black children in order to give my children an advantage. The lie lives because I feed it. The lie has no power except that which I gladly give it.
    It is not necessary for me to resist. It is only necessary for me to stop supporting the lie. But like the addict, I have no idea what I might do instead. It’s the only thing I know how to do.

    Or something close

  10. Pete Haskell Dec 17, 2017

    I voted for Obama twice and Trump once in fact statistically many of the same people who voted for Obama voted for Trump so this idea that somehow or another it was a white Lash as van Jones put it is ridiculous

    • George Newman Jan 28, 2018

      Now one year later, how on earth do you justify your vote?

      • Doc Gallaghet Jun 1, 2020

        Look at all he’s accomplished in spite of illegal actions taken in an attempt to depose him, zero bipartisanship on any issue, neverTrumpers in his own party and continual negative coverage by the MSM, among other things and unlike any previous president he promised and delivered jobs IN RECORD NUMBERS to Blacks, Hispanics, Women and will continue to do so in spite of folks like you who can’t seem to acknowledge reality

    • Jessie Hipolit Jul 13, 2020

      People who voted twice for Obama and then voted for Trump may have gotten caught up in the idea of change. What it turned out to be was trump just wanted to change everything back from what Obama accomplished. And Trump hasn’t even been reluctant to town to own that. Sad.

  11. Andrea Velox Jan 22, 2018

    Love this show, wish you had more input from your audience.

  12. anne martin Jan 26, 2018

    So far, I’m moved, awed,and frightened.

  13. Dana Friedel Feb 12, 2018

    Excellent series!

  14. Jan Girard Feb 21, 2018

    So helpful. Thank you.

  15. You didn’t show Oprah’s show interviewing Donald Trump. He has been awarded by Jesse Jackson for his contributions. Being biased against him, based on his skin color, is racist.

  16. Richard Canalori Jul 11, 2018

    Well presented. Artificial labels to justify actions.

  17. Sharon Wallace Feb 20, 2020

    Great podcast.
    Where can I find the sources used for reference so that I can explore for further reading?

  18. Amanda May 7, 2020

    I think that Seeing White is an accurate and descriptive title for this series. Thank you for doing this.
    – a white woman who wants to be better

  19. Russ Layne May 11, 2020

    Very important stuff here. Take that from a white guy.

  20. Brian K Freeland May 21, 2020

    I truly appreciate the informational conversation around “race”, it is timely and very relevant.

    • Jolienne A Jun 4, 2020

      Why do we have to talk about white or black people? God does not have color and he created all of us. God does not have favoritism and died for all of us. Why can’t we live as brothers and sisters in Christ. Until the world knows who Jesus is we will never change and funny thing is the same thing is happening in the church also . And those people call themselves Christians. Is time for all us look in the mirror closer. Is time for racism to stop and to treat everyone equal.

  21. Why Africans? Can anyone provide a resource(s) to help answer this question? I understand the economic benefit of racism. Why were Africans the most suitable victim? Please forgive my ignorance. God bless!

  22. Barbara Fredricks Jun 3, 2020

    Thank you so much for this. I grew up in Texas which for some strange reason considers itself part of the Confederate south. Maybe because it’s soil grows the same crops? Anyway, I grew up amid white and colored drinking fountains (I always chose the colored fountain when able to escape adult supervision, hoping to get a taste of whatever color the water might be.) It was confusing to my young mind that the water in both fountains was no color at all. Likewise the colored and white waiting rooms at the train station were both a nice shade of vanilla. What was up? I carried my confusion into young adulthood by marrying a brown young man of Hispanic origin, known then in Texas as a “mezkin” no matter how proud or accomplished the family might be. We had two children who have their own stories to tell. My inability to properly distinguish skin color must have somehow been genetically transferred to the next generation because I now have three racially mixed (black and white) grandchildren and four racially mixed great grandchildren. I have always known in the very depth of my soul that we are all ONE. That’s kind of been my life mantra. I remember many years ago seeing that statement on a Dr. Bronner’s soap bottle and feeling so reassured that someone else also knew that to be true. We ARE all ONE. Keep up the good work.

  23. Steve Jun 4, 2020

    looking forward to more. I wish I had known this one was around. Will share.

  24. Tephra Miriam Jun 5, 2020

    Absolutely incredible work that began far the current massive protests. I hope this spreads like wildfire.

  25. Judith Havens Jun 5, 2020

    As always there is NO Absolute. I am white. I am NOT pregistous. The people whom I meet who are== ARE NOT MY FRIENDS! what ever “race” you are, we are, ALWAYS BE CONSCIOUS that there are wonder, kind, beautiful supportive people who are with YOU! MY life is always Enriched by other cultures, lands, people, music., art, etc. HOW BORING IS LIFE IF YOU ARE NARROW MINDED AND JUDGEMENTAL. Not for Me. Love you ALL.

  26. Maria Elena Gomez Jun 6, 2020


  27. Glenn Grymes Jun 9, 2020

    So far, so good. This subject is something that needs to be civilly discussed more then ever in our society.

  28. Karen E Taylor Jun 11, 2020

    So true, I was shocked. Yes, I am it. I like the James Baldwan why we are systemically racest.

  29. Leïla Bendifallah Jun 13, 2020

    I just finished the whole series and all I can say is that it’s one of the best things I’ve ever heard. I’m recommending it to everyone I know. Thank you for such an important work.

  30. Amy Reeder Jun 15, 2020

    I am listening to Seeing White. It is so good. I hope that may people listen to it.

    Amy Reeder

  31. Stevan R Beer Jun 16, 2020

    Yo! You’re not making this easy for my friend to listen to. I’ve got a friend that is hittin me with Hannity shit. I’ve got to get him this history of power against poc. MAKE IT Easier to download and share that shit!!!

    • cdsduke Jun 16, 2020


      We’re available on all podcast apps if you search for “Scene on Radio.” Seeing White is the second season of the podcast. I recognize that there’s a lot of confusion around this, so folks can’t find us where they’d normally find podcasts.

      I’m working on making clearer instructions on downloading the mp3s/listening offline as well, but most podcast apps allow for downloading shows and listening offline in the app.

      Thanks for reaching out,

  32. Patricia Drummond Jun 17, 2020

    This series is amazing. It clarified some notions and concepts so crystally clear that even the most “All Lives Matter” people can see the light.

  33. Amazing! Thank you so much.

  34. Janet Hilliker Jun 18, 2020

    Intriguing to have the title be “Turning the Lens.” Can we look at ourselves honestly? I am joining a discussion group to listen to this whole series.

  35. Yvonne Jun 19, 2020

    A very thought provoking discussion

  36. Katherine Tatlock Jun 19, 2020

    This is fabulous. What “we” white people need to understand! I’ll listen to the entire series with great interest and humility. Kat Tatlock

  37. Keisha Townsend Jun 23, 2020

    This is the ultimate Shakespearean tragedy. Just as A country we make real strides in representation and Criminal justice reform that’s when certain extremist factions of Our community decide to start a race war. It’s going to hurt us ultimately. I don’t see any other way. Radicalism breeds radicalism.

  38. I needed to take responsibility for my decades of privilege as a white person and the systemic racism that perpetuates it. Civil rights have been discussed and argued my entire life but people of color are no better off. It’s long past time to make change happen; it’s lost past time for equity. This show is educating me about how deep the roots of bigotry and hate go. We need to stop hating and killing, we don’t have time to waste. Thank you to all who made this show so great.

  39. Chip Chapman Jun 23, 2020

    I’m a 60 something “white” man. Civil rights have been discussed and argued my entire life but people of color are no better off. It’s long past time to make change happen and move to equity. This show is educating me about how deep the roots of bigotry and hate go. We need to stop hating and killing, we don’t have time to waste. Thank you to all who made this show so great.

  40. Kathy Kreidler Jun 24, 2020

    Very thoughtful and thought provoking. I look forward to listening to the rest. And I am not a podcast person.

  41. Martha Gerry Jun 25, 2020

    Words simply stated and need to be pondered

  42. Sur Kalt Jun 27, 2020

    Wow, thank you!

  43. Chuck and Carol Jun 28, 2020

    Listening to first two programs. My husband says, “ This is a good program. And something I didn’t know I needed to address. Not platitudes but good knowledge with thought out presentation.

  44. Brenda Cook Jul 1, 2020

    Hearing about this late (July 1) puts me behind. Can I still participate?
    Brenda Cook

    • cdsduke Jul 1, 2020


      You can listen to all of the episodes on this website. We are not currently involved with any discussion groups or teach-ins — those would be other organizations organizing it.


      • Mitzi Asai Loftus Jul 2, 2020

        Just found you, thanks to a relative who referenced you to me. I am Japanese-American, last of the generation incarcerated during WWII in US govt. “camps”. I always knew I was a minority person but was confused about “checking the box”on application or registration forms which had choices of white, black, etc. I did not like “yellow” and was not sure I was “white”, but many times did check white as the “best” choice. If “Asian” was a choice, I would admit that, altho I was not an immigrant, as were my parents. I had 2 very dear friends in college who were black and Jewish. When I stayed in their homes as a guest I never felt so strongly “minority” as I did when the Jewish mother referred to me as “our gentile guest.” And with my black friends at an all-black party I felt totally inferior in dress, style, dancing ability and social ease. I was a country girl from a fruit orchard, after all, not a city dweller with social graces.

  45. Judith Jul 2, 2020

    Wonderful. How can I continue to get this?

  46. Glenn Tamir Jul 3, 2020

    The conformational bias and lack of Intellectual and factual analysis in this program is deeply disturbing. It is clear to anyone with objectivity to this subject that the goal of this production is to create and use racism as a tool to gain political power. The complete dearth of facts and objectivity is astounding. The ignorance and lack of context with the tremendous improvements that have enabled equality of opportunity for all Americans is profoundly flawed. That many people believe and practice this mentality consigns it to the dustbin of cultist behavior where it belongs.

    Perhaps Morgan Freeman said it best. “If you want to end racism, stop talking about it.” This program promotes racism and prevents a country being divided by those who have little understanding of the liberty and freedoms that America offers ALL its citizens from continuing the progress that has been achieved. Their use of racism – in this case the creation of an illusion called “Whiteness” – as a tool to gain political power is profoundly more destructive to America than any white nationalist can possibly achieve.

    • Da McDonagh Aug 12, 2020

      This podcast is not about politics. It’s about being a better human.

      Historians will point out the lack of color identification among Africans who see themselves as european or asian from a time when trade routes led to colonization. “Black” is a construct that arose with the US slave trade and, like Mick or Spic or any other denigrating label, it’s effect is to dehumanize a group and alleviate the guilt of their oppressors. In similar fashion, your framework– “It is clear to anyone with objectivity”–allows you to dismiss an entire discussion by claiming you speak for a group that you cannot identify. Sadly, that statement eliminates any value in your contribution. You are probably a thoughtful person who is passionate in your efforts (you remind me of me) so I invite you to soften your stance? We must take time to absorb the experience of those who have suffered before we try to impose our views as those who have not. Thank you.

  47. Tyler Brown Jul 3, 2020

    I am learning, my mind is opening to things I had no idea about.

  48. David Taylor Jul 5, 2020

    I cannot let the last comment be the last word on this message board. Many thanks to those who put together this series. It is eye-opening and refreshing.

  49. Mark Payette Jul 12, 2020

    Very well done segment, a real eye opener. I was told about this podcast by a friend. Glad I got the message.
    I will be listening to more episodes.

  50. Jessie Hipolit Jul 13, 2020

    Wow. This is the perspective we white folk have been needing. (Oooo, was that a flinch I just got writing this?).

    Maybe there is hope for us.

    Whiteness is like a virus that is part of the way out operating system was built. It comes in the box, brand new.

  51. Joanne Reinhart Jul 20, 2020

    Am looking for a way to understand how it is that we got where we are. Scene On Radio looks like good place to start.

    • JOHN REINHART Jul 20, 2020

      Just beginning a journey to try to understand where we are at and how we got here. Scene On Radio seems like a very good place to start.

  52. Meredith Charpantier Jul 23, 2020

    Super. Thank you. Yes

  53. I’m disappointed that the first episode starts with politics. The topic of this discussion came along way before Obama and Trump.

  54. Emet Ma’ayan Aug 8, 2020

    Thank you

  55. C. H. Aug 15, 2020

    This is a great podcast, giving us insight and motivation to take action to bring about equality and justice. Van Jones and D.L. Hughley spoke truth to power.

  56. Carma Simonsen Aug 27, 2020

    My humble thanks to both of you for publishing this conversation.

  57. Monta Gibson Aug 30, 2020

    This is a conversation that needs to continue. I’m a crossbreed, white, native American. I’m listening. Please continue.

  58. Darren Aug 31, 2020

    Why is it we have to “teach” that our “whiteness” is a bad thing? Why don’t you listen to people like Morgan Freedman who says, “we can’t even begin to address the problem until we can stop referring to people as ‘white man’ or ‘black man’. Why can’t we just be ‘men’!” Or take a listen to Candace Owen or several other conservatives of color who say the issue is that “the Democratic Party found a way to remove the fathers from the family unit through their ‘welfare’ programs that incentivize removing the father from the family and having more children for increased benefits”! I will be removing any of my kids from schools that teach this crap you are dishing out. My “white privilege” is only because I was raised to be a law abiding, patriotic, and hard working person who never took a handout and worked hard to get the things I have, paying ridiculous taxes just for the privilege of keeping them.

  59. Robert Leary Sep 18, 2020

    I’m a 71 year old white irish male . I’m so disapointed in this country, is this really the soul of America. It seems as though we’ve become a nation filled with fear, hate and disconnection from the humanity in all of us.

  60. Richard Dehlinger Oct 7, 2020

    I am very glad to have run into John Biewen’s project. I am a retired teacher of Math, most of my years (1970-2003) in Minneapolis, teaching city kids of various backgrounds, first in aCatholic school, then for 23 years at Minneapolis South High. I wish all teachers could share in this project. I am trying to think of how I can share/promote it.

  61. Shaun Samaro Oct 16, 2020

    This Podcast was included in Part of my companies Anti-Racism course.
    Thank you for what you are doing to change peoples perspective, and ultimately open our minds and hearts to what Seeing White really means!

  62. Omar Faruque Oct 17, 2020

    listening to this for a college course; it’s really informative and I really am enjoying the way the speaker is conveying the information. I’d probably listen more of this even when my course doesn’t require me to.

  63. David Reich Nov 3, 2020

    I’m a white person. (Flinch). I’m so glad you’ve embarked on this project to try to make the invisible visible, at least get us a start on it. I’ve had some conversations with my liberal friends (my lens, too), and we don’t have a way through to discuss the invisible. You’re right. “Racism” is such a narrow frame. We’ve delved a little bit deeper in this by defining “bias”, and it helps to think about “bias” instead of racist. I’m not a racist, but I have biases. All whites, everyone does. I’m willing to look at my “biases”. I’m looking forward to listening to the rest of the series to help me with this.