Radio Milwaukee launches podcast about its city’s systemic racism

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A new podcast from 88Nine Radio Milwaukee addresses how the racial wealth gap has fed systemic racism and affected every aspect of life in the Black community.

Radio Milwaukee produces a new podcast every year. Last year’s was a six-part series about Milwaukee’s first hip-hop song. This year the focus remains on Milwaukee, but the show is less celebratory.

Moody (Photos courtesy 88Nine Radio Milwaukee)

“Milwaukee has a lot of indicators that make it pretty bad here for African-Americans,” said By Every Measure co-host Tarik Moody, a host and digital director at the station. “We wanted to have a conversation about that, but then not only tell the history, but we want to look at … who’s trying to change it.”

Moody’s co-host, Reggie Jackson, is a journalist and columnist for the Milwaukee Independent, co-owner of a diversity consultancy and head griot at America’s Black Holocaust Museum. Jackson has also appeared at station events.

Jackson

Each of By Every Measure’s six episodes addresses systemic racism in the context of the racial wealth gap. While episodes two through six are about specific institutions, the first episode focused on defining systemic racism.

“The idea of ‘systemic’ is lost on a lot of people,” Moody said. “We wanted to truly explain what systemic [racism] was and how it is different than David Duke or someone wearing a Confederate flag.”

The podcast’s title refers to the station’s data-driven approach to discussing systemic racism and how the Black experience in Milwaukee trails that of other residents by every quality-of-life metric.

The topics of the episodes — systemic racism, the criminal justice system and police, housing, the wealth gap, education and health — were chosen by Moody and Jackson. In each episode, the hosts discuss how to dismantle systems of oppression with local experts and leaders.

When researching systemic racism, Moody said, he found that the racial wealth gap affects many problems the Black community faces. Researching and understanding the implications of the wealth gap became his “personal passion,” he said.

“I have learned so much about what systemic racism did to wealth from Blacks and the wealth gap and how that affects everything,” Moody said. “Wealth is not about money; it’s access, it’s opportunity.”

‘We want people to take action’

By Every Measure was planned months before the killing of George Floyd ignited protests across the U.S., but the producers have adjusted the podcast to acknowledge the recent incidents of police violence.

The introduction to the second episode, which focuses on police and the criminal justice system, features a speech made by Jacob Blake’s sister during a press conference. In the same episode, Moody shares his experience of watching police kill Black people.

“I don’t think you truly understand the trauma of seeing someone that looks like you being killed in a video,” Moody says in the beginning of that episode. “The same experience happened with me with George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery. It’s traumatic.”

On the podcast, Moody talks about how systemic and individual racism has affected him personally. This vulnerability was an important part of telling the story about the racial wealth gap, he said.

“You could tell all the data in the world, but if people know me in the city and I tell my story — and most people don’t know my story — then they might be willing to listen to the data even more,” Moody said.

Kevin Sucher, Radio Milwaukee’s executive director, said he took a step back to allow Moody and Jackson to be creatively independent on the podcast. Moody and Jackson set the tone for the podcast and chose topics based on issues specific to Milwaukee and the country at large.

The station’s majority-white audience has largely reacted well to the podcast, Sucher and Moody said. As of Sept. 14, the podcast’s four episodes so far had 4,000 downloads and a five-star rating on Apple Podcasts, said Sarah McClanahan, Radio Milwaukee’s marketing director, in an email.

“Our audience is very empathetic and constantly wants to learn more,” Sucher said.

People have been sharing the podcast on social media and posting about it without encouragement, Moody said. One listener told Moody in an email that the podcast made him cry.

The podcast’s release came at an opportune time. With the pandemic keeping people inside, the station has seen growth in listening to its on-demand audio, Sucher said.

By sharing a combination of history, data and personal experience in By Every Measure, Moody aims to inspire community members to start important conversations and take action. Sucher shares these hopes.

“We want people to take action. We want people to have hard conversations with their friends and family,” Sucher said. “I think continuing to have conversations on a micro scale will help the macro problem.”

The station’s producers and directors felt an obligation to the people in their community to make the podcast all-encompassing, Sucher said.

“I think this is a conversation that is long overdue, and we at Radio Milwaukee decided that we weren’t going to let the conversation go away,” he said.

Understanding the history that has emboldened and supported systemic racism is just the beginning of what Radio Milwaukee hopes to accomplish with the project, Moody said.

“There’s a lot of history that’s been hidden,” Moody said. “I want to uncover that history and share that history.”

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