I'm confident we all agree that 2020 has thrown a lot at us -- a global pandemic, an economic recession and a social justice awakening. There's so much information flying around about what it all means that it's tough to know who or what can help cut through the cacophony of cross-currents.
I wanted to share one of the voices who has helped me: Baratunde Thurston. I also wanted to spotlight the writer and comedian's six-episode podcast, We're Having a Moment, which I consider the most important podcast of the year -- and one of the most valuable sets of insights you can find to make sense of this historic trip around the sun.
In my interview with Thurston as part of CNET's Now What series, I spoke with him about how the podcast happened and broke down some of the episodes to further unpack the difficult topics he dug into across the series. That includes, for example, "defund the police," a concept that initially made Thurston do a double-take, but which he explains in the podcast in a way that anyone can digest. The podcast series also dives into the Black Lives Matter protests, white allyship and the ways we powerfully use and misuse words to describe racial injustice.
(Full disclosure: Thurston formerly worked for The Daily Show, which is now part of ViacomCBS, the owner of CNET. He was also one of the featured innovators in Follow the Geeks, a book I co-wrote with Lyndsey Gilpin in 2016.)
I've long admired the fact that Thurston has passion without acerbic partisanship. He reasons his way to truths, while making enough room for everyone to hop in and come along for the ride. He also approaches every topic with a wit that disarms haters and sits us all back down in our seats before we get too self-righteous or full of ourselves.
I've followed him on Twitter for a decade and I've often found myself drawn to his voice of reason and wisdom in times of crisis like the Eric Garner "I can't breathe" incident, or the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014. So when I saw he was doing a podcast on the intersection of the COVID-19 pandemic and the social justice movement of 2020, I was all in. And I wasn't disappointed. While I listen to lots of podcasts -- and podcasts are having a moment of their own right now -- with everything that's happening in the world, We're Having a Moment is time well spent.
In his 2019 TED Talk, How to deconstruct racism, one headline at a time, which has over 4 million views, Thurston struck a positive note. "We can change things," he said. "Systems are just collective stories that we all buy into. When we change them, we write a better reality for us all to be a part of."
That hope and positivity -- balanced with a healthy dose of realism about the state of the world -- runs throughout We're Having a Moment and everything Thurston does. At the end of our interview he also teased his next podcast, How to Citizen, which will attempt to turn the word citizen into a verb and involve the audience in the process of building that better reality.