Colour Code vs Code Switch: Conversations on Race for Whom? 

Colour Code and Code Switch are podcasts that explore race and identity, but from vastly different perspectives. Colour Code, by the Globe and Mail, examines race and identity in Canada, and as you would expect from a national publication providing a platform for these conversations in this country, is focused on demonstrating that these issues are real to White Canadians. NPR’s Code Switch, on the other hand, is well past that initial phase, and is instead fostering real discussions among racialized peoples in the United States around the intricacies of race and identity.  

Take for example how each podcast approaches White Fragility. White Fragility refers to the defensiveness of White people when discussions of race challenge their privilege. Our society insulates White people from confronting issues of race and identity in the manner racialized people do on a daily basis. When they are confronted, they feel threatened, and often assume the status of victim, derailing real progress.

Colour Code addressed White Fragility after co-host Denise Balkissoon’s now infamous interview with Ian Power (the interview, the dissection, and Balkissoon’s column on White Fragility). The main point of the episode was to demonstrate that White Fragility is real, and that it is often a barrier to real conversations on race and identity.

The existence of White Fragility comes as no surprise to racialized Canadians. While many of us may not know it by that specific name, we have certainly witnessed it in some form or the other.  

Code Switch explores essentially the same topic in its most recent episode Hold Up! Time For An Explanatory Comma but from the perspective of racialized people. Instead of placing White people at the centre of the discussion, it focuses on the extent to which racialized individuals should provide cultural context of their lives to White people. As the hosts explain, racialized people often feel as if they have to make it easy for White people to understand their experiences and perspectives, rather than expecting them to put in the effort to learn about them on their own.

As a racialized person, I find Colour Code entertaining, but I don’t really learn anything about race or identity that I can put into practice in my life. This isn’t the case after listening to a Code Switch episode, where even if I disagree with a particular perspective, I internalize what is being discussed as it makes me confront issues of race and identity in ways that I never considered before.  

Colour Code is a bold, transformational step by a mainstream media platform to introduce the complexities around race and identity to Canadians. But, sadly, it’s not meant for someone like me, who is past the introductory stage, and looking for real engagement on these issues in the Canadian setting.

Amy Sanderson21/12/16