Kat Chow

Kat Chow is a founding member of NPR's Code Switch, an award-winning team that covers the complicated stories of race, ethnicity, and culture. She helps make new episodes for the Code Switch podcast, reports online features for Code Switch, and reports on-air pieces for NPR's shows like Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Her work has led readers and listeners on explorations of the gendered and racialized double standards surrounding double-eyelid surgery, as well as the mysterious origins of a so-called "Oriental" riff – a word she's also written a personal essay about. Much of her role revolves around finding new ways to build communities and tell stories, like @todayin1963 or #xculturelove.

During her tenure at NPR, Chow has also worked with NPR's show Invisibilia to develop a new digital strategy; reported for KERA in Dallas, Texas, as NPR's 2015 radio reporting fellow; and served on the selection committee for AIR Media's incubator project, Localore. Every now and then, she's a fourth chair on NPR's podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour. And sometimes, people ask her to talk about the work she does — at conferences in Amsterdam or Chicago, or at member stations in St. Paul or Louisville.

While a student at the University of Washington in Seattle, Chow wrote a food column for the Seattle Weekly, interned with the Seattle Times and worked on NBC's Winter Olympics coverage in Vancouver, B.C. You can find her tweeting for Code Switch at @NPRCodeSwitch and sharing her thoughts at @katchow.

For this week's episode, I sat down with my Code Switch teammate Gene Demby to dig into one of our favorite topics: rep sweats. It's the feeling of anxiety that can come with watching TV shows or movies starring people who look like you, especially when People Who Look Like You tend not to get a lot of screen time.

On a recent March morning at his home in a New Jersey suburb, Anthony Mendez was on his living room couch with his 9-year-old daughter. He was watching the previous night's episode of Jane the Virgin, studying his own performance as the show's unseen narrator.

So you walk into the new Korean joint around the corner and discover that (gasp) the head chef is a white guy from Des Moines. What's your gut reaction? Do you want to walk out? Why?

The question of who gets to cook other people's food can be squishy — just like the question of who gets to tell other people's stories. (See: the whole controversy over the casting of the new Nina Simone biopic.)

Jeremy Arambulo, a Filipino-American comic artist who lives in Los Angeles, says he basically came out of the womb knowing the legend of Bruce Lee, the kung fu king. "He's like our Elvis," says Arambulo. "If we didn't have him, geez, who would we have? Charlie Chan? I don't know. Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany's?"

Recently, we've been talking a lot about onscreen diversity and how much browner TV has gotten in the past few years with shows like Empire, Master of None and Dr. Ken and showrunners like Shonda Rhimes and Nahnatchka Khan injecting more people of color into the system.

Grace Lee Boggs, who has spent much of her life advocating for civil rights and labor rights, became such a noted figure in Detroit's Black Power movement that people assumed she must be partially black. In some of her FBI files, Boggs, who is Chinese-American, was described as "probably Afro Chinese."

(We'll let that sit with you for a moment.)

And that's not the only assumption she's defied. For almost a century — she turned 100 Saturday — she's challenged how people think about their own activism.

There's a long history to the Emanuel African Methodist Espiscopal Church in Charleston, S.C., — affectionately known as "Mother Emanuel" — where nine churchgoers were allegedly shot and killed by 21-year-old Dylann Roof on Wednesday night in what authorities are calling a hate crime. In fact, this church has become a revered symbol of black resistance to slavery and racism.

Today on Code Switch, writer and critic Roxane Gay, who's a favorite of ours, writes about the problem of all-white recommended readings lists.

Editor's note: In 2013, we wrote about a band named The Slants and the legal battle over its name. As the saga continues, we check back in on what it means to the band's members — and what it could mean for trademark law.

Baltimore's lead prosecutor, Marilyn J. Mosby, announced on Friday that the death of Freddie Gray was a homicide. Mosby, who took office in January, is charging six city police officers with a range of offenses — including second-degree murder and manslaughter.

Editor's note: This post contains some language that many will find offensive.

Lots of people are looking for words to make sense of Freddie Gray's death and the subsequent unrest in Baltimore, and have turned to writers — from novelist and social critic James Baldwin to hip hop artist Kendrick Lamar — for an assist. They're sharing these writers' words on social media, as screenshots in tweets, Instragrammed pictures of open books, and Photoshopped collages uploaded to Facebook.

Here are some of the virtual readings that stuck out to us — with context.

Remember that Deadline article from a few weeks back? In which the writer pointed out that Hollywood is diversifying — and claimed that's a bad thing?

At least one good thing may come of it:

A recent study found that in general, college students aren't taking foreign language classes as much as they used to — a slowdown of nearly 7 percent since 2009. But for one language in particular, there's actually been a pretty amazing jump in the rate of enrollment: Korean.

Over in Chicago, a restaurant called Chop Chop Chinaman has been getting a lot of heat for its name. In February, Chicago-area resident Jeannie Harrell was arrested for scrawling "F*** this hate crime s***. It's 2015" in lipstick on the restaurant's window, right next to the shop's decal sticker of a rickshaw and a man wearing a triangular hat.

The very first time we encounter Dong Nguyen, one of several hotly debated characters in Tina Fey's Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, he has just introduced himself to Kimmy in their GED class. And, as surely happens to Dong all the time, ever since he immigrated to New York from Vietnam, she's stifling a giggle over his name.

In a beautifully illustrated comic over at The Nib, cartoonist Ronald Wimberly relays the story of working with an editor who asked him to lighten the skin tone of a character he was working on, Melita Garner, who has been described as Mexican and African-American, a reporter, and Wolverine's ex-girlfriend.

Starbucks' campaign to get people talking about race has already birthed a very public, very cringeworthy conversation about race. Jay Smooth, a radio DJ and video blogger, was on MSNBC's All In With Chris Hayes Tuesday night, discussing the coffee company's "Race Together" campaign with fellow guest Nancy Giles, a contributor to CBS Sunday Morning.

New Orleans is known for its enormous Vietnamese population, one of the largest in the country. But we recently came across a story about a now-lost Chinatown in New Orleans — two of them, in fact — and how they came to be. To understand how these hubs came about, and why they disappeared, we have to rewind the clock 150 years, to the end of the Civil War.

"So-and-so is really, really hard to understand." Or: "His accent is so distracting." I remember hearing off-the-cuff remarks like this a few times in college, complaints by classmates about teaching assistants and instructors, almost all of them of Asian descent and non-native English speakers.

A heads-up to our readers: This post quotes a racial slur.

When actress Erin Quill saw a casting notice earlier this month for a Show Boat musical revival with a completely Asian-American cast, she raised an eyebrow.

Alpesh Patel, the CEO of African-based emoji company Oju Africa, thinks Apple missed the mark with its new set of iPhone emoji options, which offers more skin-tone options than before.

"Look at their new emoticons — it's all about skin colour," he told Vice's Motherboard. "Diversity is not about skin colour — it's about embracing the multiple cultures out there that have no digital representation."

In emoji news (one of my favorite types of weird news, ever): Apple this week released a beta operating system to its testers that finally includes noticeably browner — and, um, yellower — choices.

The Hollywood Reporter is doing a series of interviews with voting members of the academy, the folks who decide who gets an Oscar. Yesterday's (anonymous) interviewee had this to say about why Selma didn't get a nod:

In December 2009, 30 students at a high school in South Philadelphia, mostly recent Asian immigrants, were beaten up at school by their peers. Several had to be hospitalized.

There's more good news in Asian-American TV land.

ABC recently greenlighted a pilot starring Ken Jeong, best known as quirky Spanish language teacher Señor Chang in Community, also The Hangover villain Mr. Chow. Jeong, who worked as a doctor for seven years before turning to acting, will play a frustrated MD who's struggling to keep the rest of his life afloat.

On Tuesday night, three young Muslims were shot dead near the University of North Carolina's Chapel Hill campus.

From member station WUNC:

"46-year-old Craig Stephen Hicks has been charged with 3 counts of 1st Degree Murder for the murders of Deah Barakat, a second-year student [at UNC] in the School of Dentistry and his wife, Yusor, who had planned to begin her dental studies here in the fall. Her sister, Razan, a student at NC State University, was also killed."

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