Cascade PBS Ideas Festival poster

Cascade PBS Ideas Festival

Journalists, politicians, authors and newsmakers from around the world come together.

A Word: Race and Politics

Political commentator Jason Johnson sits down with author Ta-Nehisi Coates to talk about race, power dynamics and the Israel-Hamas war.

Conversations about race — ones sparked by a crisis, which move from shock to empty promises to forgetting — are unproductive. Conversations about race that shine a light on the facts can impact how race plays out in our politics and society. On A Word, veteran political commentator Jason Johnson brings incisive wit to thoughtful discussions with leaders, journalists and other change-makers about America’s challenges around race, offering ideas on the way forward. As part of the Cascade PBS Ideas Festival, Johnson sits down with acclaimed author Ta-Nehisi Coates to have just this kind of conversation. 

Johnson and Coates weigh in on the peak era of superhero and comic book films, artificial intelligence and the art of writing segues in literature. Coates recounts core influences on his writing, including lived experiences attending Howard University, visiting Africa and living in New York City.  

Coates discusses his “life-changing” visit to Israel and Palestine, reflecting on criticism of his article “The Case for Reparations.” He connects his experience as a Black man to the plight of Palestinians in the context of segregation and the Civil Rights movement.  

Johnson and Coates examine the protests on college campuses amid the terrible human consequences of the Israel-Hamas war, confronting America’s role in World War II and the conflict in Gaza. Coates pushes back against mainstream media coverage and the public discourse around the issue, coming to terms with difficult power struggles, evaluating its impact on the 2024 election and espousing the importance of choosing the lesser evil. 

This conversation was recorded in Seattle on May 4, 2024.   

Listen to full uncut episodes on the Cascade PBS Ideas Festival podcast at