119 episodes

The United States of Anxiety is a show about the unfinished business of our history, and its grip on our future. Each week, host Kai Wright invites listeners to gather for intimate conversations and deeply reported stories about the choices we’ve made as a society -- and the new choices we can imagine now. We’re learning from our past, meeting our neighbors, and sharing the joy (and the work!) of living in a plural society.
Our inbox is also open for your voice memos—send them to anxiety@wnyc.org. And you can keep up with Kai on Twitter @kai_wright.
WNYC Studios is a listener-supported producer of other great podcasts including Radiolab, Death, Sex & Money, and On the Media.

The United States of Anxiety WNYC

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.7 • 3 Ratings

The United States of Anxiety is a show about the unfinished business of our history, and its grip on our future. Each week, host Kai Wright invites listeners to gather for intimate conversations and deeply reported stories about the choices we’ve made as a society -- and the new choices we can imagine now. We’re learning from our past, meeting our neighbors, and sharing the joy (and the work!) of living in a plural society.
Our inbox is also open for your voice memos—send them to anxiety@wnyc.org. And you can keep up with Kai on Twitter @kai_wright.
WNYC Studios is a listener-supported producer of other great podcasts including Radiolab, Death, Sex & Money, and On the Media.

    The Dawn of ‘Anti-Racist’ America

    The Dawn of ‘Anti-Racist’ America

    Ibram X. Kendi reflects on a shifting political culture -- and the fierce backlash against it. Plus, a remembrance of the 1921 Tulsa massacre. 

    With five best-selling books, including How to Be an Antiracist and Four Hundred Souls, Kendi has been at the center of the nation’s racial reckoning over the past year. He talks with Kai about the ideas people have found most challenging, and about his new podcast, Be Antiracist, which launches on June 9th.

    Then, listeners tell us what they’ve learned about the 1921 massacre in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as Kai talks with KalaLea, host and producer of Blindspot: Tulsa Burning. The six-episode  season from The HISTORY® Channel and WNYC Studios explores the racial terror that destroyed the Greenwood district - and its continued impact today - through conversations with descendants, historians, and local activists.

    Companion listening for this episode:

    The ‘Beautiful Experiments’ Left Out of Black History (Feb 8, 2021)

    Saidiya Hartman introduces Kai to the young women whose radical lives were obscured by respectability politics, in the second installment of our Future of Black History series.

    One Family’s Land of Opportunity (Nov 30, 2020)

    A family’s legend about "40 acres and a mule” takes host Kai Wright on a fact checking mission to the Mississippi Delta. He finds an unexpected solution to wealth inequality in the U.S.

    “The United States of Anxiety” airs live on Sunday evenings at 6pm ET. The podcast episodes are lightly edited from our live broadcasts. To catch all the action, tune into the show on Sunday nights via the stream on WNYC.org/anxiety or tell your smart speakers to play WNYC. 

    We want to hear from you! Connect with us on Twitter @WNYC using the hashtag #USofAnxiety or email us at anxiety@wnyc.org.

    • 50 min
    The ‘Big Bang’ in Jazz History

    The ‘Big Bang’ in Jazz History

    Jazz pianist Jason Moran brings us an exploration into the life and work of James Reese Europe and how the infamous 369th Infantry Regiment - also known as the Harlem Hellfighters - crossed racial lines and brought jazz to Europe.

    Joe Young of New York Public Radio talks about how using music as a service member informed his own patriotism

    Companion listening for this episode:

    Juneteenth, an Unfinished Business (June 26, 2020)

    As the nation grapples with a reckoning, we pause to celebrate Juneteenth. Our holiday special, for Black liberation and the ongoing birth of the United States.

    Music, McCarthy, and the Sound of Americana (May 23, 2017)

    The "common man" era in the 1930s and '40s needed a truly American music. Aaron Copland created it in one America and 20 years later found himself in quite another United States.


    “The United States of Anxiety” airs live on Sunday evenings at 6pm ET. The podcast episodes are lightly edited from our live broadcasts. To catch all the action, tune into the show on Sunday nights via the stream on WNYC.org/anxiety or tell your smart speakers to play WNYC.

    We want to hear from you! Connect with us on Twitter @WNYC using the hashtag #USofAnxiety or email us at anxiety@wnyc.org.

    • 59 min
    How NYPD ‘Kettled’ the Spirit of Reform

    How NYPD ‘Kettled’ the Spirit of Reform

    New Yorkers reacted to George Floyd’s murder with mass protests demanding police accountability. NYPD met them with targeted violence and abuse.

    On June 4, 2020, a few hundred people gathered in the South Bronx neighborhood of Mott Haven to protest the murder of George Floyd. They were met with overwhelming force -- in an event that has come to represent NYPD’s steadfast refusal to accept public scrutiny. WNYC’s Race and Justice Unit has been reconstructing what happened that night, from the vantage point of two dozen protestors who were present. Editor Jami Floyd tells the story her team found. 

    Jami also introduces us to an active-duty officer who says racism is hard-wired into NYPD’s culture. He’s part of a group of Black and Latinx officers who have sued the department, and he charges he’s been met with extreme retaliation.

    Finally, The Greene Space will be hosting a Town Hall on the One Year Anniversary of the Mott Haven Protest on Friday, June 4th, 2021. You can find more information here.

    Special thanks to WNYC/ Gothamist reporters Gwynne Hogan and Jake Offenhartz for on-the-scene recordings from last summer’s protests.

    Companion listening for this episode:

    Why Cops Don’t Change (Apr 19, 2021)

    A retired NYPD detective says the force’s stubborn, insular culture was built to last. And Elie Mystal explains a 1989 Supreme Court ruling that made killing “reasonable.”

    The Secret Tapes of a Suburban Drug War (Mar 1, 2021)

    A cop in Westchester, NY, was disturbed by what he saw as corruption. He started recording his colleagues -- and revealed how we’re all still living with the excess of the war on drugs.

    “The United States of Anxiety” airs live on Sunday evenings at 6pm ET. The podcast episodes are lightly edited from our live broadcasts. To catch all the action, tune into the show on Sunday nights via the stream on WNYC.org/anxiety or tell your smart speakers to play WNYC. 

    We want to hear from you! Connect with us on Twitter @WNYC using the hashtag #USofAnxiety or email us at anxiety@wnyc.org.

    • 48 min
    F*&% Robert Moses. Let’s Start Over

    F*&% Robert Moses. Let’s Start Over

    We’re finally back in the streets -- but are we ready to reimagine how we share public space? This week, a trip through the century-long fight between cars, bikes, and people.

    Kai Wright takes us on a bike tour across Brooklyn - alongside Streetsblog New York reporter Dave Colon - to survey the ways in which inequity is built into the blacktop. Former New York City Traffic Commissioner Sam Schwartz a.k.a. Gridlock Sam shares a behind-the-scenes look at the history of the city’s streets and how our relationship to public space has transformed - for better or worse. 

    WNYC transportation reporter Stephen Nessen talks about Vision Zero, the push for biking infrastructure and why mayoral candidates’ rhetoric about safe streets is revolutionary. Read Stephen's latest reporting on Gothamist, including “Who Will Be The Next Vision Zero Mayor?”

    And we hear a clip of an artistic rendition of the battle for the city’s streets through “A Marvelous Order,” an opera conceived by three artists: composer Judd Greenstein, poet Tracy K. Smith, and visual artist and director Joshua Frankel. The selection features Megan Schubert as Jane Jacobs; with Eliza Bagg, Kelvin Chan, Marisa Clementi, Tomás Cruz, Lucy Dhegrae, Christopher Herbert, and Kamala Sankaram; conducted by David Bloom, and instrumentals by NOW Ensemble.

    Companion listening for this episode:

    “Government: A Love-Hate Story” (4/12/21)

    How did Americans come to think so poorly of government? And how did Joe Biden come to be the first modern president who’s even tried to change our minds?

    “Zoned for Resistance” (7/10/20)

    Chicago’s Little Village has been hit hard by COVID-19, but after a botched demolition left it coated in dust, one lifelong activist and her community are standing together while apart.

    “The United States of Anxiety” airs live on Sunday evenings at 6pm ET. The podcast episodes are lightly edited from our live broadcasts. To catch all the action, tune into the show on Sunday nights via the stream on WNYC.org/anxiety or tell your smart speakers to play WNYC. 

    We want to hear from you! Connect with us on Twitter @WNYC using the hashtag #USofAnxiety or email us at anxiety@wnyc.org.

    • 51 min
    Ma’Khia Bryant’s Story Is Too Familiar

    Ma’Khia Bryant’s Story Is Too Familiar

    We failed her long before the cops killed her. We’re failing thousands more children like her now. In this bonus episode, we meet one of those girls.

    Girls often land in detention because they have experienced some form of trauma: abusive families, bad experiences in the foster care system, and especially sexual abuse.

    Desiree is a young woman who has bounced between foster care, detention centers, and residential treatment centers since she was 10. Even though she has been the repeated victim of abuse, she says she's been made to feel like she's the problem...and she's angry about it. But she has her own ideas about how to make things better and she’s making her voice heard.”

    This episode was initially released as part of the podcast Caught: The Lives of Juvenile Justice. Caught was supported, in part, by the Anne Levy Fund, Margaret Neubart Foundation, the John and Gwen Smart Family Foundation, and the Economic Hardship Reporting Project. Find the whole series at CaughtPodcast.org.

    Companion listening for this episode:

    “Revisiting Caught: ‘I Just Want You to Come Home’” (7/30/20)

    Episode one of our podcast Caught: The Lives of Juvenile Justice. 

    “Do We Need the Police at All” (4/26/21)

    The answer isn’t simple, but it’s time to ask. Listeners weigh in with stories of their own efforts to solve problems with and without cops.

    “The United States of Anxiety” airs live on Sunday evenings at 6pm ET. The podcast episodes are lightly edited from our live broadcasts. To catch all the action, tune into the show on Sunday nights via the stream on WNYC.org/anxiety or tell your smart speakers to play WNYC. 

    We want to hear from you! Connect with us on Twitter @WNYC using the hashtag #USofAnxiety or email us at anxiety@wnyc.org.

    • 33 min
    No More ‘Selfless’ Moms

    No More ‘Selfless’ Moms

    Erased from history. Ignored in public policy. This Mother’s Day, we ask how to truly value “motherwork.” Plus: The story of one “woke birth.”

    Gates scholar and author Anna Malaika Tubbs encourages each of us to reimagine our relationships with motherhood and challenge the erasure of mothering figures - starting in the past. Her book, The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr, Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation, tells the stories of the three women who birthed, raised and shaped these changemakers.

    Then, executive producer Veralyn Williams brings us a series of conversations about the decision to become a mother in the U.S. in spite of unsettling Black maternal mortality statistics.

    Companion listening for this episode:

    “Collective Loss, Collective Care” (3/15/21)

    A reflection on the remarkable ways communities have come together to take care of themselves during a year of COVID-19.

    “The Necessary Work” (9/7/20)

    Ai-jen Poo of the National Domestic Workers Alliance tells the origin story of today’s movement to value care workers, and reporter Jenny Casas dives into the history of cleaning up after New Yorkers.



    “The United States of Anxiety” airs live on Sunday evenings at 6pm ET. The podcast episodes are lightly edited from our live broadcasts. To catch all the action, tune into the show on Sunday nights via the stream on WNYC.org/anxiety or tell your smart speakers to play WNYC. 

    We want to hear from you! Connect with us on Twitter @WNYC using the hashtag #USofAnxiety or email us at anxiety@wnyc.org.

    • 50 min

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