Leah Donnella

Leah Donnella is a news assistant on NPR's Code Switch team, where she primarily blogs and assists with the Code Switch podcast production.

Donnella originally came to NPR in September 2015 as an intern for Code Switch. Prior to that, she was a summer intern at WHYY's Public Media Commons, where she helped teach high school students the ins and outs of journalism and film-making. She spent a lot of time out in the hot Philly sun tracking down unsuspecting tourists for man-on-the-street interviews. Donnella also worked at the University of Pennsylvania for two years as the House Coordinator at Gregory College House, which is the University of Pennsylvania's language and cinema-themed dorm.

Donnella graduated from Pomona College with a Bachelor of Arts in Africana Studies.

Never mind ghosts and goblins, zombies and vampires.

Anyone who looks a little — or a lot — different from their parents is used to being asked nosy questions: Whose kid are you? Where did you come from? Where do you belong?

Those questions can be even more pervasive when you don't look like anyone in your community.

So is there anything parents can do to protect their kiddos (and themselves) from those grating interactions? This week, we're exploring these questions on Ask Code Switch — and in the podcast.

Each week on "Ask Code Switch," we tackle your trickiest questions about race. This time, we're unpacking that old nursery rhyme: First comes love, then comes a heated discussion of unconscious bias, then comes a baby in a baby carriage.

Katie from Wilmington, Del., asks:

This viral video out of Hollywood raises an interesting question: What does racism look like from one Latino to another?

When social interactions become racially charged, sometimes even the most woke among us are prone to faux pas. What do you do when your dad pretends not to speak English whenever your gringo boyfriend comes around? Why does your coworker scowl at you every time you drink Fanta? Should you automatically cut off contact with someone who doesn't like hip hop, or is there a way to compromise?

One year ago, Barack Obama was winding down his final term and Donald Trump was ... a candidate for president?

It's tricky to nail down exactly what makes someone feel like a "racial impostor." For one Code Switch follower, it's the feeling she gets from whipping out "broken but strangely colloquial Arabic" in front of other Middle Easterners.

For another — a white-passing, Native American woman — it's being treated like "just another tourist" when she shows up at powwows. And one woman described watching her white, black and Korean-American toddler bump along to the new Kendrick and wondering, "Is this allowed?"

Ask some actors about their dream role, and they're likely to offer range of answers: a character from Shakespeare, a superhero, the lead in Phantom of the Opera. As for Daniel Dae Kim, a Korean-American actor who has had roles in Lost, Crash and most recently Hawaii Five-0, his dream is to play a romantic lead. Any romantic lead.

In 1624, as Portuguese colonists were making their way through the east coast of Africa, a woman named Nzinga ascended to the throne of Ndongo (now Angola). She spent decades fighting off invaders, both from Portugal and neighboring African kingdoms, and became a legend among her people and around the world.

Lots of people pay traffic fines, but not everyone is affected the same way. According to a new report from the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, traffic fines in California have an outsize effect on low-income drivers and people of color. And those consequences are not just monetary. Unpaid tickets can result in additional fines. Failure to pay those fines can lead to suspension or loss of license, and even jail time for some if they continue to drive without a license.

In some ways, Yara Shahidi is a lot like Zoey Johnson, the character she plays on ABC's comedy Black-ish. Shahidi, like Johnson, is a 17 year old high school student with several younger siblings, so the two have hit some of the same social and familial milestones at the same time.

When Prince first signed with Warner Bros. Records, he didn't want to be categorized as a black musician. This was the late 1970s, before music by black artists was widely marketed to multiracial audiences; before kids in every household in America were glued to their screens watching "Thriller" on MTV.

If you had to rank Harriet Tubman and Kanye West in order of blackness, who would be first? Who's blacker, Malcolm X or Martin Luther King Jr.?

On Jan. 25, President Trump signed an executive order instructing construction to begin on a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Environmentalists and civil rights activists say the proposed wall on the southern border with Mexico is a threat to the environmental rights of the people who live on both sides of the border.

Ben's Chili Bowl, a D.C. restaurant famous for its half-smokes, celebrity drop-ins, and ties to the civil rights movement, is preparing for some redecorating. This week, the restaurant painted over the giant mural of Bill Cosby, Donnie Simpson, Chuck Brown and President Barack Obama that has lived on its outside walls since 2012.

Opponents who spent months resisting the Dakota Access Pipeline were disheartened by President Trump's decision Tuesday to "expedite" construction of the controversial project. Dave Archambault, the chairman of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, called the move "reckless and politically motivated." Jamil Dakwar of the American Civil Liberties Union said it was "a slap in the face to Native Americans." Earthjustice, the law firm that represents the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, described it as "legally questionable at best" and vowed to take the Trump administration to court.

Ed Boutin, 62, stood to the side of the road wearing a biker vest with pins, patches and flags, and sporting a "Navy Veteran" hat. He said he traveled from Springfield, Mass. to watch Donald J. Trump, his candidate of choice, get sworn in to the nation's highest office.

The current state of race relations in America is the result of Barack Obama's presidency, Boutin said. But maybe, he said, the new administration can fix things.

Shelly Fields is a 46-year-old white woman living in Richton Park, a racially diverse Chicago suburb. She says she's raised her four daughters, who are biracial, to see people of all races as equal, just as her parents raised her. Fields doesn't think that racism will ever disappear completely, but she's hopeful that it lessens with each passing generation.

"The more biracial children there are, the more equality we see," Fields said. "The more people of color we see in positions of power – it will help to change the way people see race."

With three weeks left, the reality of the past year is starting to sink in.

Racial conflict showed up in all corners of the news the past week.

Electoral racism

As resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline in Standing Rock, N.D., concludes its seventh month, two narratives have emerged:

  1. We have never seen anything like this before.
  2. This has been happening for hundreds of years.

Both are true. The scope of the resistance at Standing Rock exceeds just about every protest in Native American history. But that history itself, of indigenous people fighting to protect not just their land, but the land, is centuries old.

When she was growing up, Dina Gilio-Whitaker was constantly asked, "How much Indian blood do you have?" She could never figure out how to respond, which is not to say she didn't know who she was.

"I knew that I was Native, I knew that I was Colville, I knew my family up there on the reservation," she said recently. "But what I grew up with was a process of not being seen and not being recognized as being Native, because I was completely out of context.

This week, the Code Switch team tackled this question: What do you do when a friend, loved one or stranger makes a comment that falls somewhere on the racism spectrum? On the blog and on the podcast, we and friends of Code Switch shared stories about those uncomfortable moments and how we reacted.

"Tupac wasn't cool."

It felt sacrilegious to even hear my brother say those words the other day, but I knew instantly that it was true.

David and I were little kids when Tupac Shakur died. That was 20 years ago. We were stunned by the drive-by in Las Vegas; the four gunshot wounds; Pac's death on Friday the 13th.

The Camp of the Sacred Stone is full of all manner of people — kids, elders, lawyers, laid-back hippies, and representatives of several Native American tribes — all gathered alongside the Standing Rock Sioux Nation to resist construction of a controversial oil pipeline that would cut across the American heartland.

This week, in a tale of Olympic scandal and intrigue, Ryan Lochte is in the spotlight for an ugly encounter at a gas station in Rio de Janeiro.

Thursday night in Rio, for the first time in history, a black woman won an individual swimming medal in the Olympics. Simone Manuel, a 20-year-old from Sugar Land, Texas, tied for the gold medal in the women's 100-meter freestyle with an Olympic record time of 52.70 seconds.

In the two weeks since Philando Castile was shot and killed by a police officer in Minnesota after being pulled over for a broken taillight, we've learned that for Castile, routine traffic stops were far more routine than many people might imagine.

We're still waiting for the full picture of what happened in Dallas, Texas — and in Baton Rouge, La., and in Falcon Ridge, Minn., for that matter — to emerge. But what we know so far is this: In Dallas on Thursday night, hundreds of people gathered for what had been a peaceful protest over the deaths of Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Louisiana, two black men who were killed by police officers earlier in the week.

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