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Some of My Best Friends Are

Author: Pushkin Industries

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Some of My Best Friends Are… is a podcast hosted by Khalil Gibran Muhammad and Ben Austen, two best friends who grew up together on the South Side of Chicago in the 1980s. Today a Harvard professor and an award-winning journalist, Khalil and Ben still go to each other to talk about their experiences with the absurdities and intricacies of race in America. In Some of My Best Friends Are..., they invite listeners into their unfiltered conversations about growing up together in a deeply-divided country, and navigating that divide as it exists today.
53 Episodes
In the final episode of the show, Khalil and Ben talk with Chicago poet laureate avery r. young. He’s the multitalented interdisciplinary artist behind the podcast’s theme song, ‘Lil Lillie.’ They discuss the story behind the song and how racial justice influences his work. Ben and Khalil also reflect on their time working on this show. To check out avery r. young’s work, go to his website: See for privacy information.
Ben and Khalil get personal with author and TV writer Samantha Irby on this week's show. Her bestselling essay collections Wow, No Thank You and We Are Never Meeting in Real Life are super intimate, full of gory details, and laugh-out-loud funny. She joins Ben and Khalil to talk about her latest book, Quietly Hostile; how she uses comedy as therapy; and her work on the latest season of the Sex and the City reboot And Just Like That...  Quietly Hostile by Samantha Irby See for privacy information.
The Supreme Court recently issued a decision banning race-conscious admission in higher education. In this episode, Ben and Khalil talk with Anurima Bhargava, who served in the Civil Rights Division of Obama’s Department of Justice focusing on education. Anurima also went to high school with Ben and Khalil at Kenwood Academy in Chicago. They talk about what’s great about going to a diverse school, as well as how the conservative movement plotted to get rid of affirmative action and what is lost as a result. See for privacy information.
This week, Ben and Khalil are talking about the future of cities. Their guest, Toni Griffin, is an architect, urban planner, and artist. She teaches at the Harvard School of Design, where she leads the Just City Lab, a team focused on community revitalization in city planning. Toni joins Ben and Khalil to talk about centering people in urban design, and her new show at the 2023 Venice Architecture Biennale that imagines "fantastic futures.”See for privacy information.
Here’s a special episode from another Pushkin show we love -- The Last Archive. In the 1930s, at a women's reformatory in upstate New York, an upstart social scientist made a study that launched the field of social network analysis. It was revolutionary, but missed something happening at the same time at the same school, something we know now in part from the story of the school's most famous inmate: Ella Fitzgerald. To hear the rest of the season, visit The Last Archive show page on Apple Podcasts, at, or wherever you get your podcasts.See for privacy information.
America is the richest country on earth, and yet we have the highest levels of poverty of any advanced democracy. Why is that? And what should we do about it? Matthew Desmond joins Ben and Khalil to discuss the rousing arguments of his new book Poverty, By America: we are all culpable for this problem, and it’s on us to fix it. Additional links: Poverty, By America by Matthew Desmond Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond Correction: Parole, Prison and the Possibility of Change by Ben AustenSee for privacy information.
Ben and Khalil take a trip down South to Sewanee University, otherwise known as the University of the South. The school’s history is rooted in the Confederacy, and Ben and Khalil look at how that history belongs to all of America. Through various conversations and excursions, they explore what it means to be Southern, whether that identity can be made more expansive, and why the region defines every American. See for privacy information.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. needs no introduction. The man changed the course of American history, and paid the ultimate price for his work. But in Jonathan Eig’s biography, King: A Life, we learn more about his personal life and struggle to overcome his own doubts about the Civil Rights movement. Eig joins Khalil and Ben to discuss his book and the new stories he uncovered from FBI documents about the life of Dr. King. Additional links:King, A Life by Jonathan EigSee for privacy information.
Immigration in America is a humanitarian crisis and a political disaster. It has been for years. In this episode, Khalil and Ben talk to immigration lawyer, artist and activist Carolina Rubio-MacWright about current immigration policy, and what’s happening today in cities like Chicago and New York with ballooning populations of immigrants sent from border states. Carolina also shares the innovative ways she uses art and advocacy to connect with people at the heart of the crisis, people whom most of us can’t live without. To learn more about Carolina’s workshops: for privacy information.
Are We in a Civil War?

Are We in a Civil War?


Jeff Sharlet started reporting from Donald Trump’s rallies in 2015, when his presidential campaign stoked a resurgence of white nationalism and white supremacy. Since then, Jeff has traveled the country exploring the growing threats and eruptions of political violence. He writes about these experiences in his New York Times bestselling book The Undertow: Scenes from a Slow Civil War, and he sat down with Ben and Khalil to discuss the book and his belief that we are, today, in the midst of a gradually unfolding civil war. Additional links: The Undertow by Jeff SharletSee for privacy information.
Ben and Khalil are joined by their friend Jelani Cobb, Dean of Columbia Journalism School and New Yorker staff writer, to talk about 50 years of hip hop. They discuss what the music meant to them growing up in Chicago and New York. They talk about the documentary Fight the Power: How Hip Hop Changed the World, and also about how the music’s legacy lives on. Additional links: Fight the Power: How Hip Hop Changed the World, Chuck D’s PBS documentary Hip Hop at 50: An Elegy by Jelani Cobb for The New YorkerSee for privacy information.
It’s been three years since George Floyd was murdered by the police. After a swell of action followed by inaction, an important question remains: What still needs to change to break the cycle of police violence in America? Khalil and Ben talk to Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison about prosecuting the officers who killed Floyd. The three also debate their visions of what justice looks like. This conversation was recorded live at the Chicago Humanities Festival.  Order Break the Wheel: Ending the Cycle of Police Violence here To learn more about Chicago Humanities, visit their website: See for privacy information.
Khalil talks to Ben about a recent trip he took to South Africa and what America can learn from the country’s efforts to reckon with its racist past. Nearly 30 years after apartheid ended, reconciliation remains elusive and reparations are still unpaid.See for privacy information.
Friendships like Ben and Khalil's are rare in America, according to the numbers. In this episode, they talk about the social science on interracial friendships, and about the particular conditions that made their friendship possible. Plus, why these friendships are important in bridging our deeply divided country.See for privacy information.
Romance across race and religion has been the focus of a bunch of movies – some comedies, some dramas. Kenya Barris and Jonah Hill are taking a swing at it now, with their new movie, ‘You People.’ Ben and Khalil talk about its attempts to address the intricacies of a relationship between a Black, Muslim woman and a white, Jewish man. Is this a successful update to the 1967 classic ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner’?See for privacy information.
Sports have always been political, despite what some fans might like to believe. So what role should athletes play in political movements? Malcolm Gladwell joins Ben and Khalil to discuss the history of activism in sports, including his recent podcast, Legacy of Speed, about Tommie Smith and John Carlos – two Black sprinters who raised their fists in protest at the 1968 Olympic Games.  Listen to Legacy of Speed at, or wherever you get your podcasts.See for privacy information.
Here’s a special episode from a new Pushkin podcast, Started From the Bottom. Host Justin Richmond interviews successful people with humble origins who managed to scale the summit of success – people who grew up on the outside, people of color, people who weren’t part of the old boys’ network. Justin recently sat down with media firebrand Charlamagne Tha God – over his 25 year career, he’s clawed his way to the top of the radio industry. Justin asked the long-time host of The Breakfast Club what it took for him – a young man suffering from anxiety, constantly in and out of jail – to become an icon of modern media. Hear more from Started From the Bottom at for privacy information.
Matthew Guterl is a historian of race and nation at Brown University, and also Khalil’s other white best friend. He joins the show to discuss his powerful new memoir, Skinfolk. It’s about his experience growing up in New Jersey during the 1970s, part of a large family with multiracial and adopted siblings. The three of them have a frank conversation about family dynamics and the limits of transracial adoption.  You can order a copy of Skinfolk here: for privacy information.
Ben and Khalil throw it back to the 1970s to talk about the TV shows they loved growing up – two of the greatest and most important sit-coms: Sanford & Son and The Jeffersons. They discuss how the shows handle race, class and comedy. And how the small screen and the world it reflects have changed since then.  If you’d like to rewatch Sanford & Son or The Jeffersons, both are available on Amazon Prime Video. Further Reading: The Media Dramas of Norman Lear - Michael J. Arlen, The New Yorker Jake Austen’s zine Roctober on the vast comedic work of Redd FoxxSee for privacy information.
Khalil and Ben go to the movies with the perfect partner: Jacqueline Stewart, the director and president of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. They talk about how movies shape our lives, and why representation matters… on the big screen and at awards shows (Oscars still so white). To learn more about the museum, visit their website:  To see the full clip of Sacheen Littlefeather rejecting the Best Actor award on behalf of Marlon Brando click here: See for privacy information.
Comments (3)

Karen xoxoxo

you guys are great! you break it all down to understable snippets. I am committed to being an ally and you are teaching me a lot!

Jun 7th

Sara Shreve

Love your podcast! Just picked up Ben’s book today. Can’t wait to read it. 🙂 I hope you guys keep this going for a long time.

Sep 30th

Majida Thalji

You guys are great communicators and the topics interest me. I'm taking Ethnic Studies classes and your podcast is very relevant. please continue

Sep 18th