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The “American Whitelash” and economic fear
Jul 18, 2023
Episode 968

The “American Whitelash” and economic fear

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Plus, what the media has to do with it.

The 2024 presidential campaign is already well underway, but today we’re going to take a step back and examine the connection between Barack Obama’s presidency and the rise of white racial violence. It’s what Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Wesley Lowery calls the “American Whitelash” (also the title of his new book), which to some extent is rooted in economic fear.

“It’s this idea that we’re here now, and as more people come in, it will increase competition for resources, jobs, for access to education … that is the root of a lot of the tension and anxiety and a lot of xenophobia and a lot of nativism,” Lowery said.

On the show today: How the election of former President Obama spurred a white racist backlash, why economic fear is entangled with xenophobia and the media’s role in all of it. Plus, is the media ready to cover the 2024 elections? (Spoiler: It’s not).

Later, we’ll explain how Russia’s decision to pull back from a wartime agreement on grain exports will hurt countries that suffer from food insecurity. And, why the Joe Biden administration’s plan to restrict investment in Chinese tech could get a bit messy.

Then, a listener tells us how their home state is dealing with flighty insurers. And, economist Peter Atwater shares that he was wrong about what it really means to have confidence.

Here’s everything we talked about today:

We want to hear your answer to the Make Me Smart question. You can reach us at makemesmart@marketplace.org or leave us a voicemail at 508-U-B-SMART.

Make Me Smart July 18, 2023 Transcript

Note: Marketplace podcasts are meant to be heard, with emphasis, tone and audio elements a transcript can’t capture. Transcripts are generated using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting it.

Kimberly Adams 

Hello, I’m Kimberly Adams, welcome back to Make Me Smart, where none of us is as smart as all of us. It’s July 18.

Kai Ryssdal 

I’m Kai Ryssdal. Thanks for joining us on this Tuesday, one show one topic, we’re going to talk 2020, for the election that has already started which still even though my entire adult life, it’s starting earlier and earlier, I can’t even believe it. Anyway, we’re gonna talk about how some of these candidates are running specifically, the candidates that are running on racist discriminatory hateful platforms or subjects or rhetoric. Take your pick. And and what we do about that, and how we got here, I guess.

Kimberly Adams 

Yeah, and that is what Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Wesley Lowery writes about in his new book, “American Whitelash: A Changing Nation and the Cost of Progress.” And he’s here to make us smarter about basically how white racist aggression impacts everything from our elections to our economy. Welcome to the show.

Wesley Lowery 

Thanks so much for having me. I’m gonna try to make us smarter, let’s not oversell.

Kimberly Adams 

Well, actually, if that’s relevant to my first question then, who is this book even for? And I guess I suppose you could break that down into, who do you think is going to read it? And who do you hope will read it?

Wesley Lowery 

Sure. I think that I think that, in covering issues of race and justice, one of the things I always think about and attempt to work on, is telling these stories, not necessarily for the choir that’s already paying attention to them and following them very closely, folks who are hyper plugged in into conversations about issues of race and justice, but rather, aiming at a bigger and broader and more general audience. Now, that said, you know, I don’t think the work of a journalist or historian is necessarily convincing or persuasion, right. It’s just to document things accurately. And so it’s not a book that makes an argument. Rather, it’s just a book that kind of lays out what we have lived through over the last decade and a half since the election of our first black president, right. And looking at the ways in which our majority white populace has radicalized following that, how we see the change in their polling, and how they show up in polling in terms of levels of racial animus, but then also how that has propelled and empowered a really avowedly racist movement and increased the level of violence that we’re seeing from white supremacist, right. So, so all of this, this political and social moment that we’re in is costing real people their lives.

Kai Ryssdal 

You, you start actually with just with reference to Obama and you know, the decade and a half or however long it’s been since he was elected, you start in Grant Park on election night. And you sort of lay out the mood in Grant Park that now you call it a night of unabashed hope, which it was and then you talk about how the years of Obama’s presidency sort of unleashed and engender the evilness of of two racial movements in this country. And I want you to explain what those are.

Wesley Lowery 

Sure, we see the election of a black president and we immediately start to see a rise in a politically nativist movement to oppose that President we see that we’re going to be building on, it’s not as if the election of Barack Obama is a day one, right? The world existed in our politics existed before that we are already living in a moment of heightened anxiety around immigration, and specifically around the demographic change in the country being driven by Hispanic immigration. And we see the rise of a very powerful political movement that seeks to prevent the Obama administration from fulfilling any of its campaign promises or or its, its its pledges. And that rallies around this idea, first, that the President is illegitimate, that he’s secretly a Kenyan Muslim, that he’s not really from here or born here, that the country has been changed. He’s a secret socialist, all these all these ideas, almost almost all of which were at the very least, thinly veiled, but in many cases extremely explicit in the way they played to nativism and xenophobia, about the fact that a man named Barack Hussein Obama had been elected the president. And so we see the rise of that movement that’s aided and abetted by a more mainstream politics. You have people like Mitch McConnell, saying, you know, our aim is to make him on one term president to to obstruct anything he’s trying to do. But then you start to see the rise of an anti racist movement, right, which we think of and talk about as Black Lives Matter. We see people taking to the streets, we see extreme pressure on the Obama administration to be more progressive, and be more liberal and more aggressive on issues, to remedy racial inequities in our country. That in turn further powers, the nativist movement, right? There’s a tug of war between these things. Now, as all of this is happening, there’s another movement that’s been sitting here forever, right. And it’s the movement of avowed white supremacists. Right, people who truly believe there needs to be a race war, that there is a biological distinction between races and that white Americans are being threatened physically, right now all this is conspiracy theory and hatred, but that it’s a real movement that exists. Now, they get very excited about the idea that now millions, tens of millions of white Americans are increasingly anxious about demographic change, and being fed this type of political rhetoric and messaging that demonizes a black president, that is hysterical about immigration and refugees, right. But all of these things play to their hand and helps them radicalize people into their movement as well.

Kimberly Adams 

You do talk quite a bit about immigration and how that sort of fits into the whitelash. Because I know very recently, especially since the murder of George Floyd, the backlash against you know, the anti-racist movement has been very focused on, you know, anti-blackness, but you write, that immigration is very much tied into it. And I saw in Politico interview that you did. You said “fear of immigration is an economic fear, but it’s also about fear of the other.” And those things can be pretty hard to separate.

Wesley Lowery 

Well, certainly, right. It’s this idea that we are here now. And that as more people come in, it will increase the competition for resources for jobs for access to education, right. And so I want to look out for who’s here or not for those other people, right, that’s definitionally when we think back historically, right, that is the root of a lot of the tension and anxiety and a lot of xenophobia and a lot of nativism, right? It’s like, Let’s build, let’s build our castle and build our moat and build our wall and not let those other people come in here to get what we have. And we see that playing. Right. Again, we see the election of a, of a president, an openly nativist president, whose campaign whose chief campaign pledges is that he’s going to build a castle wall at our border to keep brown people from coming in. And he’s going to ban all Muslims from coming into the country. Right. It’s like it was openly native as policy proposals we’ve seen in our modern history. And And sure, he’s saying he’s going to do those things, in part because he believes because he’s saying they’re gonna fix the economy. And that’s how I bring the jobs back, right. But you can’t actually divide those things and split those things evenly. Right. The reason they’re compelling messages, is because, right, that people believe that as a means to securing or improving their own economic fortunes because they worry and blame those other people as being the ones who are threatening it.

Kai Ryssdal 

Now, one of the things that struck me as I was, as I was reading this book was the speed at which we went from that night in Grant Park, to you know, fundamentally to Trump coming down the elevator you In 2015, and it got worse from there. And I just I wonder if you’re as, I guess the title of the books does it, right American Whitelash? I mean, whitelash implies like a speed like you get whiplash, and it happens so fast. And I guess, I wonder what your take is on how and why it all happened so fast?

Wesley Lowery 

Sure. Well, I’m like I said, I think part of that is that it doesn’t start at zero, right, you’ve already got some build up, you’ve already got background, that these ideas that have been percolating, and happening in our politics, well, before the election of a black president, right. And again, our immigration fights, we look at how, during the 2000s, immigration becomes such a central issue in our politics, in a way that it had not been in pretty recent decades, right? This is a shift. And all of that is starting to cede ground to this battleground. We also, of course, have the economic downturn and we’ve got unpopular wars, right, that the that there was a thrashing happening in the 2000s, that really created an environment where you had a lot of people feeling very anxious, feeling very insecure, not sure what was going on, and therefore were very susceptible to this idea that the country had been taken from them or stolen from them, or that they were now going to become, you know, the losers of history. And I think that all of those things, at the speed with which all of this plays out.

Kimberly Adams 

There was a quote or something, and I’m gonna mess it up badly, where it was like, if you’re used to living in privilege, you know, equality looks like an attack or something like that. One of the other things that you highlight a lot in this book that really I think about often is this idea of how common it is that people try to present these terrible acts of racism and violence as sort of the lone wolf or a one-off, as opposed to it being a function of the system. How do you even begin to get people to change that narrative?

Wesley Lowery 

Sure. I’m really glad you brought that up, because I think the lone wolf framing really, it really does a disservice to our understanding of what’s happening and to our ability to respond to it. Right. When you look at the white supremacist movement, for example, they have written the, the ideological leaders of this movement have been writing since the 80’s. Their plan, and their hope is for these individual acts of resistance, what they call leaderless resistance, right? They are no longer building these hierarchical structures where it’s one big, you know, Ku Klux Klan Central, and everyone sends it in for a membership card, right? Their entire aim is to, is to proselytize through the media, through the internet through popular politics, right, and then create a space that individuals can become radicalized, and that they will know what to do. And we see this we see this with Timothy McVeigh, in the 90’s. We see this with Dylann Roof in Charleston, we see this with the shooters in the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, as well as the Tops supermarket in Buffalo. These are individuals who are who because of the politics of our moment. And I would argue in part because of the irresponsibility of the politics of of those various moments, go seeking out information, find these, these dark white supremacist, racist, bigoted places in our discourse, become converted, and they don’t need anyone to give them marching orders. They understand what they are supposed to do. And so are they lone wolves in so much as they are not the second vice president of an organization that laid out an action plan? Sure, right. But they are behaving as part of a bigger and broader movement. That is its entire tactic is to inspire such people, right that we, we think about Charleston and Dylann Roof. This is a young white kid in South Carolina, who is following mainstream media coverage of Trayvon Martin’s death starts Googling, quote unquote, “black on white crime statistics,” finds himself on white supremacist websites and before long is massacring black worshippers at a church and writing a manifesto about the quote, “Jewish problem,” right? It’s so we can call Dylann Roof a lone wolf if we so desire, right. But he has a dream come true of decades of this movement that has purposely put all this information out there and told them what to do. It’s the reason why all these guys write the same manifestos in the exact same way. Because there is an action plan that they’re taking off the shelf.

Kai Ryssdal 

One of, excuse me, one of the great enablers of of the rise of the Republican Party under Donald Trump and that brand of nativism and racism was in addition to the Republican base, the media which from 2015 to later than it should have been in the Trump presidency, we didn’t know what to do or was afraid to do what was right. Which is to call a fact of fact and not being afraid of being called partisan when you’re talking about facts. I guess my question to you is, as an observer of this, and as a member of of the media. What are your hopes for 2024?

Wesley Lowery 

I think my hope would have been that we collectively would have learned and

Kai Ryssdal 

it’s, it’s bad. That phrase in trouble, but please go,

Wesley Lowery 

I’m already, right, like, you know, I hope would have been that we would have learned our lesson. I think that I think that there’s a real difficulty, in part because of the ideology of the press for a long time. That we believed that institutions are neutral, which I think fundamentally misunderstands the role of institutions in a society, the role of an institution is, in fact to uphold the cornerstone values of a society. Right. And I think that one of the things we deal with, and we talked about that talk about this format in the book is what do we do? And how do we handle instances where we cannot be both speech absolutist and be human equality absolutist. Right. What I mean by that is, well, was what was the argument you would hear very often? Well, well, here’s the thing, right, that people use free speech to endanger the lives of other people routinely and all the time, right. So if you pride yourself on being a free speech absolutist, then you say, Well, what are we supposed to do? Trump wants to hold the hate rally, we have to put it on television. Right, as opposed to saying, well, but you know, we our obligation as an institution of multiracial democracy is to uphold as a value a multiracial, multicultural democracy, that all humans are equal and are entitled to freedom and liberty and justice. Right. So therefore, we should not televise hate rallies, right? Because that would undermine that idea, right. And instead, we mean, literally live televised rallies, where Donald Trump would bring families of people whose loved ones had been killed by illegal immigrants onto the stage, as if he was Hitler parading around the victims of the Jews. And we would broadcast this to millions of people over and over and over and over again. Right that we were that we were party to the dehumanizing rhetoric that he was using to solidify his political movement. And that rhetoric literally cost people their lives.

Kimberly Adams 

It’s easy enough to not air those rallies and not platform Trump at this stage in the election.

Wesley Lowery

Is it?

Kimberly Adams

I would think it’s easy.

Kai Ryssdal 

I was gonna say, I’ll bet you there’s some conversations, do we do it? Or don’t we? I don’t think it’s easy.

Wesley Lowery

I mean we just did it.

Kimberly Adams 

Yeah, that’s, anyway, the point I was gonna make the question I was gonna ask, before you both crushed my hope and faith in journalism was, what do we then do? If he becomes the actual nominee? Like, what would be your recommendations for how to handle somebody like Trump, if he actually becomes the GOP nominee?

Wesley Lowery 

Well, I think that I actually truly don’t think it changes very much if he’s the nominee or not the nominee, right? Because I think that we have to make some clear decisions, right? You do not? Right. If we are as a journalist, we are facilitators of the public square, right. We’re not gatekeepers. It doesn’t. The world does exist that way anymore. Right. But we are facilitators, we are the ones trying to guide public conversation, right? We do not allow people to use the microphone in our hand to actively pour poison into the water stream, right. Like, I feel like we should be able to make that level of commitment. So I think that means that we do not, right if someone is if someone has proven that they are in no way tethered to facts or reality, I don’t think we put such a person on live television. But again, I don’t think that’s a complicated idea. Right. But we’ve made it a very complicated one, right? The person ranting on the street corner, I don’t put them in live on television. Right. And in terms of the content, the person on my street corner actually gets a lot more facts right than our former president. And so the it’s so no right that we contextualize that we explain that that’s not an argument that there’s no means of interviewing the president or the former president. That doesn’t mean there’s no way that contextualize him and his movement right. But I but again, we no one should come to our media outlets and receive false information. Right and if there’s, it’s so each time we are discussing and covering such a person, we have have to I think that has to be core, right? We have to be contextualizing things, we have to be explaining them. And we cannot just provide a platform for falsehoods and for dehumanizing rhetoric that’s about immigrants. It’s about refugees in this race. It’s particularly about transgender people and their health care. I mean, we’ve talked a lot about a town hall with former President Trump. But not long after that. Nikki Haley was given a town hall where she said a bunch of baseless things about transgender people and mental health. That is dehumanizing rhetoric that was broadcast to millions of people, right, we have to like, we have to play a role that is more than just putting a microphone in front of people’s faces, we have to take seriously that if you come to our news organizations, there is a real cost in ever broadcasting something that is not true. Right? Especially if that is something that is propaganda or rhetoric that dehumanizes or attacks, a minority group and a historically or currently oppressed group, right? There’s a real, there’s real cost to that. And I just think that like dispositional, we don’t take that seriously enough. It’s like, oh, well, we’ll broadcast all these attacks on the Jews. And then we’ll fact check that the Jews aren’t really full of horns, right? Like, as if that is somehow and again, like, I specifically choose, like, hyperbolic is not the word right? Like, specifically there choose something that we have clarity about, because the reality is we literally allowed that to happen about transgender people and immigrants and crime in cities all the time, right? Where like, insert politician gets to say whatever they want about such people. And then we’re like, oh, but we fact checked it that actually Mexico isn’t gonna pay for the wall. But it’s like, that’s not what it’s about. So I think we have to have much more clarity about our role in facilitating the public square.

Kai Ryssdal 

Last thing and then we’ll let you go. You’ve been really generous with your time. Let’s go back to that night in Grant Park that that I referenced at the beginning that you start this book with. You write that for millions, it was a night of hope. I said it was a hopeful night. And and I guess my question is, that’s me as a middle aged white guy, saying it was a hopeful night. And I wonder what you and you were what, like 16, 17, then? Yeah, right. So what did you think at the time? And are you surprised by how quickly it all went south?

Wesley Lowery 

Well, look, I think it was unquestionably an inspiring unite. Right. And I look, I think there was hope. Right, but I do think that one thing that is interesting, I remember, conversations I was having back then are also conversations I was just having with a lot of black Americans, right? There was a divide that a lot of black Americans truly thought, and we this still shows up in one of the reasons black Americans were at the time and continue to be very loyal and defensive of the Obamas. You see this in the polling? Many black Americans were convinced he would be assassinated. Right?

Kimberly Adams 

Oh my gosh, I remember that, so clearly. That’s what everybody was saying.

Wesley Lowery 

Right, like the media at large, was all like, “This is amazing. And if we defeated racism,” and the black people were all like, “are they gonna let this guy live?” Right. And so I think that spoke to right and thank God, the 44th president was not assassinated. Right. And to be clear, I’d say that of any president of any association, I don’t think that’d be a good thing to have a president assassinated, right to obviously, thank God, President Obama survived his terms, right. But in so much as there were two competing outlooks of what was to come, the idea that you had a chunk of the populace and a chunk of a populace that experiences racism and bigotry going, “they’re gonna kill this guy,” and a bunch of other people being like, “have we fixed racism?” It landed much closer to that first group than the second one. Right? Like if we, as it turns out, we extra had not fixed racism. And I think that that and I think that that as we encounter other moments of excitement, of hope and of pride, we should have communal pride, we should be excited when we do things that we previously didn’t necessarily think were possible, right? I do think we have to keep in mind what the what might come afterwards. And I think that’s where knowing our history is important to right at every point in our history. When there has been what has felt like of what really has been a significant step forward. We’ve almost always immediately seen a big push backward.

Kai Ryssdal 

The latest book from Wesley Lowery is called “American Whitelash: A Changing Nation and the Cost of Progress.” You should buy it and read it. It’s deeply, deeply thoughtful. Wesley, thanks a lot. We appreciate your time.

Kimberly Adams 

Thank you, Wesley.

Wesley Lowery

Thank you.

Kimberly Adams

I had completely forgotten about that. But he’s absolutely right. I mean, just about every black person, especially older black people. After Obama was elected, they were saying they are going to kill this man with this amorphous way, but it also reminds me of after, you know, the murder of George Floyd and the conviction and people thinking, “Ah, this is the thing.” There was a similar vibe, where people were saying, Okay, there’s all there’s the air quote, reckoning. “Let’s just sit back and see how long this lasts.” And sure enough, you know, there’s been a decline in support for Black Lives Matter, there’s been even more sort of outward racism, we’re seeing this a lot of racist rhetoric as we sit at the top in the upcoming election, and I’m really glad that Wesley brought up, you know, the way that some of the candidates are talking about transgender folks. Because, you know, maybe some of these candidates don’t feel as comfortable, you know, openly bashing black people or immigrants anymore, or Muslim people anymore, but they’re totally game to trash, another group that is disenfranchised and disadvantaged and all those things. So totally. It’s a pattern.

Kai Ryssdal 

Yeah, buy that book. It’s a good one.

Kimberly Adams 

Yeah. All right. Well, let us know what you think our number is 508-827-6278 also known as 508-U-B-SMART you can email us at makemesmart@marketplace.org. And we will be right back.

Kai Ryssdal 

All right, this is the point in the program where we do a little news. Kimberly Adams, what do you got?

Kimberly Adams 

Um, this is something that folks have probably like seen flashing on the headlines or heard on your favorite public radio station of which I’m sure you’re listening. But I also wanted to talk about it in a little bit broader context, the fact that Russia has pulled out of the grain deal that it had with Ukraine slash the UN slash Turkey, helped negotiate it. This was a deal to let Ukraine which is one of the major grain producers in the world continue to export grain through the Black Sea, despite the conflict where there’s a Russian blocl, a blockade of most of the stuff coming out of that port of those ports. And in you know, there, there are people who get on the ships and check the cargo to make sure it’s just green and all those other things. Russia has suspended this deal, it actually expired, and they’re not renewing it, because they’re arguing that their side of the deal is not being honored in terms of what they’re supposed to be allowed to export, or that things are being slow walked, or whatever. This is gonna have even a temporary delay is going to have meaningful impacts, meaningful effects in the lives of people in a lot of different parts of the world where there are real, you know, food insecurity issues, people are starving. And I, you know, that’s sort of the number one fall out of this. But also, if we remember back to the early days of this war, the fact of these blockades and the war affecting grain shipments was something else that factored into sort of the, you know, global inflation and the increase in food prices. And so even if there’s a temporary delay, there could potentially be knock on effects in terms of food prices, how that affects inflation. And as we learned from earlier rounds of this, even if it doesn’t, in practice, that’s not going to necessarily stop companies from pricing it in. So just flagging it, and it’s worth paying attention to that going on at the moment.

Kai Ryssdal 

Yep. Okay, mine’s a little, mine’s even more weedy than that one. But it’s important and it’s definitely going to be one of those where the fecal matter hits the rotary device next year when this policy comes out. And Secretary Yellen talked about a little bit when I was in China with her and she talked about it again this week on Bloomberg. So the Biden administration is considering and will probably roll out next year limitation is on outbound investment. That’s that’s the buzzword for what this policy is going to be called. So the Biden ministration is going to limit what investments American companies and hedge funds and institutional investors can make in Chinese companies. Yellen said on a Bloomberg interview yesterday, I guess, right Monday, that they’re going to really narrowly tailor it, it’s only going to be new investments. So existing investments in China won’t be affected, but new investments, and probably only on Chinese semiconductor plants, and quantum computing and artificial intelligence. But believe you me when I tell you that the American investment sector writ large, is going to be complaining. So that’s number one on that one, the other people that are going to be complaining a lot are the Chinese, because they will say you are trying to delay our economic development and Secretary Yellen will say as she said to me, and as she said, in China, and as you have said publicly many times, “no, no, no, this is all about national security, and squaring the circle between what we see as enhancing and protecting our national security.” And what the Chinese see as a an economic threat is is going to be really, really hard. But next year 2024, at some point, look for something called outbound investment. And that’s going to be the policy that they’re working on right now. It’s going to be a mess. A big mess.

Kimberly Adams 

Well, that’s it for the news. Let us do the mailbag.

Mailbag

Hi Kai and Kimberly. This is Godfrey from San Francisco. Jessie from Charleston, South Carolina. And I have a follow up question. It has me thinking and feeling a lot of things.

Kai Ryssdal 

Alright, so we talked about last week, we talked about insurers leaving some states, Florida and California were the ones we mentioned, because of climate risk, and the natural disasters that a warming planet brings, and what the states might do about it, and we got this,

Alana

Hey, my name is Alana and I’m calling from Santa Cruz. Those of us in California who live in the WUI. That’s Wildland Urban interface to you have been forced into relying on California’s FAIR Plan for some years now by the exit of insurance companies offering homeowner insurance policies and fire prone areas. Basically the whole ex-urban state at this point. The fair plan is the state organized insurance providers of last resort for fire Insurance portion of a homeowners policy. And I do mean last resort as the prices situate two to three times the price of the standard insurance … and you still have to purchase a homeowners policy for everything else. Anyway, thought you ought to know thanks for making me smart. That’s me.

Kai Ryssdal 

Yeah, no, that’s good, that’s good context.

Kimberly Adams

You know, and homeownership is so so difficult to achieve right now anyway, with, you know, in interest rates and just lack of affordability more broadly, lack of supply, and now you’re layering on more and more expensive insurance. It just feels like it’s putting homeownership even further and further out of reach for a lot of people, especially in the states, and I think I saw it, you know, just earlier this week, another insurer is reducing the amount that it’s willing to back policies in Florida. So this is going to continue. So yeah. Okay, one more if you listened to last Friday’s chaotic show. Oh boy, where a fire alarm started going off in my building. Thankfully only due to a thunderstorm not because of an actual fire. Here’s one of the many messages we got about it.

Chase

Hi guys, this is Chase. I live in Ecuador where we have earthquakes. My Android phone even has an earthquake alarm on it and when an earthquake is sensed the alarm goes off and gives me a good 10 to 15 second head start to get out the door. Saturday morning I was listening to Friday’s crazy podcast when I was shaving. Suddenly I heard a loud alarm go off on my phone and I didn’t waste a second. I grabbed the phone and in my bathrobe and covered in shaving cream I bolted for the door. I was halfway into the carport when I realized it was the fire alarm in Kimberly’s apartment. Oops, how’s that for a learned response? Life in the Ring of Fire. You’re keeping me on my toes. Thanks for making me smart.

Kai Ryssdal 

Oh man.

Kimberly Adams

I’m so sorry. Did you get to the carport look around and be like Why is no one else outside?

Kai Ryssdal 

I will tell you I don’t often listen to this podcast or to the radio show that I host, I just don’t for whatever reason. I went back and listened to Friday that moment. Oh my god. Oh my god. Alright, so

Kimberly Adams

I watched the video of me being like, “oh god no.”

Kai Ryssdal

Yeah, I’m sure.

Kai Ryssdal 

We will end as we always do with the Make Me Smart question or the answer to it more accurately because the question is “What is something you thought you knew later found out you were wrong about?” This week’s answer comes to us from Peter Atwater. He is a professor of economics and he is more particularly the one who coined the term “K-shaped recovery.” Also the author of the forthcoming book, “The Confidence Map.”

Petre Atwater

Early in my career, I thought that appearing to be confident and being confident. If I stood up tall and spoke crisply, I would feel more in command of the situation. Through my research, I’ve learned that what makes us confident isn’t our appearances, but our feelings, especially our feelings of certainty and control. Rather than focusing on the performative aspects of confidence, we need to spend more time focusing on becoming better at what we’re doing. Here, turning to others who may have been through a similar experience can be especially helpful. We should also make sure we have the tools and training we need to find ways to practice or rehearse what we’re going to do. While practice may not make perfect, feeling more in control will make us feel more relaxed and will give us greater bandwidth when the unexpected inevitably happens. I wish I understood that early on in my career, like I do now.

Kai Ryssdal

Amen, yeah.

Kimberly Adams

Yeah, I mean, last Friday was a perfect example of that. Thankfully, we’ve done this podcast enough times that even with the hitch we were able to continue so yeah, I like that. But we want to hear your answer to the Make Me Smart question. Regardless of whether or not you’re you’re writing an economic book, our number is 508-827-6278, also known as 508-U-B-SMART.

Kai Ryssdal 

Today’s episode of Make Me Smart was produced by Courtney Bergsieker. Ellen Rolfes writes our newsletter. Today’s program was engineered by Charlton Thorpe with mixing by Bekah Wineman. Our intern is Niloufar Shabandi.

Kimberly Adams 

Ben Tolliday and Daniel Ramirez composed our theme music. Our senior producer is Marisa Cabrera. Bridget Bodnar is the director of podcast. Francesca Levy is the executive director of Digital and Marketplace’s Vice President and General Manager is Neal Scarbrough. Made it through with no alarms.

Kai Ryssdal

Yeah.

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The team

Marissa Cabrera Senior Producer