The Gray Area with Sean Illing

The Gray Area with host Sean Illing is a philosophical take on culture, politics, and everything in between. We don’t pretend to have the answers, but we do offer a space for real dialogue. Resist certainty, embrace ambiguity, and get some cool takes on a very hot world. Formerly the Vox Conversations podcast. New episodes drop every Monday and Thursday.


Can race be transcended?

Sean Illing talks with author Thomas Chatterton Williams about race and identity in America. Thomas has analyzed racial identity through the lens of his own upbringing, and the performativity and pressures he experienced. In conversation with Sean, Thomas speaks about how he sees these identities as restrictive connections to the racial oppressions of the past, whether it's possible to achieve liberation without sacrificing solidarity, and on the complex interplay between race and class.

Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), host, The Gray Area

Guest: Thomas Chatterton Williams (@thomaschattwill), author; contributing writer, The Atlantic


  • Self-Portrait in Black and White: Family, Fatherhood, and Rethinking Race by Thomas Chatterton Williams (W.W. Norton; 2019)
  • Losing My Cool: Love, Literature, and a Black Man's Escape from the Crowd by Thomas Chatterton Williams (Penguin; 2011)
  • White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo (Beacon; 2018)
  • "Camus' Stance on Algeria Still Stokes Debate in France" by Eleanor Beardsley (NPR; Nov. 7, 2013)
  • The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1880)
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (One World; 2018)
  • South to a Very Old Place by Albert Murray (Vintage; 1991)
  • "The limits of anti-racism" by Adolph Reed (2009)


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This episode was made by: 

  • Producer: Erikk Geannikis
  • Editor: Amy Drozdowska
  • Engineer: Patrick Boyd
  • Editorial Director, Vox Talk: A.M. Hall

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 2023-01-12  46m