John McWhorter and James Beaman – A Peek Behind the Antiracist Curtain
This week on The Glenn Show, we’re continuing our series on wokeism in the arts. John and I are joined by the actor James Beaman, a theatrical performer with decades of experience on the stage who was also, not coincidentally, John’s college roommate! In past episodes, John has related second-hand accounts of James’s recent experiences dealing with antiracist-inspired shunning, and now he joins us to give his perspective on how the theater world is handling the post-George Floyd moment.
James begins by explaining how the pandemic led to the Actors’ Equity Association opening their ranks not only to increase diversity but to ensure the survival of the union. But along with diversity has come the “antiracism” of Ibram X. Kendi and Robin DiAngelo, which James sees as a dangerous development. He recounts a jaw-dropping story from a productions in which his attempt to smooth over relations among racially diverse cast members led to his shunning, and another at Juilliard that exemplifies the way that antiracist attitudes have taken hold in the performing arts. James leaves us with powerful reminder of the role art plays in processing, rather than suppressing, social tensions. After James departs, I press John a bit on his desire to replace “structural racism” with “racial inequities.” It’s not that I prefer the former but that I think “inequities” unjustly deemphasizes the role that individual choices and behavior play in causing the achievement gaps that both John and I bemoan. By way of explaining that he’s trying to get his message out to all those who can be reached, John introduces “Donna” to the cast of TGS characters.
I learned a lot listening to James talk about his experiences in the theater, and I applaud his courage in speaking about them publicly. I hope his appearance here will inspire more people to do the same.
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0:00 How the pandemic affected diversity in the theater
10:24 James gets drawn into an “antiracist” meltdown during rehearsal
26:58 Juilliard students revolt
39:19 A plea for mutual understanding in the theater
47:57 A preview of things to come on The Glenn Show
50:32 Glenn’s problem with “racial inequity”
59:18 Getting through to “Donna”
1:03:58 To speak your mind or to speak strategically?
Recorded November 27, 2022
Links and Readings
Glenn and John’s conversation with Don Baton
John’s NYT piece, “‘Racism’ Without Racists”
Ronald Ferguson’s speech from Glenn’s festschrift