Glenn Loury
The Glenn Show
John McWhorter & Tyler Austin Harper – How the Race Game Is Played

John McWhorter & Tyler Austin Harper – How the Race Game Is Played


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On this week’s episode, John and I are joined by Tyler Austin Harper, assistant professor of environmental studies at Bates College. Recently, Tyler has published a couple of pieces on race and affirmative action that caught our attention, because they seemed, well, pretty reasonable. It’s refreshing to hear his critiques of current affirmative action practices and poisonous white “antiracism” coming from a black progressive college professor, even if he does have three names (I kid).

We begin by asking Tyler to explain his concept of “racial gamification” in college admissions, which incentivize students to calibrate their racial self-presentation in dubious ways. He sees this as a violation of the spirit of affirmative action, as it does more for wealthy students than it does for the underprivileged. But as he sees it (and John concurs), more people share our skepticism than progressive black elites would have you believe. Tyler is also a believer in colorblindness, at least at the interpersonal level. He notes that some of his white peers who are overly anxious about their own implicit biases now act a little strangely toward their black friends and colleagues, resulting in an awkward and alienating overemphasis on race in social situations. Interestingly, despite his incisive thinking on race matters, Tyler’s scholarly work has nothing to do with race. And finally, I solicit John’s advice on my conversation with my next guest, Sabrina Salvati.

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0:00 Tyler’s concept of “racial gamification”

6:30 Affirmative action in spirit and practice

13:18 Why can’t we just determine admissions based on academic merit alone?

19:17 The fading popularity of “traditional” affirmative action

22:47 Re-weighting and funding the admissions process

32:28 How can we get white “allies” to act normal around black people?

38:23 Can we have interpersonal colorblindness without political colorblindness?

44:42 Tyler’s scholarly work about the end of humanity

48:10 Glenn prepares for his conversation with Sabrina Salvati

Recorded September 10, 2023

Links and Readings

Tyler’s NYT piece, “I Teach at an Elite College. Here’s a Look Inside the Racial Gaming of Admissions”

Tyler’s Atlantic piece, “I’m a Black Professor. You Don’t Need to Bring That Up.”

Roland Fryer’s NYT piece, “How to Fix College Admissions Now”

Glenn’s conversation with Jay Caspian Kang

Jimmy Dore’s interview with Cornel West

John’s appearance on The View


Glenn Loury
The Glenn Show
Race, inequality, and economics in the US and throughout the world from Glenn Loury, Professor of Economics at Brown University and Paulson Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute