Glenn Loury
The Glenn Show
John McWhorter & Tyler Austin Harper – Compulsory Racial Performance

John McWhorter & Tyler Austin Harper – Compulsory Racial Performance


John is back in the host chair this week, and he’s joined by Tyler Austin Harper, assistant professor of environmental studies at Bates College and contributing writer at the Atlantic. Tyler has appeared on The Glenn Show before, but this is the first time he and John have had the opportunity to talk one-on-one. In this episode, Tyler talks about his research about extinction narratives in literature and culture and the two books he currently has in the works. John asks Tyler to expand on his critique of college admissions policies that seem to incentivize students to “perform” their race or oppression in order to distinguish themselves. Tyler has his own utopian vision of how college admissions should work—more emphasis on both test scores and recruitment from underrepresented groups—but he doubts it will ever come to pass. John and Tyler find common ground in their discomfort with being the go-to black person in the classroom and in their unusual hobbies. And finally, they discuss what the future holds for both Tyler and the humanities.

Join Discord

This post was released on Monday to paying subscribers and is now unlocked. To receive early access to TGS episodes, an ad-free podcast feed, Q&As, and other exclusive content and benefits, click below.


Sign Up for City Journal’s Newsletter

City Journal provides rigorous analysis that allows you to reach your own conclusions, rather than rehashing ideologically “safe” talking points. Explore it for yourselves and sign up for their free newsletter today.

Order from Amazon

Order from Barnes & Noble

Order from

0:00 A message from Glenn

3:56 Tyler’s research on human extinction and the end of the world

12:11 Tyler’s two forthcoming books

13:38 How elite schools incentivize “compulsory racial performance”

18:40 The “mission creep” of identity politics

24:23 Tyler Austin Harper University’s admissions policy

28:44 Does diversity contribute to quality of education?

35:18 The trouble with being “the black person” in class

37:38 Diversity at Bates College, where Tyler teaches

41:38 Night fishing with Tyler, insect collecting with John

45:46 Tyler’s prolific social media presence

48:38 Tyler’s five-year plan

52:51 The turn away from obscurantism in the humanities

Recorded April 28, 2024

Links and Readings

Glenn and John’s first conversation with Tyler

Glenn and John talk with Tyler and Daniel Bessner

Mary Shelley’s novel, The Last Man

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

Christopher Lasch’s book, The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations

Richard Hanania’s book, The Origins of Woke: Civil Rights Law, Corporate America, and the Triumph of Identity Politics

Glenn’s conversation with Peter Arcidiacono

Tyler’s X (formerly Twitter) account

Tyler’s Atlantic piece, “Polyamory, the Ruling Class’s Latest Fad”

Jacques Derrida’s essay, “No Apocalypse, Not Now”


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