John McWhorter — Authentically Black


In this episode of The Glenn Show, I’m back with my friend John McWhorter, and we have much to discuss. John joins me fresh from a day trip to Brighton Beach, a neighborhood in Brooklyn where Russian language, food, and culture abound. He talks about teaching himself Russian and the benefits of the Glossika language-learning tool. Then, in a continuation of last week’s conversation with David Kaiser, we move on to the history of redlining, which is quite a bit more complex than some recent commentaries would have you believe. A recent edition of John’s New York Times newsletter addressed the issue, and it received some criticism from the distinguished historian Thomas Sugrue. This leads us to discuss the problems of authority and perception that attend writing from the Olympian heights of the paper of record. From there, I give a progress report on my memoir, delving into my life, my break from conservatism in the ‘90s, and the difficulty of living in good faith. The temptation to “play to the crowd,” to seek affirmation by repeating the common sense of your tribe, is very powerful, and it can work on you in subtle ways. Heterodox thinkers like John and I have to check ourselves constantly to make sure we’re being true to our own thought and principles. In that spirit, we end on a question that’s sure to ruffle some feathers here at my Substack: How can we start seriously addressing questions about “systemic racism” and stop simply disregarding them as just so much wokespeak?

As always, I’m curious to hear your thoughts!

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0:00 John's linguistic adventure in Brighton Beach

7:59 The complex racial and economic dynamics of redlining

17:30 The problem with John's NYT “megaphone”

26:40 A progress report on Glenn's memoir

41:29 The temptations of playing to the crowd

46:43 What, if anything, does it mean to be “authentically black”?

51:13 Taking "systemic racism" seriously

Links and Readings

The language-learning tool Glossika

John’s column about Glossika

John’s piece about redlining

Glenn’s conversation with historian David E. Kaiser

Thomas Sugrue’s Twitter thread about John’s redlining piece

John’s book, Authentically Black: Essays for the Black Silent Majority

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