Glenn Loury
The Glenn Show
John McWhorter – Capital Offenses

John McWhorter – Capital Offenses


It’s John McWhorter time once again here at The Glenn Show. Let’s get into it.

John and I are both busy guys, but people might not realize how much juggling it takes to manage life as both an academic and a public intellectual. I talk about why I may soon wind down my role at Brown University and devote myself more fully to public endeavors. We then move on to discuss psychiatrist Jeffrey Lieberman, who has been fired or suspended from several academic and medical appointments after referring to Sudanese model Nyakim Gatwech as a possible “freak of nature” in a tweet. It was a tacky, poorly worded tweet, no doubt. But clearly Lieberman was attempting to compliment Gatwech in the same way one might might refer to an unusually gifted athlete as a “freak.” John and I ask, does Lieberman really deserve to have his life destroyed over this? We then move on to discuss how the word “Negro” is now getting the n-word treatment in some quarters. To me, there is absolutely no justification for eliminating the word “Negro” from our lexicon, especially since it was once used to confer dignity on black people. Relatedly, John reports that efforts to replace “Latino” and “Latina” with “Latinx” are not faring well outside of academic circles. The question of when to capitalize “black” comes up, and I discuss why we don’t do so here at the Substack and why I’m opposed to doing so in general. We ask why children who come from families with highly varied racial and ethnic backgrounds are still often raised as “black” in the US if even one of their parents or grandparents is black. Why does blackness take precedence? We close on two unrelated topics. The first addresses whether or not academic tenure is necessary. The second addresses the very grim situation in Ukraine and Europe more broadly.

It’s always a pleasure to talk with John, and I hope you enjoy the conversation!

This post is free and available to the public. To receive early access to TGS episodes, an ad-free podcast feed, Q&As, and other exclusive content and benefits, click below.


0:00 Glenn contemplates exiting academia

7:28 Why should Jeffrey Lieberman lose his jobs over a tacky tweet?

15:11 The historical significance of the word “Negro”

24:05 The revolt against “Latinx”

27:49 Why Glenn doesn’t capitalize “black”

34:04 Why does “blackness” take precedence?

40:09 Glenn: Tenure without mandatory retirement can be a problem

49:31 Will the US send troops to Ukraine?

Links and Readings

John’s NYT piece, “One Graceless Tweet Doesn’t Warrant Cancellation”

William Levi Dawson’s Negro Folk Symphony

The New York Times book, How Race Is Lived in America: Pulling Together, Pulling Apart

John’s NYT piece, “I Can’t Brook the Idea of Banning ‘Negro’”

John’s NYT piece, “Capitalizing ‘Black’ Isn’t Wrong. But It Isn’t That Helpful, Either.”

Thomas Chatterton Williams’s book Self-Portrait in Black and White: Family, Fatherhood, and Rethinking Race

Stanley Crouch’s book, Notes of a Hanging Judge: Essays and Reviews, 1979-1989


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