Glenn Loury
The Glenn Show
John McWhorter – Race and Conservatism: Walker, Thomas, and Wax

John McWhorter – Race and Conservatism: Walker, Thomas, and Wax


John McWhorter is back again for one of our twice-monthly conversations. This is a hot one, so let’s get into it.

In this week’s episode, we discuss three controversial figures: Herschel Walker, Clarence Thomas, and Amy Wax. We begin with John’s outstanding column about Walker, the Republican candidate for Senate in Georgia. John pulls no punches. He sees Walker as an insultingly underqualified contender meant solely to attract Georgia’s sizable black vote. John argues that Walker seems to have no meaningful knowledge of any relevant policy issue, and he’s apparently uninterested in trying to make it seem like he does. I do my best to present the case for Walker, but John does have a point.

Robert Woodson and I wrote an open letter decrying recent ugly, racist (let me say again, racist) attacks on Justice Clarence Thomas, and John has signed on. I argue that, no matter what you think of Thomas’s conservatism, he is undeniably a towering figure in American jurisprudence. His influence and ideas will be felt for generations, and his life story as an African American born under Jim Crow who has risen to the pinnacle of the legal system is iconic. The attempt to write him out of black history just because he’s a conservative is disgraceful.

It’s hard to find someone who has been the subject of more controversy than Thomas, but my friend Amy Wax has got to be in the running for second place. John is disturbed by reports that Amy allegedly brings some of her edgier ideas about race into the classroom when she teaches. I certainly don’t endorse all of Amy’s positions, and I think that one must be especially thoughtful when speaking in front of a classroom. But I can’t abide the idea that Amy would be punished simply for holding views that some people don’t like. That’s why I’m inviting her back to The Glenn Show.

I’m sure everyone’s going to have a lot to say about this one. I can’t wait to read your comments, so fire away!

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0:00 John: Republicans’ elevation of Herschel Walker is an insult

9:43 If Walker is so inept, why does he have so much support? 

15:16 Where’s the outrage over racist attacks on Clarence Thomas?

24:55 Thomas’s historical significance 

36:03 The Clarence Thomas (and Al Sharpton) we don’t see

41:31 Are Amy Wax’s views beyond the pale? 

53:59 John: “Amy should know better”

1:09:13 Amy Wax’s return to The Glenn Show 

Links and Readings

John’s NYT column, “When Republicans Backed Herschel Walker, They Embraced a Double Standard”

Glenn and Robert Woodson’s open letter on Clarence Thomas

Thurgood Marshall’s Bicentennial Speech 

Gerald Early’s Common Reader essay, “Black Conservatives Explain It All! or Princes and Powers 2.0”

Glenn’s most recent conversation with Amy Wax

Amy Wax’s book, Race, Wrongs, and Remedies: Group Justice in the 21st Century

Glenn’s Daily Pennsylvanian column in support of Amy Wax


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