Glenn Loury
The Glenn Show
John McWhorter – Race, Representation, and the Supreme Court

John McWhorter – Race, Representation, and the Supreme Court


I’m back with my friend John McWhorter for one of our regular conversations. A lot has happened on the race and politics front over the last two weeks, so we’ve got a full docket of topics to discuss.

And speaking of dockets, after overcoming some technical difficulties, we spend a good chunk of time on matters relating to the Supreme Court. Ilya Shapiro, the incoming director of Georgetown University’s Center for the Constitution, was put on leave by the school after tweeting criticism of Joe Biden for passing over his preferred candidate for the Supreme Court in favor of a “lesser black woman.” Shapiro refers to Biden’s promise to nominate a black woman to fill Justice Stephen Breyer’s seat on the Supreme Court when he retires later this year. Was Shapiro’s tweet racist? Neither John nor I think so, though it was poorly phrased. We go back and forth over the how much representation should play into the composition of the Supreme Court. We’re talking about an extremely elite institution with very few people on it, so I don’t think proportional representation is possible or necessarily even desirable, but it’s a complex matter. I say if Biden had simply nominated a black woman instead of announcing he was going to do so ahead of time, this wouldn’t even be an issue. How much do ordinary black people care about representation on the Supreme Court, anyway? The nomination of Clarence Thomas is an instructive case.

We then move on to discuss Whoopi Goldberg’s unfortunate comment about race and the Holocaust. Was she mistaken to say that Nazi persecution of the Jews had nothing to do with race? Absolutely. Do John and I think she should be pilloried for saying it? No. It’s a case of ignorance, not antisemitism. She apologized, and she should be allowed to get on with her life and career. The Joe Rogan affair is next. A montage of the comic and podcast host using “the n-word” several times over the years went viral last week. John raises the point that he wasn’t directing the word at anybody, he was citing it. There’s a difference between hurling a racial slur at someone and uttering a racial slur in order to discuss it. The word itself should not be off limits for the purposes of discussion, and we both think that anyone who simply can’t bear to hear it in any context needs to grow up.

As you can see, we take our role as “The Black Guys” seriously in this one. Let us know what you think!

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0:00 Ilya Shapiro’s controversial tweet about Biden’s imminent Supreme Court nomination

6:03 John dips out and Glenn delivers a soliloquy

13:22 John returns and clarifies his academic resume

17:40 Why John thinks that Georgetown shouldn’t fire Ilya Shapiro

23:07 Why should race be a factor in Biden’s Supreme Court pick?

33:43 Should Biden have announced the gender and race of his pick ahead of time?

40:55 John: “There’s real ideological diversity in the black community”

47:34 How bad was Whoopi Goldberg’s statement about the Holocaust?

55:07 Glenn and John agree that Joe Rogan’s use of the n-word is not cause for cancelation

Links and Readings

John’s NYT piece, “Don’t Assume Ilya Shapiro’s ‘Lesser Black Woman’ Tweet Was Racist”

John’s NYT piece, “It’s Time to End Race-Based Affirmative Action”

John’s NYT piece, “End Affirmative Action for Rich White Students, Too”

Glenn’s audio essay, “The Call of the Tribe”

John’s book, Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America

Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern, “The Nasty Double Standards That Make This SCOTUS Nomination So Toxic”

James Scott’s book, Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance


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