Aug 15 • 1HR 12M

John McWhorter – Rewriting the Script on Race

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Weekly conversations on race, inequality, and more, with Glenn Loury. Bi-weekly appearances by John McWhorter.
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John McWhorter is back, reporting from his Catskills bungalow for the latest installment in our ongoing conversation. Let’s get into it.

While I’m at home rather than a bungalow, I’m fresh off a wonderful vacation in North Carolina, which I spent surrounded by my wife, children, and grandchildren. Two of my granddaughters are now young women in college and law school, and they had some questions for me about some of the public positions I’ve taken. I recount the discussions I had with them about the Harvard-UNC affirmative action case and the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling. John recounts how calls for proportionate racial representation in the performing arts are leading not only to backstage disruptions but to the elevation of theatrical works that, in John’s view, lack quality but have the “right” political message.

John thinks that intellectual insecurity sometimes plays a part in calls for “racial reckoning,” especially on campus. He notes that he never sees his most high-achieving and intellectually confident black students at Columbia involving themselves in campus activism of that kind, and I’ve had the same experience at Brown. All John’s stories about attempts to accommodate racial uprisings within the performing arts makes me wonder when someone is going to say “enough is enough.” Democratic politicians don’t seem willing to do it, but what about CEOs, heads of foundations, and other leaders in the private sector? It’s time for them to opt out of the DEI game.

We end by returning again to the arts. John has written an excellent column arguing that, in most cases, we shouldn’t let the flawed personal views of artists stop us from enjoying their art. And we close with the disturbing case of Salman Rushdie, who is still in the hospital following last week’s attempt on his life.

As always, I look forward to reading your comments.

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0:00 A report on the Loury family reunion

9:22 Identity politics onstage and backstage

19:22 Insecurity-driven campus grievance

27:01 Glenn: When will non-right-wing leaders say “Enough!” to racial grievance?

36:16 John: People with ugly opinions can also produce great art …

52:35 … but are there significant figures whose views disqualify them from public honor?

56:38 Considering fundamentalist Islam and human nature after the Salman Rushdie assault


Links and Readings

We See You, White American Theater’s “Principles for Building Anti-Racist Theatre Systems”

New York City Center Encore!’s page for The Life

James Baldwin’s 1949 essay, “Everybody’s Protest Novel”

John’s NYT column, “Let’s Have Fewer Cancellations. Let People Take Their Lumps, Then Move On.”

James Baldwin and William F. Buckley’s 1965 debate at Cambridge University

James Baldwin’s 1962 essay, “Letter from a Region in My Mind”


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