Jan 24, 2022 • 1HR 4M

John McWhorter – The Burdens of Black Freedom

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Glenn Loury
Weekly conversations on race, inequality, and more, with Glenn Loury. Bi-weekly appearances by John McWhorter.
Episode details

John McWhorter and I often find ourselves aligned on the issues we discuss on The Glenn Show. We’ve even received criticism for how much we agree with each other! This episode should please those critics, as John and I actually find ourselves in stark (though productive and friendly) disagreement on a few matters. Let’s get into it.

We begin by talking about Joe Biden’s recent press conference. Personally, I think he performed pretty badly, as the White House subsequently had to walk back several of his statements. Are these just more of Biden’s characteristic gaffes, or do his misstatements reflect a deeper confusion within the administration? What values does Biden’s presidency represent, anyway? We go on to discuss voting rights and election legislation. We disagree about proposed changes to state-level voting laws: John thinks they're racist in their intent, and I remain to be convinced of that. We also disagree about the meaning of their effects. I have no problem with voter ID requirements, tightening the enforcement of existing laws, and other reasonable ballot security measures. But John is wary. He seems to be concerned that Republicans’ voting security measures are veiled attempts to increase their relative share of the turnout in certain contested districts by decreasing the participation in elections of (reliably Democratic) black voters. Why, he wonders, has ballot security become such an issue now? Of course, I have my responses! I then ask John what he thinks about New York City Mayor Eric Adams’s performance in his first weeks on the job. John was quite critical of Adams last time we talked, but he’s changed his mind. Finally, we get into the Amy Wax issue. Her recent TGS appearance and its aftermath lead us to discuss crucial questions about speech, platforming, and teaching. My fellow John Stuart Mill fans will want to pay close attention to this section.

This is a rich exchange that I’m sure will provoke much commentary, so please do weigh in.

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0:00 What political values does Joe Biden represent?

8:53 Do new election laws amount to race-based voter disenfranchisement?

23:00 Glenn: Black people are free. But what should we do with that freedom?

36:06 John changes his mind about Eric Adams

42:21 John addresses linguistic informality and Sidney Poitier in his recent columns

44:28 Amy Wax: heterodox thinker, provocateur, or racist?

Links and Readings

Bill Maher, “New Rule: First Lady Barack Obama”

John’s NYT piece, “Don’t, Like, Overanalyze Language”

John’s NYT piece, “On Sidney Poitier, Code Switching and the Black Voice”

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