Listen now (59 min) | John McWhorter is back again for the latest installment of our ongoing conversation. This week we’re tackling racist taunts, the resignations of labor leaders in LA, the “victim” role, and more. We begin by discussing John’s recent New York Times column focusing on
Re your discussion on affirmative action, California has already run the experiment. Graduation rates increased after affirmative action was outlawed by proposition 209. From the abstract:
"we find that minority graduation rates increased after Prop 209 was implemented"
The study and report is here: https://eml.berkeley.edu/~webfac/moretti/e251_s12/hotz.pdf
It seems to me quite clear that there was indeed the presence of racial heckling at the Duke-BYU collegiate women's volleyball game though not by any BYU student but by an outsider to BYU.
If any institution should know better than to reflexively bite on charges of racism, it is Duke University, infamous for having beclowned itself in the lacrosse team accusations. Rather than take any time for honest inquiry, the school automatically side with the player making the accusations and doubled down when the narrative began to fall apart. Once more, absolutely nothing is learned.
Dozens of faculty members tried, convicted, and rhetorically executed the lacrosse players. After the accused were acquitted, nothing - NOTHING - happened to any of the people who dragged those kids' names through the mud. Not the professors, not the students, not the university president. Nothing. The students' families, meanwhile, were out significant money for the defense teams that were hired.
This is almost becoming rote - an allegation is made, it is given instant credibility, it later falls apart, but instead of recriminations, we get excuses and justifications for the "victim's" behavior. And that's when the allegation is not simply shoved down the memory hole. I understand that John does not want to "dump on" the player who made the claim. Still, there has to be some sort of a reckoning. I don't mean kick her off the team or out of school, but she made what is potentially a life-changing charge against what looks like an innocent person. At the very least, she owes a qualified apology for having "misheard" something or whatever other weak tea excuse can be offered.
Glenn may be right that in the grand scheme, this is small potatoes. But we're in a time when everything is racialized, even things where race is not a factor. Eventually, the pendulum has to swing back. It can either swing by the push of John's words or it can swing with the largest demographic in the country collectively saying it's had enough. Which option sounds more attractive?
Sadly, this preposterous “you can’t even disagree with a Black person without being a racist” is SO embedded in our culture these days that if one cannot even simply say “Obama was a terrible president” without being scorned and reviled like one is David Duke himself!!!!! It’s absolutely outrageous, wholly unacceptable and must be met with sheer contempt and non participation!!!
Very interesting discussion today.
It was right for the Los Angeles Council members who transgressed by reckless speech to resign. But, as Prof. McWhorter said, to pretend that such conversations do not take place behind closed doors whichever the group is preposterous.
As for the volleyball incident it is blurred because taunts yelled during sports can be racist or just intimidatory, and distinguishing between the two in real time while also staying focused on the game can be tricky. Players are trained to ignore what is going on in the stands and focus on what is happening in the field, or at least they used to be trained so.
I agree with Prof. McWhorter that it is time to let affirmative action go. 2022 is not 1968.
I really look forward to the daughter of Prof. Loury visiting the show to give 'the other side' of the arguments.
Has John invented a new character named "Rafael?"
The point about comfort level is an important one. I think awkwardness is a major impediment to genuine connections between people of different races, especially white and black. Some of the most awkward people I have ever known are well-to-do, educated, white people. Maybe its because they have all this theory on how white and black people should interact, but no close black friends. Hmmm, wonder why that is? Now these same people are giving guidance to the public on how they should approach interracial interactions. Preloading everyones head with a bunch of baggage.
I was at a fundraiser once that was predominantly coastal, educated, white liberals. Not entirely white, but almost entirely not-black. I was talking to a woman who was not outspokenly woke, but I’m sure she would give you the standard white liberal opinions on race and racism. We ended up at a place in the conversation where she needed to point me in the direction of a guy who was in charge of sign-ups for an event. There were a lot of people and he was quite a ways away. She started giving me the description and pointing, when I realized she was talking about pretty much the only black guy in the building, but she could not bring herself to use that descriptor. Unfortunately for her, he was wearing standard colored business attire. When she resorted to referencing the landmarks around him, I finally asked, “You mean the black guy?”. She reflexively ducked a little and looked around, before nodding. That kind of racial awkwardness is not helping with race relations.
A meaningful connection with another human is difficult even without all this extra baggage. We need to let it go, or the best tool for fighting racism (getting to know people of other races) will no longer be an attractive option.
I did read an article about the volleyball game with BYU that mentioned that there was a fan with special needs there (maybe autism?) and because the BYU mascot is a cougar that that person was saying “Go Cougars” and could have been misunderstood.
I also have a very smart daughter who turned into a leftie upon entering college. Will be interested to hear how this conversation goes...
I see I am not the only one who found John's comment about the Supreme Court jarring. I know John is more liberal overall than Glenn (and me). And that has never been any sort of problem for me. I instead appreciate the fact that both come at issues from different angles. But this time, that "hate" the Court remark both shocked and perplexed me. I believe the originalist leaning members of this Supreme Court are acting entirely consistently with their approach to constitutional interpretation and did so in spades on Dobbs. That their approach is similar to the leanings of many Republicans is of no importance at all to the question of how well their decisions comport with their interpretative approach. And it is that SAME approach exactly that should, I think, lead them to at least reign in severely if not outright reject affirmative action. I am not as sure as John is they will eliminate it, but I am glad to see that John's way of reasoning about it is every bit as "Republican" as the originalists' reasoning was about abortion rights. And I expect that John knows he will receive exactly the same response from the Court's critics for his views about affirmative action as he expressed regarding its other actions under its "Republican" regime.
Regarding the alleged incident at the Duke/BYU volleyball game, I was fascinated to see my campus paper treat it seriously long after the weight of the evidence stacked up against it.
After a Loury family vacation to the Outer Banks earlier this summer, which was wrought with debate, Glenn decides to put familial differences of view on the line by welcoming his daughter to the show. Can John keep peace? Will there be a Thanksgiving get together in the Loury household this year? Tune in soon to find out.
I think Glenn had it exactly right about the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court first held that universities could take race into account in admissions in the Bakke decision in 1978. I remember a Newsweek or Time cover from that year “Race Yes, Quotas No.” That was only 5 years after they found a right to abortion. What is the difference between a Court that is too conservative and one that is too political/Republican and how can you tell? If you want to look at that question fairly, you can't just look at the results of cases. You need to look at the reasoning behind the decisions and see if that reasoning is consistent with the judicial philosophies espoused by Justices and their reasoning in other cases. Did 5 of the 6 Republican appointed Justices vote to overturn Roe v Wade because that is the result that the Republican party wanted? Or did they vote that way because they each believed that Roe had been wrongly decided?
In my opinion, Roe was the second worst Supreme Court decision ever, with the worst being Dred Scott. I don't believe that because of the relative morality of slavery versus abortion either. In Dred Scott, the Supreme Court ruled that African-Americans were not and could never be citizens of the United States and that Congress had no authority to outlaw slavery in federal territories. What were the reasons for those holdings? When the Constitution was drafted and ratified no one had contemplated freed slaves being citizens and property rights are important and Congress had no right to tell someone they couldn't take their property into a federal territory. In other words, the reasoning behind the holdings was because that's the way they wanted it. Slavery had been the most contentious issue in the history of the Union and the Justices in the majority wanted it settled once and for all. It didn't quite work out that way.
Abortion wasn't quite as contentious an issue prior to Roe, but Justice Blackmun clearly wanted it settled once and for all. The legal justification was a right of privacy that was present in the “penumbras and emanations” of the Bill of Rights. There are many pro choice legal scholars that believe Roe was unsupportable. Even RBG herself said that it might have been better if it hadn't come out that way because if the issue of abortion hadn't been removed from the political process it would have never become so contentious. Most Americans don't realize this, but most Western Democracies have far more restrictive abortion laws, prohibiting most abortions far earlier than the Supreme Court had allowed. Chief Justice Roberts wanted to uphold the Mississippi law, but without eliminating the constitutional right to abortion altogether.
I remember my law school constitutional law class when we were discussing racial preference affirmative action and whether it was constitutional. Since the question dealt with a racial categorization strict scrutiny applies meaning the law must be narrowly tailored to meet a compelling government interest. In the University of Michigan cases (decided after I graduated) the Court held that diversity could be a compelling government interest, but for no more than another 25 years (Justice O'Connor). A student had asked if that only applied to state schools. That is true as far as the Equal Protection Clause. But the 1964 Civil Rights Act is even more explicit in banning racial discrimination. That there is a majority to ban discrimination in both state and private schools is the only reason I can see why they would have agreed to hear both the Harvard and UNC cases.
I was talking about the Supreme Court and affirmative action with my sister a few months ago and I told her racial preferences were going to be illegal by next year. She agreed that was what should happen, but said she wished they would have waited a few more years. My oldest niece is a high school junior and she and her younger sister are both ½ Hispanic. My sister and her husband are both engineers and my nieces are both extremely smart. I doubt getting accepted into the colleges they want will be too much of a problem, but I am sure my sister wouldn't mind scholarships. Since the only thing I use my law degree for these days is writing comments like these, I appreciate President Biden not making me pay back my student loans. I don't agree with him about it, but I am not overly upset about
A court decision striking down affirmative action will not actually end the practice of excluding asians and non-legacy whites in favor of, primarily, blacks. The admissions officers want to discriminate, and so will find ways in which to obscure the admissions process or draw facially-neutral masks over their practices to disguise their junking of meritocracy in the name of DiAngelo-Kendism. They will junk comparatively-objective entrance exams entirely, because it shows how much worse prepared the black diversity-admits are. Grading will be changed to favor "effort" and "desire to know" instead of mastery of the material, a la the NYU organic chemistry brouhaha. Anything standing in the way of their vision of "diversity" will be hidden or squashed, so long as they have near-uncontested control of the Universities.
John's extremely wrong about the lack of glorification of marginal figures in hispanic communities. Narcocorridos (drug ballads) are popular music, and can be just as violent in lyric content as the worst gangster rap. NB: I'm a gringo, and so am not personally immersed in the subculture, I do live in SoCal and have my share of hispanic acquaintances who are more familiar with it.
And regarding taking on victimization as a central portion of one's identity, John also ignores an example near and dear to my own heart (because I am half-jewish myself, with a complicated relationship to the culture and religion) - Jews! You'd never know it to talk to most liberal American jews, who are basically secularized and assimilated, but there's more than a shred of truth that the historical european jewish experience has been one of placing separateness and a heightened perception of persecution at the core of one's identity.
To borrow from Willie and Waylon, "Professors, don't let your babies grow up to be DEI officers."
Great episode. Enjoyed every minute with the exception of John dragging out the trope of white kids misbehaving on airplanes. What happened, did an Okie kid waiting in first class while someone in business class struggled to jam baggage into a tiny overhead bin accidentally bump into John's arm, causing a few drops of Chardonnay to threaten his first edition "How The Other Half Lives"?
It's fun to pick on on John, but you don't hear many voices consistently discuss "exaggeration" the way he has over the years. Again, excellent episode.