Nov 14, 2022 • 1HR 4M

John McWhorter – The Wake of the "Red Wave"

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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! In our first post-midterms show, we run down our thoughts about the election and partisan politics, wokeness in the theater world, and black antisemitism, among other topics. Let’s get into it.

After some introductory food talk, we get into the midterms. John was glad to see that the “red wave” forecasted by some pundits and pollsters was little more than a ripple, with Democrats turning in a stronger-than-expected performance. With many elections now decided by razor-thin margins and both houses of Congress nearly deadlocked, he’s pessimistic about the prospect of meaningful legislation and “depressed” by the state of the Republican Party. But I want to know what, aside from the fringier elements of the party, is so bad about the Republicans. They support much-needed action on crime and policing and they oppose wokeness run amok. I think we need more of that in our politics.

We move on to a topic near to John’s heart: the theater. John is upset by recent, egregious cases of weaponized racial grievances in theater productions around the country. He describes two such cases, and we’ll be exploring the issue in-depth going forward. Two black celebrities—Kanye West (who now goes by Ye) and Kyrie Irving—have been accused of antisemitism for asserting their belief that African Americans are the true children of Israel. John and I both vehemently oppose antisemitism but the question remains: Why has this become an issue now? I point out that the line of thinking apparently espoused by West and Irving has deep roots in African American culture, and that’s worth thinking about. We wrap up the show with John’s linguistic critique of the terms “institutional racism,” “systemic racism,” and “structural racism.”

We cover a lot of ground on this one. I’m looking forward to reading your comments.

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0:00 Glenn’s culinary dilemma

3:31 Why the Republican Party depresses John

8:14 What’s the difference between Herschel Walker and John Fetterman?

13:12 Glenn’s argument for voting Republican

30:01 Woke theater’s “melodramatic agitprop”

43:10 Kanye, Kyrie, and the Jews

54:00 What’s “systemic,” “structural,” or “institutional” about racism?

Recorded on November 13, 2022


Links and Readings

John’s NYT column, “Racism and Theater, Then and Now”

Glenn and John’s conversation with orchestra conductor Don Baton

Wilson Jeremiah Moses’s book, Afrotopia: The Roots of African American Popular History