McWhorter and Loury on The Glenn Show: cops and race

June 9, 2020 • 11:00 am

Here’s the latest episode of The Glenn Show on, featuring Glenn Loury, a professor of economics at Brown University, talking to  John Whorter, a professor of English and linguistics at Columbia University. The subject is “Cops and Race”, and they voice some sentiments that wouldn’t be tolerated if mouthed by white people. Yet both are liberals and Democrats, though Loury used to be a conservative.

The topics are wide ranging, beginning with what McWhorter sees as an unconscionable suspension of food writer Alison Roman from the New York Times because she criticized Chrissy Teigen and Marie Kondo. Apparentlyl because these two were people of color, they were apparently immune to the paper’s criticism. McWhorter was so exercised by this that he says his next book will be a “manifesto about antiracism as a religion.”

Moving on to the meat of the discussion, racial conflict in America, both Loury and McWhorter—but mostly McWhorter—ask the taboo question, “Were George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery killed just because they were black?” That question may be answered in at least the trial of Arbery’s killer, but Loury suggests that even if race played an important role, it may not be the only role.

Loury goes on to say something else taboo: that perhaps disproportionately more blacks than whites are killed by police because the crime rate is higher among blacks. Both men argue that while this is true, it’s politically inconvenient to say it, and it also plays into the hands of white supremacists.

As for defunding or eliminating the police, Loury gets quite emphatic, asserting that “black people need cops” because their main source of violence comes from other blacks. He argues, “We need the cops. Cultivating a sensibility in our people of distrust and contempt for the cops is self destructive. It’s wrongheaded.”

Loury maintains that rioting among the George Floyd demonstrators is “contemptible”, and there’s simply no justification for it. McWhorter disagrees to some extent, citing a more or less deterministic argument. Young black people who commit violence during protests, he says, are asserting their sense of self that is absorbed from their environment. Though McWhorter doesn’t condone violence, he says that “young people learn a conception of blackness based on a message of oppression” and that conception mandates that, during protests, you get back at society and at white people because those people deserve it. As McWhorter says of a hypothetical rioter named Omar, “Is he really such a moral reprobate, or is he just deeply ignorant, through no fault of his own?” I can sympathize with his determinism, though I think that we still need to criticize violent protestors and arrest them for the three reasons I’ve emphasized before (sequestration, deterrence, and reformation).

More taboo stuff from McWhorter: most cases of blacks killed by whites, even including George Floyd, are more complicated than we know, and we should reserve judgment until all the facts are in.  Finally, both men deplore the teaching of young black people to “play victims” and adhere to a scenario of victimhood that requires them to attribute every unpleasant incident to “racism”.

They wind up casting some aspersions on Joe Biden, whose antiracism is seen as performative, virtue-signaling, and pandering to blacks. Loury is particularly incensed about Biden’s promise to appoint a black woman to the Supreme Court (1:00:28).  Finally, Loury declares why he’s not a big fan of Stacey Abrams.

I’m not presenting my own views here, but simply summarizing what I see as the salient points of the discussion; and many of these seem to be taboo in Leftist discourse. Judge for yourself.

Here’s the YouTube summary and landmarks to parts of the discussion:

Stacy Abrams: Loury is not a big fan.
The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis 2:54
Is crime a moral failing? 10:50
Glenn: “Black people in poor cities need the cops” 17:59
The Central Park birder incident 36:30
Meditating on the tears of Eddie Glaude 43:30
Glenn decries Biden’s racial pandering 56:57
ohn: The problem is with cops and with guns, not racism 1:01:48


h/t: cesar

111 thoughts on “McWhorter and Loury on The Glenn Show: cops and race

  1. Isn’t the Ahmaud Arbery case an example of what happens when there are no police and you instead rely on your neighbors? I don’t see how actually disbanding the police could lead to something other than this type of scenario.

    That is why we all need cops, but cops who are trained and monitored to make sure they are not turning corrupt.

    1. Exactly. The US needs more and better trained police men. Without it, vigilante justice and lynch mobs of criminals are the consequence.

      Also, McWhorter does not justify the actions of Omar, he merely provides an explanation

  2. I have found the discussions between McWhorter and Loury to be refreshing. Not because they somehow justify some latent prejudice but rather they just seem willing to look at the data without dogma, and to consider various sides of an issue.

    If you have any scientific bent of mind where you are always wary of biased filtering of information, the problem of controlling for variables etc, the “information” coming from much of the news can feel maddeningly incomplete. Anecdotes are continually offered up as “Proof Of Structural Racism” and “The Police Are Racist.” One-sided data points are brought up in the same spirit where you wonder “wait, what about these other possible variables?.” We are all under pressure at this point to accept these leaps of inference.

    I have some very well meaning friends in the USA who are convinced their country is out and out racist, through and through. They say things like “When it comes to the inequality in incomes, education, employment, crime etc between blacks and others, if you don’t acknowledge that this is due to structural racism, then you are by definition a racist. Because that entails you think black people are in this position due to their race, that they are inferior.”

    I have to bite my lip; having listened to numerous black intellectuals on the subject, like McWhorter and Loury I know they find this well-intentioned false dichotomy maddening, and actually insulting. They point out it treats black people as helpless puppets who can only be bandied around by external forces, that they have no agency, no control, except what white people may allow them. They point to possible combinations of racism in society with *certain* aspects of black culture that they see as holding them back (e.g. among some black men, an association between working hard at school and “acting white.”) They suggest the explanations for those cultural characteristics are not “inherent to the black race” but are explicable from a historical perspective, and being born of various government policy changes over time. So not a “racist” explanation, but one that suggests black people also can have a role in improving the situation rather than laying *everything* on The Oppressor.

    I want any racism or prejudice identified and reduced as much as possible like anyone else. But I also think it’s best to do so by getting the facts, a full picture, if a solution is going to be found. (And I’m also afraid of things like good cops being swept up in the The Police Force Is Racist movement, where now just being a cop no matter how conscientious is to be besmirched).

    1. I agree Vaal, Glenn & John are very refreshing. Their Bloggingheads conversations are high on my list of ‘must do’ podcasts, not least because they’re both so incredibly articulate and fluid; like Steven Pinker, they think and talk in complete sentences with few um’s & ah’s, and make a lot of sense.
      And, of course, they offer an alternative view to the usual (i.e. woke) race-related commentary. There are few others: Coleman Hughes, Thomas Chatterton Williams are great too.
      This conversation, where the four of them get together on Kmele Foster is well worth a listen
      Chris G

        1. As I get older, with an increasingly stronger drive to get wiser, I go out of my way to read/listen to folk I once thought were ‘the opposition’ (aka as ‘wrong’).
          So I’d also add to the list Larry Elder, not that I agree with everything he has to say.
          And of course, there’s Thomas Sowell.
          Whereas Glenn Loury was conservative turned left-of-centre, Sowell was a Marxist; not sure what label (if any) he uses now.
          He’s lived a long interesting life, 90 the end of this month.
          Sowell’s not on Twitter, but there’s an account that tweets daily quotes, recent examples:

          “Slavery has existed all over the planet for thousands of years, with black, white, yellow and other races being both slaves and enslavers. Does that mean that everybody ought to apologize to everybody else for what their ancestors did?
          Or are the only people who are supposed to feel guilty the ones who have money that others want to talk them out of?”

          “I haven’t been able to find a single country in the world where the policies that are being advocated for blacks in the United States have lifted any people out of poverty.”

          Chris G

          1. Sowell is criminally under-read. Regarding the black-white IQ gap, he has perhaps the best take on this issue that I’ve ever seen. I’ll try to dig it up if I can.

            It’s funny you mention Larry Elder….he was the first “black conservative” that I started listening too, and I almost stopped there! Larry is a talk show host, not an intellectual or scholar, and a Trump cheerleader, but that is not to say that even he doesn’t have some valuable things to say. I was almost brought to tears when listening to him recount his relationship with his father, a man who was subject to vicious racism throughout his difficult life.

            1. Yeah, I’d be interested in what Sowell has said about IQ, thanks.
              Coincidentally, I think Larry Elder was also the first black commentator I started listening to, first on the Dave Rubin show (I struggle with Rubin these days, way too light weight for my liking).
              I recall Elder being the first person I heard stress the need to talk about our ‘responsibilities’ as well as our ‘rights’ (Ben Shapiro often makes the same point) something that’s lacking on the left in general i.e. it’s all ‘take’, little ‘give’
              Chris G

              1. Sowell more or less sees the IQ gap rooted in culture, a black aversion towards education (as a tool to move upwards socially.

                His prime example is that of an all-black high school in the DC area that had ludicrously high acceptance into America’s finest universites, well before affirmative action took off. The point he tries to make is that the abandonment of meritocracy and strict standards was in fact detrimental to the very best blacks who were able to learn according to their needs because they were allowed to select among themselves. Discrimination and Disparities documents the different subcultures among Blacks and how the meritocratic, bourgeouis values holding blacks got drowned out.

                Loury is more adventurous when it comes to the IQ gap. He is fully open to the possibility that there might be a genetic basis to it and he welcomes research in that direction.

          2. Read Discrimination and Disparities. Sowell is a Reagan-Republican and is very much influenced by the Chicago School of Economics, where he got his PhD but he is willing to engage his intellectual opponents and is by and large fair to them.

            He is very critical of black culture. I personally believe that the achievement gap has a partial biological/genetic underpinning but I also believe that the black community has to do some soul searching. Sowell often makes the point that a lot of social indicators like out of wedlock pregnancies were substantially better during (!) segregation.
            In that regard he is similar to Amy Wax and Rob Henderson who lucidly point to the fact that those who climb up the social ladder usually come out of households where bourgeois are lived.

    2. Also, if you assume that it must all be due to structural racism, you are in effect assuming very high levels of social mobility (in the absence of racism). You need to compare the social mobility of poor whites to the social mobility of poor blacks before you can ascribe any effects to structural racism, rather than just lack of social mobility in general.

      It would be interesting to compare all of the people in the US now who are descended from people who were at the bottom of the social/class hierarchy in 1865. Is there any clear difference between black and white descendants of those people? Anyone aware of work done on this?

      1. Yes, it’s possible to identify comparably poor white sub-groups, and show that they persist on this time-scale of a few centuries.

        The best data I know of on this comes from analysing rare surnames — this lets you link people in 1860s (say) to people today, without needing a complete family record. I think the closest match to african-americans is certain groups with french-derived names, but the same game can be played in many countries.

        And the book to read is Gregory Clark’s “The Son Also Rises”.

      2. One paper that explores this question

        “Race and Economic Opportunity in the United States: An Intergenerational Perspective”

        Chetty et al.

        One finding is that “…black Americans have substantially lower rates of upward mobility and higher rates of downward mobility than whites, leading to large income disparities that persist across generations”

    3. Vaal, Have you ever tried exploring the path with your friends in which race has displaced class?

      Put differently, that the issue regarding poverty stem from globalization with its exporting of jobs, and automation, and the importing of huge number of low-wage workers who lower over all wages. Recall that Cesar Chavez was not pro-immigration as he knew the only leverage his farm workers had was scarcity of labor, and if bus load after busload of new immigrants came in, that leverage would be lost.

      Also, keep in mind that identity in no way impeded big corporate business models, especially their compensation models. Corporations use the good PR from being woke to cover up their economic exploitation, from favorable tax rates to bailouts and on and on.

      I always go back to the example of Goldman ex-CEO Lloyd Blankfein coming out in support of gay marriage in 2013, right around the time of Occupy Wall Street and also the time when gay marriage was the social topic. Funny to see that Eric Holder, Obama’s attorney general, around that time declared banks to be systemically important, hence they got away from the massive fraud of the financial crisis.

      1. Goldman ex-CEO Lloyd Blankfein coming out in support of gay marriage in 2013 . . .

        A great example. By the same token, Apple has trumpeted its support for Black Lives Matter while still operating sweatshops overseas. It’s a lot more cost-effective to wave a rainbow flag or put up a Black Lives Matter banner than it is to create an equitable economic system. Showing one’s Woke credentials is an easy way of saying, “Hey, we’re the good guys!” without making any real effort at reform. Many corporate executives are just conservatives in Woke clothing. Unfortunately, the issue of social class has been swept under the rug in modern liberal discourse.

    4. One of the things I’ve still not seen much discussion of in the current situations is the fact that that race is “intersectional” (to use the jargon – it is exactly backwards, IMO) with social class and economic situation in the US (and here in Canada to some degree as well, especially with Native Americans).

  3. If you admire Glen Loury, as well you should, just be aware that he is inclined to play provocation as a sport, though not in this instance.

    1. He does, and I think it is because in a debate he believes that all arguments should be heard/considered.

  4. I think the choice of the term ‘defunding’ was unfortunate because from what I know of the debate it’s not the elimination of all police functions but a shifting of funding toward supporting needed services currently (and unfairly) dumped into the policing pot through neglect. Examples are the use of police for animal control, homeless services, and acute mental health interventions. Defunding would shift resources from the police to cover these services with appropriate specialized programs. It would also restructure police forces to look less like an occupying army. Suppression isn’t a long term solution (as events clearly demonstrate). Far from capitulating to chaos defunding is an attempt to properly restructure city resources more effectively and justly.

    1. And I think that’s the kind of reasonable reform everyone can get behind – including cops, who also don’t want to be forced into these situations they aren’t properly trained and equipped for.

      But unfortunately, it’s expressed as an attack on police and their livelihoods, especially when you see signs that say “fuck the police” or “kill cops” or “fire all cops” or “abolish the police”, which is sure to increase division and defensiveness and harden hearts on both sides. It’s really an own goal…

    2. “Examples are the use of police for animal control, homeless services, and acute mental health interventions.”

      That’s certainly not what the Minneapolis City Council has in mind. That’s what their defenders in the press are saying to sugar coat it.

      And the only example of the three where you can completely eliminate the role of the police is animal control (and only if you have the resources to hire the trained experts in sufficient numbers). Police are involved in other instances because of the potential for things to turn bad. Imagine a mental health professional called to a high crime neighborhood at midnight to address an acute mental health case. Who in their right mind would answer that call without a police backup?

      1. “Who in their right mind would answer that call without a police backup?”

        A person hired and trained to do that kind of work?

        1. Your reply is deliberately obtuse. I think the commenter made his point pretty clear.

          It’s not safe for a social worker — or any other civilian — to go into some areas at night, regardless of their level of training. If you’re not going to send the police, then you at least have to send some kind of security personnel (which is not much different from sending a cop).

          1. ” regardless of their level of training”

            IMO, this is absurd. Training is what I assume you think cops have that makes them able to go in.

            1. What happens if a mentally ill person creates a disturbance and doesn’t want to be taken into custody? What will the social worker do? Ask nicely? And for that matter, who will protect the social worker from other criminals if he or she is wandering the streets of L.A. or Baltimore in the middle of the night? As I said, if the police aren’t going to handle these types of situations, then some other kind of security personnel will have to — someone with the physical strength and know-how to take a violent patient into custody. Either that, or social workers will have to be trained in hand-to-hand combat, which is not a part of their normal job duties.

              1. There will be times when additional support will be required. But going in guns from the beginning just escalates things from the get-go.

                Police often complain of being asked to be social workers. Well, let’s stop making them do that.

            2. There will be times when additional support will be required.

              Well, that’s the problem. Who’s going to provide the “additional support”? Our options are (A.) Train the social workers for physical confrontations, which places a big burden on people who have a difficult job already; (B.) Hire additional security guards, who must be trained and vetted by someone to ensure that they’re reliable and competent; (C.) Create a task force of non-military personnel to maintain civil order, prevent crime, and ensure public safety . . . a.k.a. the police, in which case we’re back where we started. Regardless, slogans and platitudes won’t make the problem disappear.

              1. Did I say there would be no police at all? I don’t recall doing that.

                When you call 911 and your home is on fire, the fire department is sent. If you’ve fallen and can’t get up, an EMT team arrives with an ambulance. There’s no reason we can’t have people trained to deal with homeless people without sending in cops with guns. (A few years back an unarmed guy was killed by a cop just like that here in Milwaukee.) We have parking cops that deal with parking issues without carrying guns. The model for making this work exists.

              2. The original comment that sparked this exchange was this: “Imagine a mental health professional called to a high crime neighborhood at midnight to address an acute mental health case. Who in their right mind would answer that call without a police backup?” Parking enforcement and firefighting are not valid analogies here because those activities rarely result in physical confrontations. (Handing out parking tickets usually happens when the driver is away from his vehicle.)

                You still haven’t really described how social workers are going to deal with potentially violent people or dangerous areas. You’ve made vague references to training, but you haven’t said whether that training is going to involve physical combat or the use of weapons. If it does, how will it differ from standard police work? If those issues aren’t decided before defunding or replacing the police, then we’re jeopardizing everyone’s safety.

              3. ” You still haven’t really described how social workers are going to deal with potentially violent people”

                They do this all the time. It is the rare situation where a mentally ill person requires gun-toting police to be handled. You don’t need guns. And you don’t need police most of the time. The cop with his gun makes it worse.

      2. No one is making a simplistic claim that the police will have NO role in some of these areas but one very effective way to keep most people out of harm’s way in acute crisis situations is to have better safety net services that prevent the crises in the first place.

  5. It is good to listen as these two guys cover the difficult subjects that many people don’t for various reasons. The answers are not always as simple as some would like but it is still important to go there. This sort of thing can only take place when the people involved can speak freely without fear for themselves or the job or whatever. I thought the pandering part about Biden was pretty good. The professional politician just can not help sounding like what they are and that is always Biden’s burden.

  6. As a white person, I have a lot of privileges, but commenting on an African-American’s social commentary without them asking me is not one of them.

    1. Wait. What? Commenting here is a privilege, I agree (Dr PCCe’s place and all), but I don’t think you meant WEIT.

      I assume you are suggesting that whites should stfu. I reject that notion (it really irks me too). We should listen but no body should be silenced.

    2. I disagree. To the effect that Glenn and John are basing their arguments on objective data, there is nothing about your skin color that should prevent you from analyzing these arguments so long as you have access to the data as well, and the intelligence to interpret it.

      To say otherwise is to rope off entire areas of knowledge from people because of their melanin content. You would never say that in reverse (i.e. this person cannot study X because they are black), so why disqualify yourself from challenging factually-based assertions simply because you are white?

      Also, what do you do when faced with one person of color who contradicts another on this topic? Just flip a coin to see who is right?

    3. Martin, you are deeply, deeply misguided here. Seriously, I can’t comment on what they said?

      But in fact I did not; I just summarized what they said! Did you read what I wrote, which includes this?:

      I’m not presenting my own views here, but simply summarizing what I see as the salient points of the discussion; and many of these seem to be taboo in Leftist discourse. Judge for yourself.

      So you are doubly wrong.

      Sorry, but I’m filing your advice in the circular file.

      1. I’m not saying you were commenting, I agree you summarized, no problem with that, thanks for sharing the video.

        My position is that the broader context is so frought with blind spots for white folks that we should tread very very lightly.

        1. No, you didn’t say “tread lightly.” You said this:

          As a white person, I have a lot of privileges, but commenting on an African-American’s social commentary without them asking me is not one of them.

          That is about as clear as you can get saying, “White people don’t have the privilege to comment on an African-American’s social commentary.” There was nothing about “treading very, very lightly.” And I disagree even with that. There are some arguments that can be addressed regardless of what pigmentation you have.

        2. My position is that the broader context is so fought with blind spots for white folks that we should tread very very lightly.

          Do you think only White People have blind spots? Don’t “humans” have blind spots, and black people are humans too?

          If a life-time of “privilege” can create blind spots and bias in one’s thinking, why can’t a life-time of duress, or poverty, or being in violent surroundings, etc? It’s all going to color how one sees things to one degree or another, right?

          If we care about what is true, we have to treat one another like human beings, not like epistemic islands separated by skin pigmentation, where one’s lighter skin color automatically denies lucid analysis of the data and one’s darker color automatically confers veracity and lucid analysis of the data. We have to be open to ANYONE’s report about their experience, and any arguments they want to make based on that experience. (And hence be open to anyone who can alert us to racism).

          However, anyone’s claim has to be evaluated on the soundness of their argument – the evidence, data and argument they produce, not on the mere pigmentation of their skin. That is simply a dangerous and untenable way to operate a society. It was never good when it was white skinned people disavowing the arguments of darker skinned people, and it’s no better to simply reverse this fallacy.

          1. I get it you don’t agree with me. But allow me to clarify.

            “Treading very, very lightly” is my generalized statement suggesting you think carefully about those blind spots before you enter the discussion. You are all making much of skin pigmentation and not enough about cultural blindspots(our “whiteness”)that I consider make ua all too easily over-confident that you can have ANY claim to saying something helpful or intelligent when it comes to commenting on the opinions of African-Americans about racism.
            The prescription being that at this time and place, we should indeed stfu and just listen.
            Thank you.

            1. Martin, telling people, or in this case demanding them, to shut up is a sure fire way to get them to stop listening. This is not a good strategy if one is sincere about change.

              For the record, I will not stfu*, though I will listen. Even to you.

              *neener neener neener

            2. Martin, thank you for showing us the error of our ways. We are eternally grateful. As a token of our appreciation, we would like to present you with the gold medal in Self-Congratulatory Virtue Signaling.

              Pat yourself on the back, chief!

            3. Martin, one thing is clear, you are not a regular listener of the Glenn Show.

              Perhaps as someone inflicted with “white privilege” you should first listen to 5 hours of the Glenn show so that a black intellectual can educate you that it is OK for white people to engage and debate black people.

              1. I remember when my friend Raven (an Inuk) said that she was overjoyed that someone would treat her with enough respect to argue with her. Refusing discussion and debate is infantilizing at best.

    4. I could turn your argument back on you. You’ve appointed yourself as the defender of African American sensibilities. Did they specifically ask you to help them? If not, shouldn’t you also back off?

    5. “As a white person, I have a lot of privileges…”

      I am so tired of racists in disguise like you.

      A while ago McWhorter mentioned that many white liberals just smile and agree with everything he says (patronizingly) and do not actually engage with him.

      The fact that you believe that black intellectuals need protection from “white opinions” show how little respect you actually have for them.

  7. Yet both are liberals and Democrats, though Loury used to be a conservative.

    McWhorter used to be a conservative, too. He started life as a public intellectual as a fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute think tank and was, at the time, seen by some as the heir-apparent to the quintessential conservative black intellectual Shelby Steele.

    I got the distinct impression that McWhorter was pushed to the Left by the white backlash against Barack Obama.

    1. “McWhorter used to be a conservative, too.”

      From reading McWhorter’s first book “Losing the Race”, I did not get the impression that he used to be a conservative. He’s a professor of linguistics and has spent his career in elite academia, and unlike Glenn I don’t know if he has record of ever voting republican.

      Even if he was, I hope that people aren’t using this as a filter of truth. It may be that right leaning blacks are making more reasonable noises on this topic than those in the left at this point in time.

      1. Here’s a link to McWhorter’s 2000 appearance on Book TV. I believe it was my first exposure to him (and what made me want to go out and get Losing the Race).

        I think there’s been quite an evolution in his thinking from then until now. (And I think you can find him in the process of this evolution in this 2008 appearance on Book TV.)

        I point this out NOT to suggest it as “a filter of truth” (whatever that may mean under the circumstances), but as a matter of historical context, and because I have found watching the evolution of such a nuanced and articulate thinker on these matters fascinating personally.

        I also have a vague recollection of his having stated publicly that he had voted for George W. Bush in the 2000s and a rather more clear recollection of his having come out in support of Obama in 2008 and 2012.

        1. From Wikipedia:

          “McWhorter characterizes himself as “a cranky liberal Democrat.” In support of this description, he states that while he “disagree[s] sustainedly with many of the tenets of the Civil Rights orthodoxy,” he also “supports Barack Obama, reviles the War on Drugs, supports gay marriage, never voted for George Bush and writes of Black English as coherent speech”. McWhorter additionally notes that the conservative Manhattan Institute, for which he worked, “has always been hospitable to Democrats.”

          So, according to this he never voted for Bush.

          “I point this out NOT to suggest it as “a filter of truth” (whatever that may mean under the circumstances)..”

          It should be obvious what it means. It means that many people, instead of evaluating an argument on its merits, are overly concerned with the political bias of the speaker as an indicator of the argument’s truth/accuracy.

          Not saying that you do that, by the way.

          1. I stand corrected on the vague recollection of McWhorter’s having said he voted for Bush (though he did publish this pro-Bush piece shortly after the 2000 election). Thanks for setting the record straight in this regard.

            My primary point is simply that McWhorter has evolved into the self-described “cranky liberal Democrat” from a place somewhere to his right, and that that evolution was hastened by the Right’s reaction to Barack Obama.

  8. They both seem to be saying it’s not about race, or it’s not just about race. Which is correct in my view. Many problems leading to the recent killings, rioting, and protests, would not happen if society was less economically stratified. We seem to ignore the need to upgrade the society generally. Don’t focus on race as the only issue. There are so many issues that are not about race. The intransigence of police unions for example. The lack of adequate educational funding. The list is long.

    1. Yes. Another big problem similar to racism is “classism,” if you will. Poor people, people on the down and out. Whether white trash, black or other many of our institutions make it harder for such people compared to the middle and especially upper classes.

      Seems the worst in that respect is the justice system. Defense against civil and criminal charges is more like a luxury good in practice than the necessity it should be considered. Our justice system aspires to the same justice for all but falls short in practice.

      1. Yes, but I’d say classism is a bias that is tied closely to the way governments allocate resources. A more equitable system – higher taxes and a bigger safety net with investment in physical and social infrastructure would benefit everyone and open opportunity. Even out the enormous differences in income.

        1. Exactly. It’s all a huge intertwined furrball. The Gordian Knot ain’t got nothing on this kind of puzzle. Want to reduce problems with all kinds of discrimination? Do things that cause the average standard of living to rise, and all those other metrics used to measure the success of a society (as if that’s simple).

          Want to improve all those measures? Find a way to reduce all kinds of discrimination.

          Of course even after a period of progress if you apply a little stress you’ll see that the discriminatory attitudes haven’t entirely gone away. It’s just that when times are good people are less likely to be triggered.

    2. It’s not just about race given that the police kill about 1,000 people/year yet face trial for <1% of those incidents. With that sort of statistic, it's fair to say they won't face trial regardless of whether the victim is white, black, hispanic, asian, or other. So there are significant problems (IMO) with policing in America that need to be fixed regardless of racism.

      Having said that, unarmed black people are killed by police at ~5 times the rate of unarmed whites. Meanwhile, armed black criminals are actually shot and killed at rates less than the rates of other armed criminals (but higher than the per capita population, and either way much closer to statistical expectations; IIRC it's something like 30% of convictions vs 20% of shootings). Both statistics can be explained by the police having a racial bias in seeing black people as 'more dangerous.'

      I fully agree with your last couple of points. There's a lot of social stratification either intentioned by the rich or just unintentional, and it needs to be fixed.

  9. Seems that Lowry would prefer to blame the victims of police brutality for being beaten and killed than address the fact of police brutality, which he is willing to simultaneously accept as existing because it gets directed at white people, too.

    1. What?

      His points, in this and other talks, are always that (1) it’s dishonest to pretend this only affects black people, the news does not reflect the data, (2) if you actually want to change policing, or anything really, then you have a greater chance of success the larger the coalition you can assemble. Making it about race turns some potential allies into adversaries. And (3) centering the conversation about crime and punishment around race is tremendously dangerous, it opens the door to white power types loudly broadcasting the huge differences between black and white crime rates (with real data) and that’s not a future we should be trying to make happen.

    2. Lowry acknowledges the many instances of police brutality, but he’s asking whether the data supports the inference that police forces are structurally racist, or if it is more a problem of police incompetence, poor training, corruption etc.

      That the violence is spread among white and black victims suggests you can’t just rule out the latter, out of hand.

      If people see George Floyd killed by a policeman and leap to the explanation “He was killed because he is black, and this is an example of structural police racism” what do you do with cases Lowry brings up of essentially the same thing happening to white people? Just ignore such data in your inferences?

      1. As posed I don’t see why this is a problem unless one supposes that for racism to actually be a problem that entails that no other races will be abused by police at all. That’s not very reasonable to assume either. The reality is that there are certainly many variables at work making it hard to definitively nail down correlations let alone causation.

        Personally, based only on my personal experiences and therefore of dubious value to any one else, I’ve little doubt that racism against blacks among law enforcement is a significant problem. Also no doubt that racism against other races, “classism,” police vs civilian-ism and discrimination based on ideology are all also significant problems in law enforcement. These things are still problems everywhere in our society and they are exacerbated within an institution that in order to fulfill its mandate is trusted with the authority and means to do violence against members of the public and oversight is largely left in that institution’s own hands.

        And I’ve little doubt that in some departments racism and other attitudes are “institutional” in that they come from the very top which sets the example for what is acceptable in the department. Remember that sweetheart sheriff from Arizona Joe Arpaio?

      2. “what do you do with cases Lowry brings up of essentially the same thing happening to white people?”

        Call it out for what it is. Classic whataboutism.

        1. Come on tomh, that’s not fair. Maybe it’s because what is happening is more complex than slogans on a sign might suggest?

          I’ve got to say, we need an honest, in-depth national discussion about these issues but knee-capping parts of the discussion – like the arguments put forth by Loury- by dismissing them as nothing other than “whataboutery” isn’t helping. I suppose I should be glad that these whatabouters are black otherwise their opinions would be dismissed as mere white fragility. Though I’m not sure that’s worse.

        2. Call it out for what it is. Classic whataboutism.

          So when seeking an explanation for events you will fall in line with one view and not bother accounting for variables, other explanations, counter evidence?

          What if science operated this way? One group of scientists say “Look at this group of people who lost weight sticking exclusively to a diet of low carbs. Clearly, low carbs are the key to losing weight!”

          Another group of scientists say: but what about this other group who lost a similar amount of weight on a higher carb diet?”

          The first group responds: Don’t bother us with your whataboutery!”

          Sound good to you?

          Or is this only when it comes to social issues? Why the exception?

          Don’t we want to be able to adduce data, soberly interpreted, for our claims?

      3. A distinction that shouldn’t be ignored is that middle- and upper-class whites are by-and-large immune to the dangers of deadly confrontations with the police — or at least far enough removed from them that such encounters need not be a routine concern.

        Black people, OTOH, cannot afford obliviousness to the potential for deadly (or at least extremely uncomfortable) confrontations with the police, even should they be multi-millionaire athletes or entertainers, or professors at Ivy League colleges.

        1. …” or at least far enough removed from them that such encounters need not be a routine concern.”

          Or even that they encounter the police at all. Cops target blacks, even if they don’t kill them at quite the rate commonly cited. I’ve never been pulled over for driving (or jogging or bird watching) while black. For some black people, especially young men, this kind of harassment is distressingly frequent; statistically speaking it’s almost inevitable that one of those encounters will go bad.

      1. I get your point (and it’s a good one – I think McWhortor and Loury commented on the very thing) but the implication in your challenge is bogus. I googled “Chicago murders last weekend”* and got dozen of pages of hits from media sources ranging from Fox, ABC, NBC, CNN, BBC, Forbes, Reuters, etc, to dozens of newspapers, websites and TV stations.

        *I spot checked the hits to make sure it was last weekend, because with that city many murderous weekends make the news.

  10. I have been concerned that the looting and the defund the police movement would work to Trump’s favor. So far, I’ve been wrong. I hope it stays that way. The latest FiveThirtyEight aggregate poll shows Trump with an unfavorable rating of 54.8% and a favorability rating of 41.0%, a 13.8% difference. This is the biggest differential I can remember, since for years it hovered around 10%. At the moment, it looks like his support has slipped to his hardcore cult. Of course, things can change between now and the election, but there is good reason for cautious optimism.

    1. Then there is another small matter to consider, how will “defunding” police affect law abiding black people in poor neighborhoods?

      1. Hopefully for the better. That is the goal, is it not? Or are you using the defund = abolish rubric?

        1. Or are you using the defund = anarchists and Utopians thought about this sincerely and deeply?

        2. Obviously the US needs urgent police reform and there are good arguments to divert resources into social services etc.

          However I do not believe the chanting mobs gave this much thought while scribbling ACAB everywhere.

          People who are only concerned with police violence towards black people while ignoring the daily violence thousands of normal black people are subjected to by criminal gangs are not serious about improving black lives.

          I have more respect for people who say they do not care than for people who pretend to care.

          1. This seems like a false choice argument. I think there probably are no people at all that are only concerned with police violence towards black people while ignoring the daily violence black people are subjected to. People are capable of holding many different views at the same time. Right now a lot of people are expressing their views about police violence in response to a particular highly visible and egregious incident of it that has just occurred. Is this not a worthy spark to inspire people to actually participate in trying to change their society for the better?

            Arguing how to achieve better results is a good and necessary thing. But why so negative about the protesters (as opposed to the looters)? This is how things get changed. It is events like this that cause people to demonstrate and make noise enough to get everyone’s attention that can lead to change in a hardened system. Pressures being applied by people of various points of view add up to a general societal zeitgeist. The people advocating for more radical change than you think is wise are at least applying pressure to move in the same direction you apparently think we need to move.

            1. Hi darrelle, thanks for your constructive criticism.

              I am far more pessimistic than you and I unfortunately do not have the time today to explain why.

              However, I might be wrong, and I sincerely hope your analysis is more accurate and we will see positive change.

              1. Thank you Eric. Some degree of pessimism is a useful, even necessary thing!

                The way things have been, are, in the US recently, I wouldn’t care to place a bet on any predicted outcome.

    2. I see that the betting markets on the US presidential election are finally starting to move in the same direction as the polls (though they’ve by no means caught up). Usually, those markets are ahead of the curve, but I think a lot of gamblers are feeling snake-bit after the 2016 upset.

        1. I’d say the inside straight in 2016 was drawn by the Donald, with his 77,000 vote victory in three rustbelt swing states to win the electoral college.

          As a gambler, I’m betting he can’t suck out another win like that against stronger cards again this year (which, once again, appears to be his only path to victory).

  11. The United States managed to rid itself of de jure discrimination (and, with passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, of much of its private discrimination in matters of public accommodation) a half-century ago.

    But discrimination in the United States remains systemic — look no further than our primary and secondary educational systems, than our health-care system, than our electoral system (with its gerrymandering and voter-suppression), than our housing, and than our criminal-justice system.

    1. Ken,

      I certainly don’t presume there is no systemic racism within the institutions you name. However, I would also like to see exactly what type of systemic racism you are talking about, and what data/research supports it.

      So for instance, what is the nature of the systemic racism in primary/secondary education system, and what careful inspection of the data supports this?

      (I presume you left out post-secondary education due to imbalances being re-dressed by things like Affirmative Action?)


      1. How ’bout we start with the gross disparity in funding for predominately white and predominately black schools? See, e.g., here and here.

    2. About the poor schools and health care for members of the black community. Systemic racism or poverty? Well-to-do blacks get good schools and health care.

      1. I specifically said “discrimination” rather than delimit it so “racism” — though I think there’s little doubt that the brunt of economic discrimination is disproportionately born by minorities.

        1. Okay, and agreed. But given the topic of the thread, I think it not unreasonable to assume you meant systemic racial discrimination.

          It is very circular. Past racial discrimination explains the disproportionate proportion of black poverty even if there were no present systemic racial discrimination (And I expect there is still plenty). Failure to overcome this legacy social problem with a multi-trillion dollar program is a great national tragedy.

          1. Yes, the discrimination regarding race and poverty is circular — but that makes it no less invidious.

            Maybe, when poor whites — who constitute Trump’s “base” (and the only demographic he still has a significant lead with in current polling) — stop allowing themselves to be distracted by kulturkampf issues like abortion and guns and Christmas displays on public property, and come to recognize that they have more in common with poor blacks than they do with the likes of the Trump family, maybe then the nation will make some meaningful class and economic progress.

            1. They’ll never do that. ‘We may be white trash but we’re still better than those n…. err, non-white trash!’

              Sometimes I wish I wasn’t so cynical.


      2. “Systemic racism or poverty? Well-to-do blacks get good schools and health care.”

        Not necessarily, at least with healthcare; please see “Invisible Visits: Black Middle-Class Women in the American Healthcare System,” by Tina Sacks. She makes a distinction between African Americans who are ‘culturally black’ and those who aren’t. But it all comes out in the wash.

        Though I haven’t read any books on education that discuss such things, I have seen anecdotal evidence that well-to-do blacks can be and are discriminated against in elite educational settings.

        Should have asked at the beginning of my comment, how to define “well-to-do.” Further, money can be the sole defining factor for “well-to-do” but there’s a lot more to the matter.

  12. I can’t help wondering how many more people will die – and in particular black people – because of Black Lives Matter rallies.

    (Because quarantine-breaching rallies will increase the spread of covid, and blacks are probably more susceptible to dying from covid for all sorts of socio-economic reasons)

    I sympathise with the motives of the protestors, but holding demonstrations right now is as stupid and irresponsible as holding church services, IMO.


    1. True, but, as the saying goes, strike while the iron is hot. They should all wear masks and keep some spacing. The drama of the moment is driving people, but obviously they think the risk is worth it.

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