Quillette’s most popular article of 2021: A piece by Glenn Loury

December 27, 2021 • 1:00 pm

Quillette sent out an email listing the ten most popular articles of 2021, with ranking judged by page views.  This article, which made #1, which featured in a post I made in February. If you’ve read it, it bears reading again. Or perhaps you missed it. At any rate, it’s by Glenn Loury, a Professor of Economics at Brown University and a black man who can risk writing such an article without being called a racist. But that didn’t stop him from being called an “Uncle Tom”, an “Oreo” (brown on the outside, white on the inside), or “white adjacent.” I think the article is very good in discussing the taboo subjects that must be tackled if we’re to be honest about racial divisiveness and earnest about how to solve it. . My own take is in the first link above.

This a transcript of a talk he gave at Brown University on February 8, and I would have loved to be there to see the audience reaction.  Wait! I just found out, as I should have known, that the lecture is a virtual one, and there’s a YouTube video, which I’ve put below the screenshot. (Click to read, or watch if you want to hear.)

10 thoughts on “Quillette’s most popular article of 2021: A piece by Glenn Loury

  1. Favourite quote from that article:

    “[T]here is a deep irony in first declaring white America to be systemically racist, but then mounting a campaign to demand that whites recognize their own racism and deliver blacks from its consequences…You are, in effect, putting yourself on the mercy of the court, while simultaneously decrying that the court is unrelentingly biased. The logic of such advocacy escapes me.”

  2. Loury is also very rational and very sensible in his discussion of what Coleman Hughes has wisely called the “disparity fallacy” (it has also been analyzed by the late Walter Williams, by Thomas Sowell, and by Wilfred Reilly). One of the many possible reasons accounting for the unwillingness of Kendi and the many other purveyors of BLM/CRT/1619 propaganda to engage in honest debate with intellectuals who have different opinions is that the latter have a far stronger philosophical foundation as well as a firmer grasp of the relevant data.

  3. I would ask Loury what does he see in the Republican party today? I know he did not speak of any of this in his video here but I would be interested on his take – what is the current status of this movement, this anti-democracy going on now. Knowing what they are doing to voting rights in many states, what was the purpose of the insurrection on Jan 6. This absolutely false belief that the current government is taking away their rights and their way of life. Are we headed for civil war? Does he see any hope in avoiding the demise of this country.

  4. A great piece:

    Here, then, is my final unspeakable truth, which I utter now in defiance of “cancel culture”: If we blacks want to walk with dignity—if we want to be truly equal—then we must realize that white people cannot give us equality. We actually have to actually earn equal status. Please don’t cancel me just yet, because I am on the side of black people here. But I feel obliged to report that equality of dignity, equality of standing, equality of honor, of security in one’s position in society, equality of being able to command the respect of others—this is not something that can be simply handed over. Rather, it is something that one has to wrest from a cruel and indifferent world with hard work, with our bare hands, inspired by the example of our enslaved and newly freed ancestors. We have to make ourselves equal. No one can do it for us.

    1. I find this statement horrifying. Loury rejects the statement in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal,” at least by his understanding of equality. He seems to be saying that equality has to be earned, and by his lights Black people have not earned it. Why haven’t Blacks earned it? Does he think that most Blacks, but not certainly not Professor Loury, are to blame for their deserving inequality. Does he think they are lazy and content with handouts from the government and don’t want to try to achieve true equality with the Whites? Loury is blaming the victim. What would he say about the millions of Whites that survive through government largesse? To whom are they inferior? Loury is regurgitating the racist tropes that have been common since the earliest days of slavery in the colonial period.

      1. Sorry, perhaps I pulled out an unrepresentative quote from Loury’s thoughtful piece – in which case apologies to him and to you.

      2. One guesses that Loury’s views come from his own life history as a child of poverty, a community college student with a family and kids to support, a Harvard professor & Reagan economic advisor, then as a crack cocaine addict who was saved by evangelical Christianity, and finally as a second-chance academic at Brown. All accomplished with the love of a good woman. (It all sounds like a country music ballad. IDK whether his dog died or his truck broke down. Probably.) His interview with Bari Weiss on her podcast was fascinating in its details.

        Loury seems to understand his own successes and failures (there were many failures) as mainly consequences of his own choices and actions, not as mainly consequences of “structural racism”. I guess that’s how he sees most other peoples’ successes and failures. Maybe he goes too far in accounting for inequality in those terms.

        Anyway, Loury is just saying that in some ways Black people have not achieved equality of outcomes. This is true. He’s not saying that Black people have unequal rights wrt the Declaration of Independence, and he agrees that in some ways Black people still have unequal opportunities. The word “earn” appears just once in the article, in that last paragraph. It’s not part of his detailed argument. Instead he’s arguing specifically that part of the reason for this inequality of outcomes (not inequality of rights) is shortcomings in the culture, choices, preferences, and parenting among Black people themselves. And he’s also agreeing that part of the reason is historical and ongoing bigotry and discrimination. This doesn’t seem like blaming the victim, or regurgitating racist tropes. His essay seems measured and thoughtful to me. But I agree that one phrase could be easily misunderstood.

        1. I understood ‘earn’ to be the opposite of ‘wait to be given’. It would certainly fit in with some of the other points made – that expecting people who you judge to be wicked to be kind enough to rescue you is not rational.

          Echoes of Jordan Peterson perhaps? Sort yourself out before you try to sort the world out.

      3. He seems to be saying that equality has to be earned, and by his lights Black people have not earned it.

        There’s a big difference between legal equality (which they have) and equality of respect and equality of financial outcome.

        Why haven’t Blacks earned it? Does he think that most Blacks, but not certainly not Professor Loury, are to blame for their deserving inequality. Does he think they are lazy and content with handouts from the government and don’t want to try to achieve true equality with the Whites?

        Yes, he thinks those things. He thinks there is a strand in black culture which sees doing well at school as “acting white”, and that being “authentically black” is to instead rebel against school. And it is a fact that, for example, Asian-American children tend to spend vastly more time on homework than African-American children.

        He also thinks there is a strand in black culture that says that fathers have little responsibility for their children, and that providing for them is the job of the state.

        Loury is blaming the victim.

        Such a rejoinder is a refusal to engage with the above possibilities. And saying that blacks have no agency or responsibility for their situation is not to their advantage. We should at least listen to Professor Loury.

        What would he say about the millions of Whites that survive through government largesse?

        I expect he’d say similar things. Again, he should at least be listened to. Given his history and background, he at least has a valuable perspective.

  5. “white adjacent.”

    This debasement of language strikes me as a modern example of what Orwell outlined in his essay Politics and the English Language.

    The phrase knocks the reader back on their heels with its impressive technical sound, so it never occurs to them that, of course, the “white” is simultaneously adjacent to Glenn Loury.

    Precisely what that is supposed to mean I don’t know.

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