Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Glenn Loury to John McWhorter: "I hated your guts, John!"

Loury just said that to McWhorter on Bloggingheads — but only in the past tense.

Loury explains why he had such an averse reaction to McWhorter's writings at first. He gradually came to "like" McWhorter, partly because McWhorter gave up his tenure at Berkeley:

Loury describes what it's like to work in academia:

This encrustation. You get stale; you get hidebound; you get obsessively, narrowly, inwardly focused on . . . the 300 people around the world who read the journals that you publish your articles in and do the specialized thing that you do. You get, maybe, soft.
And Loury says that's exactly what McWhorter is not like.

But McWhorter says:
You and I had . . . kind of a chill.
Loury responds sarcastically:
Oh, really? You think so?!
And this gets to the substance of how Loury's view of McWhorter has changed. Just to give you a taste, Loury says (talking about McWhorter's excellent book Losing the Race):
I was in my "changing over to liberal" phase, and you were . . . a suitable object of villification for a person trying to redefine themselves as a liberal. . . . I would have said: "OK, I know what he's talking about . . . . I know that he's not making these stories up . . . . But you can't go out into public, being a black professor, and talk like that about your students. There's something deeply disloyal . . . I give those speeches to my students all the time. But to write it down in a book and let white people read it, John?!"
That's from this clip, where Loury recounts several of their disagreements:

Then McWhorter asks (this is still in the above clip):
What's changed . . . ? I am still in some ways as woefully ignorant as I was when I was a callow 35. So, what's different now?
I like Loury's response, which explains why you can have affection for someone partly based on your discussion of issues, even while strongly disagreeing on those same issues:
I still think . . . you're wrong in your conclusions about welfare. Which is not to say that welfare was the greatest thing for black people, but I don't think the case that you make has been proven by the evidence that you give. [Loury is referring to McWhorter's Winning the Race here.] . . . So, you and I are going to have to agree to disagree about that. What has changed is that there's a person. This is not just about a portfolio of positions, which I either agree or disagree with, and if the index of disagreement is above .7, then I hate. This is about people. Life is interesting. People change. There's a lot of stuff that's going on. You can be educated [by me], or you can educate me. I like you. I like the spirit. I like the guy.
They had already stated their feelings even more strongly, in this diavlog from November 2008:

(That's from this old post of mine, which has the full context of that clip in case you're interested.)