The Glenn Show — Race and the Virus | Glenn Loury & John McWhorter

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The Glenn Show — Race and the Virus | Glenn Loury & John McWhorter

GLENN LOURY: We are underway John McWhorter, welcome to The Glenn Show JOHN MCWHORTER: Thank you, Glenn GLENN LOURY: I think we’re going to have to call it the Glenn and John Show, man Because a lot of the praise that our efforts here, our humble effort at The Glenn Show, is able to engender is praise for Glenn and John JOHN MCWHORTER: I’ve never understood what the big deal was GLENN LOURY: I love The Glenn Show especially with John McWhorter is what the typical content of that kind would say JOHN MCWHORTER: And you know all we’re doing is the same thing we’ve been doing since 1958 But I’m glad people enjoy it So yeah GLENN LOURY: The black guys at black heads dot TV Maybe that contributes to our cachet Glenn Loury here Brown University Professor of Economics and of International and Public Affairs I should mention that the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs sponsors The Glenn Show John McWhorter of Columbia University Professor of Humanities Linguist extraordinaire And we are here You’re in New York City Again, I repeat because the last time we were on together that’s how I started out But you’re right at ground zero, man Half of the COVID-19 cases as I understand it in the country right there in the New York City JOHN MCWHORTER: Right here Yeah, it’s funny I read those news stories And I think, yeah, I’m right in the middle of that And I must admit it really does make me think about the varying conditions in this area These four neighborhoods are always called very diverse GLENN LOURY: You live in Queens Right? JOHN MCWHORTER: Queens And it’s Jackson Heights, Elmhurst, East Elmhurst, and Corona Those are my stomping grounds That’s where my life is when I’m not at Columbia And the socioeconomic diversity is amazing too But the poor people in this neighborhood are really suffering Not having access, regular access, to health care Living 9 and 10 to a house, and just getting by You can’t avoid people Like it’s easy for me to stay in I’ve got a seven room co-op apartment Imagine staying in One, you don’t want to because it’s cramped And even if you do, you’re all over other people And you have jobs that you can’t quit because you need the money that are service jobs where you have endless contact with other people It’s really serious in this neighborhood The hospital that I would go to if I sprained my ankle or something like that I could practically shout to it and be heard, is clogged with people who are sick and dying Yes, this is real GLENN LOURY: Who are those people? I mean by demography, ethnicity, race, and so on? JOHN MCWHORTER: They are– I’m going to improvise here But they are mostly Latino, South Asian, and some Chinese depending on what they do for a living It’s mostly people of that demographic So it’s not– watch, I’m going to start coughing tomorrow But it’s not me It is not people who listen to NPR It’s mostly people who are living out there in the world and have a much harder time avoiding the plague than somebody like me But it’s very real GLENN LOURY: OK Well, now as everybody listening to the show knows, race has been our beat since we’ve first started coming on Back when Obama was running for the nomination to run for president in the democratic party back in 2008, that’s when you and I started this partnership JOHN MCWHORTER: Yeah GLENN LOURY: And as you must be aware, there’s been a lot of discussion about the racial disparities And especially the high cost to African-American communities of the pandemic What are you thinking about that? JOHN MCWHORTER: Well, you know something? We brought that up And I think that, at least for me and maybe from you, there was an air, oh, there that shit’s going to go again This was a week ago And I want to be clear that I don’t– it’s funny how quick right after we finished all of a sudden the report started coming It’s almost like they heard us And the thing is, it’s true I mean, there is this disparate impact You can say that the death rates, the sickness rates for this virus, are revealing of fault lines in our society of disparities in our society that we’ve heard about for many other reasons in many other ways This is one more way that we can see that America, in many ways, is not fair And I would not pooh pooh anybody for putting that out And so for example, I’m going admit this Once one of the bigger reports like that came out from one of the bigger writers– and I’m not going to specify who they were– but I tweeted GLENN LOURY: We all who they are We all know You got three renames Remember?

That was your innovation The people with three names JOHN MCWHORTER: I’m not going to say who it was But I tweeted something And I don’t do snarky Twitter for the most part I don’t mean to sound sanctimonious I genuinely cannot believe how many especially careful educated people are so mean on Twitter all day long But I tweeted out something like, yep, right on time And then I thought, no What does that mean? And it’s the only tweet I’ve ever deleted They’re ways to go back and find it But I just thought, I don’t want that out there I’m not going to snark about this because yes, this is revealing these disparities And the writer who did this, I’ve got some issues with that person’s general perspective But that snark was wrong And so I pulled it What do you think? GLENN LOURY: OK So I’m going to name names Nicole Hannah Jones had a long almost essay by Twitter that circulated widely in which she was detailing the extent to which African-American communities have been disproportionately hit in offering up accounts about why that might be so People have to take public transportation because they don’t have private vehicles, and so they’re exposed People have jobs that they can’t telecommute to, and so they’re exposed People have pre-existing health conditions that reflect the fact of their poverty and their marginality, and so they’re exposed And so on Charles Blow had a column in The New York Times where he writes regularly in which he recounted the racial disparity in the incidence of the mortality and morbidity induced by COVID-19 Ta-Nehisi Coates has very recently appeared on Chris Hayes show at MSNBC in an extended interview in which he again reiterated at the root of the disparity problem the role of white supremacy in American history as a factor bringing all this about And there must be many, many others whom we haven’t explicitly named I share your sentiment I did not I did not I repeat for a third time I did not snarky publicly criticize any of these people And I’m grateful that I did that I did say when you and I discussed this last time that I thought it would sound a little thin, a little tinny, to play the race card in the midst of this general pandemic Surely, there are many communities like those immigrant communities near you in Queens which may not be African-American but which are also being hit Surely there are many poor white communities in West Virginia, or Kentucky, or wherever it might be I don’t want to be stereotypical Many low income people who happen not to be black, or brown, or yellow are also being hard hit So I had thought that the race dimension of this issue would not be the way that you’d want to lead it in terms of public discourse We’re all in this together, Americans This is a national catastrophe both public health and economic This is a time to pull together We don’t want our president giving nightly briefings in which he goes into partisan rants And we don’t want our journalists and commentators repairing to their particularisms and their identitarian postures when the country is so encumbered I have thought– and I do still embrace the sentiment But I was having a conversation with a conservative African-American good friend of mine recently I don’t want to name who this person is, and the person said something like, the racial grievance industry is about to get out there and grind its ax again And I thought, man, given the scope of the devastation that is befalling these communities, I mean people are dying OK You can read it on the newspaper front page every day In the local news as well as the national media People are dying People are suffering There is a disparity There’s a higher rate of death There’s a higher rate of incidence of the disease There’s greater exposure It depends on class It also depends on race in certain communities given the way that they’re structured in terms of the density of population How people are living I don’t know what a housing project looks like And god help me I don’t know what a public jail looks like I’m going to interview a public health doc who works in prison health in a few days Put it up here at the site because I want an expert to help me understand what’s going on in the jails and prisons of this country with confined people who are susceptible to this thing And there’s no place for them to go So given the scope and the scale of the devastation, the last thing you want to do is go wagging your finger in the face of somebody who calls attention to the disparity Yeah Now I don’t want to call it racism because the virus is not racist There are pre-existing differences in the social positions of people that correlate with race

and that have historical antecedents that are definitely rooted in race To the extent that so, my question would be how is it relevant to what it is we need to do right now to solve the problem? If you tell me as a public health doc that I’m contact tracing, and racial networks are highly segregated And if I see somebody who’s got it, I want to know where they live, who they commiserate with, what’s their family, who’s in their household, and that’s a racial issue, I’m with you If you say I need to collect statistics so that I can be on top of how the virus is actually working and some of those statistics are racial, I will not stand in your way OK If you tell me that I need to buttress the supports that we’re giving to people who are especially vulnerable, I’m for that Although, I would be quick to point out that many of those people, perhaps even most of them, are not black And therefore, the response that we’re considering is not mainly response to the racial condition of people, but to the social and economic condition of people, I’m with you 100% But in the same way that I would say now is not the time for Colin Kaepernick to take a knee– that’s a matter for people I mean now’s not the time for some race card grandstanding Now it’s also not the time for people like ourselves typically given to dismissive critical reactions to those who would make a big deal out of racial disparities to get on some ideological high horse and start wagging our fingers at those people JOHN MCWHORTER: Yeah I think– yeah, it’s– GLENN LOURY: And I’m glad you retracted that tweet, John Because I need you as a partner in the years ahead, man Don’t ruin your reputation JOHN MCWHORTER: It was because we’re stuck at home And I thought I’m going to do what everybody else does And then I just thought, no But this is the thing about it though These disparities are based in considerable are on disparities in society that we had talked about before And I think that we can take from the virus that it is urgent that we do something about those things And yeah, I want to hear what the game plan is And so I’ve always thought– you and I disagree about this But the whole war on drugs I’ve often written that in education, children need to be taught to read more effectively Especially poor kids who don’t have books in their home Talking about the availability of contraception I think a lot of those things would change black America And if this virus helps us talk about proactive strategies like that, then I say that that might be an ironically good thing that could come out of this But what worries me is that– and I just say worries because I don’t have a crystal ball But I feel like the quote unquote people with three names are going to say this shows that America is based on white supremacy, et cetera, et et cetera And let’s say that it does But that alone doesn’t help anybody And so it seems to me that if their end game is to say America is a racist place and always has been It’s deep in the fabric, and this is one more thing that shows that And then you break for a commercial and that’s it, I’m not sure that’s what civil rights is supposed to be It’s supposed to be here’s what we do to make it so that when this happens again, and it will, there are not such disparate rates of deaths And that this is something that we can do to be societally proactive It worries me that the quote unquote person with three names is response to that is to start talking about 1619 The next thing they’re going to say is this will bring us back to what we got interrupted saying during this virus It all goes back to 1619 OK, person with three names Let’s say that that’s true, which frankly, it’s a hopelessly oversimplified view of history Let’s pretend that that’s true Now what? And it just seems to me that we’ve got this whole industry of people who think and write for a living where they think that just pointing that out is as proactive as shepherding into existence a program that actually changes people’s lives And I know they would say, well, I’m doing my part And the people who were on the ground could do their part But a lot of what they’re saying doesn’t even seem to lead to what you would do on the ground This is not like Rustin giving out plans That worries me about that intelligentsia GLENN LOURY: It may be where they start and not where they end They start by calling attention to disparity And let’s give him a month or two before we dismiss that they haven’t got anything useful to say about what to do about it I mean, because I think there’s a lot doesn’t say about what to do about it So for example, schools are closed Now we know that there is an educational achievement gap in terms of testing, and all of that Who’s going to lose the most when schools are closed? The kids who don’t have not only internet connections where they can continue distance learning, but who don’t have resourceful parents who are in a position to be able to supplement whatever the other resources are, and making sure that the kids learn their reading, writing, and arithmetic No disrespect intended to the parents Not every parent is good at that Not every parent has time or inclination to do that Not every parent has the education [INTERPOSING VOICES] GLENN LOURY: So if there is a racial disparity

in the consequences of a school’s shut down, which means that the kids who are going to fall most behind are African-American kids, we could be thinking about what it is that might be done about it What might be done by the public school system, the teachers, and the superintendents And what might be done by the communities If I may, the churches, and the civic organizations, and the volunteers, and all the rest I mean, that seems to me a fertile area for some kind of creative thinking about intervention Another thing I’ll mention is social distancing I don’t know any facts about this And I don’t want to be misunderstood I’m not accusing any community of not practicing social distancing What I’m saying, however, is that social distancing doesn’t come naturally to anybody JOHN MCWHORTER: It’s not human GLENN LOURY: It may be very hard to do if you live in a tenement where they’re close connections up and down the way and whatnot It may be hard to do if you live in a multigenerational household where you’ve got older people and younger people going on May be very hard to do if your job is one of those jobs that you have to get out of your house and go and do it right now Social distancing might be hard Hygienic practices I mean, very basic kind of stuff Washing your hands, et cetera Wearing the mask, et cetera Again, please don’t misunderstand me I am not casting aspersions But I’m looking for opportunities for those who are concerned about the well-being of a particular community, in this case African-Americans, to enter into the productive part of this reaction to the pandemic by m getting the word out, encouraging, public service announcement I mean, athletes and entertainers who have cachet have leverage with people could be saying things that would be very useful to be heard by people in communities that are especially hard hit about how it is that we are going to get through this thing together Now that does not excuse the government from the provision of resources People need health care and access to doctors It does not excuse misinformation coming from anybody who is a public official like the President of the United States who might stand up in a press conference and say something that’s not true I’m not excusing any of that But I’m saying your concerned about racial disparities? OK Having noted the existence of them, let’s now move the conversation to the next step Having demanded that the public pay attention to that? Fine Let’s now talk about exactly what should be done in virtue of the disparity that will be useful here JOHN MCWHORTER: Yeah I don’t think that’s an unreasonable thing to think about And once again, I can imagine somebody saying, no, my job is to be an intellectual and take the large picture And to show how we got here And then there are people on the ground who can come up with programs, et cetera But I think there can be more of an overlap I think– this is coming from my gut I’m just going to say If all you think your job is to say there are racist foundations in this society, and what you really mean by that is therefore we need to have reparational payments paid to black We’ve talked about that Seems to be a lot of what the code there is Is that it? I mean, it just seems to me if you’ve got a journalism degree, or you’ve got a PhD, you’re working for a major media organ, is that it the year, after year, after year, you just say racism is structural Racism is structural Racism structural That’s all? And maybe because I’m an odd Montessori kid who likes studying weird stuff just for the sake of it– I mean it I’m not saying I have an IQ of 300 But I’m hungry I just like to grab around, I look at that and that That looney tune And that president’s wife And learn that language for no reason But that feel Maybe I expect too much of people I’m talking about now who are brilliant in themselves But it’s the same message over and over And it’s maybe a little premature But yeah 1619 cannot be the response to something this urgent Learn about at least one other thing Something about education Something about epidemiology Something where you have something to tell people Like I don’t know where to put this I’m almost done I know from this city– and this is over now Changes every week But talk about say three weeks ago among less educated members of the community, there were many people who had an idea You don’t have to take it from me people Van Jones did a whole video about this, and he was quite right A lot of people like black people in the Bronx, I know this from good authoritative anecdotes from somebody who lives right there, there is an idea that the coronavirus was something that kills old white people I heard that said a million times to myself just around Including by a very famous person

And you say, yeah, OK And it kind of seemed like that for about 10 minutes And so in a lot of those neighborhoods where we had already been told to social distance, it wasn’t happening That changed The message got out But the question becomes how do we avoid something like that happening again? How to get the message out so that there wasn’t a two weeks where you had people playing basketball and bumping up all over each other while the NPR and New York Times people were already avoiding each other and walking around in masks That’s not the way it should’ve been It wasn’t those people’s fault But still how do you fix that? And the response to that is not fucking 1619 And I just hope that our intelligentsia can be more creative than that GLENN LOURY: Yeah You fix it by getting LeBron James to tell people that it’s not true Getting George Soros to give you $10 million so that you can put it on every TV station and radio station that black people listen to JOHN MCWHORTER: Yeah Something GLENN LOURY: But this age thing is not irrelevant because it does kill older people Not just old white people It’ll kill old anybody Including your humble servant here And I ain’t going to let it happen I’m not old I’m just getting better with age That’s all And the point I want to make is, if you look at the age distribution– all you got to do go to Google And type age distribution by race and ethnicity in America And the table will pop up that’ll show you a chart And white people are older than black people Significantly older than black people JOHN MCWHORTER: Interesting way of putting it GLENN LOURY: OK Relative to the proportion of the population Comparing whites to blacks, the number of whites– first of all, black people don’t live as long Shorter life expectancy OK I mean, this is a part of the burden of race in the country It’s certainly a disadvantage to not have a long life And that’s part of the disadvantage of African-Americans labor under In part because of the history of racism et cetera I’m not being flippant about that That’s true But the other side of that is that there are more, relatively speaking, white people in their 70s, in their 80s, and in their 90s And they’re dying from this disease at higher rates than younger people, which means that there is a racial disparity adverse to whites relative to others in terms of the incidence of mortality from the disease That’s as pure a consequence of the age distribution tables I haven’t heard that mentioned anywhere I don’t read the white supremacist press So I don’t know They may be making a point of it If we’re looking at disparities, that’s one we ought to take on board Excuse me JOHN MCWHORTER: You know one that nibbles at me– and here, I’m talking about something where I don’t know what I’m talking about, or I know what I’m talking about very little, is that you talk about how part of the problem is lack of access to health care among black people And that would explain part of this age issue Sometimes with health issues I also think about diet And what we’re told And you see this with a lot of these reports is that there are these food ghettos that black people live in disproportionately where you just can’t get good food You can’t get fresh vegetables So you end up going to the bodega and eating potato chips and pickles And the data on that is really not friendly to that notion, which has now become just a truism The truth is that people culturally have different dietary preferences And there’s no reason why that wouldn’t be true– not of every black person on earth But of a great many black Americans And often, the supermarkets are quite nearby You can buy kale for a little money But there are people who eat in a certain way because that’s the way they grew up eating, and that’s what they like They like that palate I openly admit that that ballot that I’m talking about now, if I could do it and not become unhealthy, I would eat that way every day And I didn’t grow up eating only that way But the chicken, the grease, I love that I don’t want to eat quinoa GLENN LOURY: Did you ever watch the Boondocks cartoon show? JOHN MCWHORTER: I saw most of it Yeah GLENN LOURY: So you know the one about the fried chicken epidemic? The fried chicken flu? JOHN MCWHORTER: Yes I forgot all about that GLENN LOURY: I mean, the thing is as funny as it can possibly be Right? Because people are going to eat the fried chicken no matter what He envisions a world in which for some reason fried chicken is carrying some virus that’s making people sick And he’s got loads of black people lining up outside the fried chicken place trying to get their last order in before they stop serving chicken regardless of the health consequences of it I mean, you could not get away with it if you were not a black TV producer JOHN MCWHORTER: Right And everybody laughs But the laughter is partly because you know it’s partly some fact And so I wonder– I’m afraid that we can’t have an honest conversation where we might say some of these health disparities were due to the fact that we like eating in this way And we might want to be careful GLENN LOURY: So it’s obesity and diabetes JOHN MCWHORTER: And I just want to say

I don’t want to imply that the obesity and the diabetes are only because of these dietary preferences But I suspect they play a role And I remember– GLENN LOURY: Well, here’s what you might do, John Excuse me for interrupting You might look at southerners Because I think a lot of this dietary practices a southern– JOHN MCWHORTER: It’s south GLENN LOURY: Not just a black But a southern thing And you might compare blacks to white southerners who are eating similar– JOHN MCWHORTER: And look at what’s going on in the white south already Yeah Yeah It’s the same The obesity, the diabetes, the smoking And part of it– it’s partly health care But I can’t help thinking isn’t part of this just due to the way one might prefer to eat as a southerner And then you have to have a different conversation than 1619 And I get the feeling a lot of people wouldn’t be open to that conversation GLENN LOURY: OK So now, not just a race thing here A general social policy thing A lot of people are saying that this is proving the need for some kind of universal health care because if we had that the people who are most disadvantaged would be better off They’d have been better off in terms of care before the pandemic hit, and they had more access to resources afterwards Think that’s right? You think it’s going to change the debate about health care policy? JOHN MCWHORTER: Yes, I do And I think that that is really important thing to just say lots of other countries do it That’s not a resonant enough argument And I think that Mr. Sanders was not the most advantageous person to be making the argument He spread the word But there are various things that he had against him as a messenger And frankly, with this, I think if one is interested– and you can see that it’s my leaning I understand the problems with it Then something like this happening is a major argument for making it so that there aren’t these disparities in access to health care, and whether you can afford to be healthy Because if this is going to keep happening– and I think it’s quite clear here this isn’t the last time There’s going to be something else Then obviously the health care system we have is not enough And actually, I would be interested to see to what extent is it access? We need to see that just for general purposes because we would find out the extent to which people really can’t afford to go to the doctor That’s certainly going on in this neighborhood from what I’ve read And so, yeah Yeah, this is important This virus is going to have very interesting repercussions on all sorts of things But don’t you think it’s showing that Or do you think it’s too early to say? GLENN LOURY: Well, I do I mean, it’s worst thing that could happen in a world in which you have millions of people who don’t have insurance that a public health emergency would happen And it exposes their vulnerability And so it must add to the weight of the argument that we need to configure our public policy so that those people are protected It does not make the argument for Medicare for All I mean, that is to say the abrogation of private health insurance completely The cancellation of the good deals that you and I have because we work for Ivy League universities who take very good care of their employees Doesn’t make that argument that the health insurance industry needs to be in effect eliminated But it doesn’t make their argument that people who are vulnerable, and don’t have protection, deserve and require public policy that is moving in the direction of getting them covered So I think it certainly puts a thumb on the scale in that debate if it’s not necessarily the Bernie Sanders position in that debate JOHN MCWHORTER: Glenn, can I ask you a question? If you could blow up the health care system and start again, would you include in the new system you built room for private as well as public insurance? GLENN LOURY: I don’t want to answer definitively because it’s not– and I’m almost embarrassed to say it’s not something that I have thought carefully about My gut answer is, yes JOHN MCWHORTER: How come as an economist? Why? GLENN LOURY: Well, because one size is not going to fit all And I want to allow people who are prepared to devote their resources to it to get better than the standard care if that’s what they want They’re willing to pay for it So for example, you take Medicare That’s a universal program Everybody over age 65 is eligible for it I’m getting Medicare benefits Fine But I can also buy an insurance policy that covers the gaps of Medicare coverage that provides me with additional benefits that Medicare doesn’t provide I’ve got the money to afford to do that If I elect to do that, that’s my business I don’t need the government telling me that I can’t expand the protections if I’m willing to use my own resources to do so Even if the government is making sure that everybody has a basic level of care So I’d say something like that And that inclines me not to want to eliminate private insurance And if I’m not mistaken, I think it’s the case in England with the National Health Service I think it’s the case in Canada Again, if I’m not mistaken, I’m not an expert on this that

While there is universal coverage, there are also options for people who want to be able to top that off with extended coverage JOHN MCWHORTER: And it’s interesting Whenever I do look at the blogging heads comments, I notice there’s some one thing one of us said– it’s usually you And like 65% of the discussion just is all about that one thing A here, you know it’s going to be this And so I want to ask you one other thing Sure You can buy new stuff But would you set it up so that a person, if they wanted to, could have their insurance taken care of through their company– and this probably being a better plan then Medicare alone if they happen to be still working Is that the idea? Forget Medicare The idea would be that there is a public option that everybody can use But then you can also have your insurance taken care of through Brown And it’s a better plan than the general public option Would you build that in? GLENN LOURY: Well, no Not not in the current configuration which gives a tax break to the employer He gets to deduct the cost of providing your medical care from his tax obligation And so it’s a subsidy So the employer is providing me with a wage But he’s also providing me with benefits like contributions to my pension, and vacation time, and all the rest And amongst that is health care provided by the employer I pay But I’m paying well below market So that’s part of my compensation But it’s a part of the compensation that goes untaxed I mean, the employer gets to credit the costs But I don’t have to pay taxes on the benefit So it’s a distortion in the relative valuation of the different ways in which the employer might try to provide me compensation And that I would not mind seeing eliminated But if in negotiating with my employer, I would say, look, here’s how I’d like to be paid I’d like you to give me this much wages But I’d also like you to give me this many days of vacation time And I’d like to for you to do something for my skill enhancement If I take a course, I want you to help to subsidize the cost of that And we’re negotiating about what the thing is And if I include health care in that negotiation package between me and the employer, I would say fine I wouldn’t prevent the employer from doing that Or more pointedly, I would not prevent a union and an employer from agreeing as a part of their collective bargaining arrangement that health care benefits would be provided by the employer to the union But the reason we see that in contracts as much as we do is because there is an implicit tax subsidy to the employer mediated provision of this benefit which is something that I wouldn’t object to seeing eliminated JOHN MCWHORTER: OK So these things are not as simple as Finland does it this way, and therefore why shouldn’t we? And that’s all there is There’s more to it than that GLENN LOURY: There’s a lot more to it than that And it’s been worked to death by the whole argument that went on during the Obamacare debates and whatnot And there are people who know 100 times more about it than I do as will be clear already from what I’ve said so far JOHN MCWHORTER: I just wanted to ask you about that because– GLENN LOURY: No problem And I can take the flack JOHN MCWHORTER: I heard music Is that our soundtrack? GLENN LOURY: No That’s somebody at my front door And I don’t feel obliged to answer at the current time Believe me, they’re probably leaving a package from Federal Express, or Amazon Prime, or something like that And they just want me to know that it’s there They will come back Believe me JOHN MCWHORTER: Well, here’s another thing about COVID and race I wonder if the next thing is going to be that the way people are being treated is being affected by race That black people are disproportionately getting lesser treatment for the disease And that that’s part of why there are more deaths It’s one thing to say society has always been driven by inequality And that determines that more black people dying But it seems to me that next is going to be– I’ll say I’m sure that people are looking for it And I wonder if they’ll find it They’ll find that black people are less likely to get the kind of care that would keep them alive And that strikes me as being the next thing And I wonder if that’ll be as easy a case to make Maybe it’ll just be a mic drop But I’m worried that people are going to be in a sick way hoping for it to be that way Wanting to find that And when the data might not actually indicate it We’ll see I don’t know GLENN LOURY: It’s a fair point to raise Nicole Hannah Jones does in fact mention there’s a long literature on health disparities And part of it involves doctors having stereotypes about patients of color JOHN MCWHORTER: Right GLENN LOURY: And not taking their complaints about pain as seriously And I wonder whether access to testing can be shown to be racially differential in that a person with the same symptoms who’s white more frequently

gets referred to a coronavirus test because they’re rationing access to testing The symptoms How bad do the symptoms have to be before you get tested? Does that depend upon your race? I have no knowledge about whether or not that’s so It’s certainly possible that there could be discrimination of that sort And the possibility has been mentioned by a couple of commentators already JOHN MCWHORTER: Yeah Because there, you could say that there’s something racist about that which is going on right now And I would be interested to know if there is But I hope people are rigorous And don’t go hoping to find something out of a sense that your job is to be a Cassandra about race Because I think that in these times of us have other good jobs There are a lot of things to be looked at And so, yeah I’m open to it if it turns out to be that way But I hope it isn’t I hope people don’t do creative massaging of the data where it gets to the point where a reasonable person might see it in a different way But most reasonable people are afraid to say so because they’re going to get called dirty names on Twitter That’s the sort of thing that I hope we don’t– GLENN LOURY: That’s what peer review is supposed to protect us from in the academic literature anyway I mean, you can’t stop what’s printed in The New York Times But you can stop what’s printed in the Journal of the American Medical Association JOHN MCWHORTER: I hope Yeah GLENN LOURY: Anyway, John What do you say we call it a conversation? Do you have something else you want to put on the table here? JOHN MCWHORTER: Not today because I feel like we’re on the brink of something The rates of death– I can’t believe we’re having this conversation The rates of death are going down in New York I get the feeling we’re entering a new phase Not to use that tunnel analysis GLENN LOURY: You mean those who died yesterday fewer than those who died the day before yesterday kind of thing? JOHN MCWHORTER: Beginning to go down GLENN LOURY: I sure hope JOHN MCWHORTER: Is it that? Or is it hospitalizations? I think it’s hospitalizations But still it’s a sign that something– GLENN LOURY: Maybe turning a corner? JOHN MCWHORTER: Yeah And I’d like to see what happens after that But yeah I think I’m going to go make a ham sandwich for now GLENN LOURY: It’s lunchtime Sounds good JOHN MCWHORTER: Yeah GLENN LOURY: So thanks for coming show JOHN MCWHORTER: Let’s do it in another week or two because don’t have anywhere to go GLENN LOURY: That’s true Maybe we can talk about something other than COVID-19 Who knows? JOHN MCWHORTER: That would be welcome GLENN LOURY: Yeah You’re teaching your classes I assume I know I am JOHN MCWHORTER: I’m sending them as podcasts to my students I loathe teaching on Zoom Loathe it And I just told the students, no, you’re just going to listen to me I do podcasts as part of my living anyway So you’re actually doing live classes? GLENN LOURY: No, I’m not doing live classes because people are scattered It’s hard to get it synchronous And we were advised by our administration to try to avoid that I’m putting up video lectures up on the website They can look at them at their leisure JOHN MCWHORTER: Did Brown hold you to do that? Brown told you to do that? They said that– GLENN LOURY: No they advised They advised JOHN MCWHORTER: But they advised GLENN LOURY: They advised to not have synchronous class meetings because given the scatter of people, it might be hard for everybody to convene at the same time JOHN MCWHORTER: The rumor is, and it’s just a rumor, that the ivies and then maybe about 20 other schools are encouraging actual live classes And that most other universities are saying what you just said, which is that people are all over the country, all over the world, you’re not going to bring people in at one time And I prefer that I like what Brown– Brown’s an Ivy But apparently Brown is different Columbia actually has a vision of us doing our classes live And I just said, no I’m not It’s just too many people can’t come It’s a very sterile atmosphere where I find it very hard to get myself across And I think it just put a lecture up that anybody can listen to at any time GLENN LOURY: If it’s a seminar and you’ve got 12 young people, that’s one thing If it’s 80 in a lecture class like what I’m teaching doing it in synchronous way where everybody is joining the meeting at 11:00 AM, it’s kind of hard to do And you can’t really have any discussion but by that means It’s very, very difficult So I’ve abandoned that But if I were teaching a 10, 12, 15 member class, and they were all in the continental United States, I might make at 2 o’clock in the afternoon east coast, 11 o’clock in the morning west coast And try to pull it off Because the discussion The interaction amongst the students is very important for that kind of class JOHN MCWHORTER: You’re better than me actually because I do have a seminar like that And I have given them very carefully crafted lectures And I’ve said we can have discussions on the site But I can’t imagine doing what I do to foster discussion when I don’t have them with me in the room And I think a lot of people say, well, it’s not quite as good, but it’s a good substitute And I just I’m chilled at the thought of fostering a discussion among a bunch of Hollywood squares I just can’t see that working And so, I guess, I have not been doing my job as the professor But I’ve been sending them just me And I figure you talk among yourselves And we’ll see I’m having it live when they do they’re in class presentations

But not when it’s going to be discussion So yeah GLENN LOURY: Yeah Well, OK We’ll see you next time, John Thanks for giving us some of your time JOHN MCWHORTER: Have a good one