Waking Up With Sam Harris #42 – Racism and Violence in America (with Glenn Loury)

In this episode of the Waking Up podcast, Sam Harris talks to economist Glenn C. Loury about racism, police violence, the Black Lives Matter movement, and related topics.

Glenn C. Loury is the Merton P. Stoltz Professor of the Social Sciences and Professor of Economics at Brown University. He has taught previously at Boston, Harvard and Northwestern Universities, and the University of Michigan. He holds a B.A. in Mathematics (Northwestern University, 1972) and a Ph.D. in Economics (MIT, 1976).

Professor Loury has published mainly in the areas of applied microeconomic theory, game theory, industrial organization, natural resource economics, and the economics of race and inequality. He has been elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the Econometric Society, Member of the American Philosophical Society, Vice President of the American Economics Association, and President of the Eastern Economics Association. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Carnegie Scholarship to support his work.

As a prominent social critic and public intellectual, writing mainly on the themes of racial inequality and social policy, Professor Loury has published over 200 essays and reviews in journals of public affairs in the U.S. and abroad. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, is a contributing editor at The Boston Review, and was for many years a contributing editor at The New Republic. Professor Loury’s books include One by One, From the Inside Out: Essays and Reviews on Race and Responsibility in America (The Free Press, 1995 – winner of the American Book Award and the Christianity Today Book Award); The Anatomy of Racial Inequality (Harvard University Press, 2002); Ethnicity, Social Mobility and Public Policy: Comparing the US and the UK (ed., Cambridge University Press, 2005); and, Race, Incarceration and American Values (M.I.T. Press, 2008).

Glenn Loury hosts The Glenn Show on Bloggingheads.tv, and he can be reached on Twitter at @GlennLoury.

Books and articles discussed in this podcast:

Ta-Nehisi Coates. “The Case for Reparations.” The Atlantic. June, 2014.

Thomas Chatterton Williams. “Loaded Dice.” The London Review of Books. December, 2015.

Benjamin Wallace-Wells. “The Hard Truths of Ta-Nehisi Coates.” New York Magazine. July, 2015.

Jill Leovy. Ghettoside. Spiegel & Grau. 2015.

Roland G. Fryer, Jr. “An Empirical Analysis of Racial Differences in Police Use of Force.” National Bureau of Economic Research working paper. July, 2016.

Glenn C. Loury. “Ferguson Won’t Change Anything. What Will?” The Boston Review. January, 2015.

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  • The Casual Observer

    "presumed racial identity" wtf is this guy talking about? I don't even think he knows himself.
    That definition of racism was fucking painful to listen to lol

  • The Casual Observer

    12% of blacks in U:S
    6% male
    lets say 5% because many die early compared to women.
    out of 5% about 50% must be 16-35 the age range for murder
    2.5 % out of how many will commit murder? say 15%
    so about 0.5% of all the blacks commit 60% of the nations murders.

    Therefore the very premiss that "blacks" are doing all the killing doesn't stand up. it;s like Saying jews were killed by whites. Well technically true, it was a hardcore group of whites that had nothing to do with the majority of the race itself.

  • The Casual Observer

    An economist who was a Reagan conservative tells me two things about this person straight away.
    1) He is a salesman of figures and close to being nothing more than a con artists.
    2) He has reactionary and ideological stupid political beliefs.

    Don't hold much hope for this podacst.

  • BigDaddy RedDog

    When will you talk to Larry Elder?

  • harrissimo

    You say that you wanted to do this video for awhile but I thought you said that free will is an illusion?

  • Soma Coma

    Sam Harris for President. Amazing discussion as always.

  • Henry G

    Pretty much blaming the white devils, Got it.

  • machinegunface

    "looks like Ben Stiller" lol

  • Alptraum

    Sam Harris is an amazing person.
    Much respect-

  • Erin Magner

    Sam Harris is a defender of reason, and as such he would dismantle anyone's claim on this thread, short of their being a fan of his, that counters Loury's definition of racism, or promotes the idea that one race is superior to others. For anyone to be surprised that he does not come out as white supremacist might need to have their own podcast with Sam Harris where he challenges your logic. The essential problem of the topic of Black Lives Matter for Sam Harris, as he states it, is that there is no rational discussion about the issues as he sees them. To assume he's white supremacist only furthers the divide on this discussion and subverts his goals with addressing this issue on this podcast.

    I really enjoy Loury's dissection of the "black best friend" issue, and the description of the new subtle racism where you could vote for Barack Obama to be the POTUS and still be racist by using statistics in a way that implies black people are more violent than other races. Or perhaps even worse, think you are not racist because you are nice to people of other races, but you willingly support racist people and racist policies. Although I am white, female, and of christian heritage, my grandmother spent time in Nazi Germany as a Polish prisoner, separated from her family, and I do feel I understand how often "I'm not racist" can be a lie a person tells to themselves, even if they don't understand how they could be racist if they have positive feelings towards other races.

    Also, from this background, I understand how it is important to defend cultural values despite racial differences, and that viewing everything through the lens of race is both wrong from the supremacist view and from the minority/oppressed viewpoint. I appreciate Loury's point about how while structural and institutional discrimination might exist, it does not serve well as a platform by which a people should define themselves to defy the odds in solidarity. I often think that black culture has many heroes and icons with positive values from which to pull, and I see a lot of hard work and good values in many people I encounter that are defined by what is good in Black American history. The Jewish people are a prime example of using a negative history to excel in society despite oppression, rather than excuse bad behavior on the bad behavior of others.

    I suppose as an outsider, a white woman, I feel to be critical of another group, Black Americans, as Loury is with rejecting systemic injustice, is somewhat wrong. After all, to make a positive image for one's own group by thinking critically about how oppression shaped your culture, as the Jews do, is not the same as an outsider criticizing a Jew for giving the impression they were the only group that suffered during the Holocaust. I think any critical thinking I do about the subject would be beneficial only in the sense that I think about humanity as a whole, and not anything specifically targeted at Jews as a group, because I am not Jewish.

    You can call this being an apologist or what you will, but I think it's important that white people, as Sam did in the beginning by "checking his privilege", to acknowledge that at no time in history did White Americans have to fear being murdered for little to no reason, and without the ability to seek justice for their killers. I think Loury begins to touch on this at the very end with the discussion about narrative, and how these stories and anecdotes have a life of their own that has its own truth. Thousands of people don't begin protesting unless they can relate to that narrative, and this is an important statistic that seems to be ignored. It does seem to be the narrative that troubles people like Sam Harris more than anything; it doesn't reflect the facts as they see them. But the narrative I see trying to be created, especially with Michael Brown, is that a young man, with a bright future, who is his parents last child, and that child is taken from them by the justice system that claims to protect them. Meanwhile, the same white child that maybe dresses and behaves with anti-authoritarian cues of white culture, breaks the same or similar laws, acts more rudely, not only doesn't die, but doesn't go to prison, escaping the vicious circle of violence in which black americans get caught and for which they are expressly blamed. I cannot, as an outsider, put the blame on black americans for what is an obvious fact that no one will dispute, which is that blacks are dying at rates far higher than whites, and that this is a problem that we cannot ascribe to black people themselves. I suppose I feel that is up to black people to decide, for they are the ones who will benefit from their choices, or to accept responsibility not only for themselves, but for their community.

    I do take issue more often with situations say where Kanye West asks Mark Zuckerberg to "donate" $50 million to his fashion line instead of "using the money to build a school in africa". When role models in the black community look to white people to be the provider for them, especially when so blatantly an extremely rich and successful black person feels he can express "need" in comparison to children in africa as the appropriate way to secure funds for ideas and ventures, I find that problematic. I find it more of an attack on me personally as a white person than I find Black Lives Matter to be an attack on white people. Although surprisingly I haven't met any black supporters of Black Lives Matter, I suppose I'm more apt to defend Black Lives Matter to a white person quoting statistics that imply black people are violent, than to a black person who would attack me and say I was racist without provocation.

  • Elisha Powers

    'You think you're not racist because you oppose affirmative action, but in fact, you are.' Welcome America, come one, come all! Enter the Orwellian House of Fantasies where the new racism is defined as speaking out against programs that specifically benefit based on skin color. Enter and enter quick, because in this fantasy land the said recipients of such skin color based benefits will criticize, mock and insult you should you dare utter a word in opposition!

  • Daniel Luna

    Sam only considers it an "honest conversation" if the person holds agreeable views with him. So I guess Sam believes his world view is the most objective and "honest"

  • Helen Rowlett-Barbu

    Also black on black violence does not have to do with poverty or living in a shitty neighborhood. I live in Romania with much higher poverty than anywhere in the US and there is still a lower murder rate than the US. It is culture. There is no other explanation.

  • Joseph Shinn

    I am upset. The concept of white privilege is upsetting. Sociology is upsetting because it talks about "groups of people" and to demonstrate racism or discrimination it uses individual cases. It assumes too much. I absolutely hate the fact that Sam Harris had to "check" his privilege. Can a person not be empathetic and not imagine the situation another human being is in?? What is crazy is that everyone person has had some experience in their lives where they felt bullied and attacked. EVERYONE. Every human being experiences life. How can you quantify emotions of individuals? Sociology comes off to me as subjective and very limited in real or accurate usage in reality.

    I do like how Sam used the statistics. for any one that is not a sociologist, it is a good idea to have a pragmatic understanding of the statistics as to not fall into sensationalism of Black Lives Matter.

  • zhenfu

    I would say the first thing is to stop using the word racist. Meaning that there is more than one race of people, called the human race. I truly think it starts there for people way of thinking. But overall what a great podcast

  • LordClydeofOMAR

    This is how you have a conversation about racism.

  • mrkrabappleson

    Sam Harris believes in "white privilege"????!!!

    The phrase "white privilege" is just an evil racist tactic used to demonize anyone with white skin from the outset of the conversation. That's not moral, it's not fair, it's not accurate and it IS racist!

    The only times I see Sam being less than logical is when he occasionally devolves into liberal talking points instead of being fair minded and accurate.

    Proof that none of us is perfect.

  • Purefind Elfland

    Sam should be naked waist down. He's so boring.