The New York Times has a regular “bloggingheads” feature on their website, wherein two people who might otherwise be referred to as “talking heads” are invited to perform a dialogue with each other for the benefit of Times’ readers/viewers through the automagical quality of the web. While I enjoy the multimedia techno-wizadry of it all and applaud the NYTimes for leading the way with this innovative use of technology (with great audio/video quality – how do they do that?!), the substance of these conversations suffers from the same sort of watered down, mainstream analysis that inflects the rest of the NYTimes’ franchise. Further evidence of this anemic analytical framework comes from the two “bloggingheads” featured in today’s installment, John McWhorter (of the Manhattan Institute) and Glenn Loury (of Brown University) which runs about six minutes:
It’s stunning here to listen to McWhorter set the terms of this “debate” as Loury goes along with this “birds of a feather” defense of white racism. The whole discussion here, like McWhorter’s other work, is anemic for its lack of recognition of systemic racial inequality and offensive for the way it serves as an apologia for white racism. Loury should know better, but the NYTimes loves a black conservative, so it’s not surprising really that Loury leans into embrace that limelight.
The central flaw in this dialogue between McWhorter and Loury, which is really more of a monologue by McWhorter, is the slippage in the analysis between race and racism, that McWhorter takes great pains to point out. Kai offers an excellent analysis of how the NYTimes’ frame of “race” rather than “racism” is thoroughly impoversished in this post at Rebelology. Once he makes that distinction, it’s a short analytical hop, skip and a jump to the flawed logic of “symmetry” – if blacks can “flock together” (to use McWhorter’s metaphor) and that’s a positive cultural thing, then why can’t whites “flock together”? The thing is, racism isn’t symmetrical and neither is race. Race and racism are asymmetrical because there’s a power differential wherein whites have more power. The fact that the NYTimes orchestrates this “dialogue” between two black conservatives and frames it with their question “Is Racism Over?” is really more an act of racial ventriloquism than a meaningful dialogue on race, and it completely subverts any critical analysis of racism.