In the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, protests have erupted around the country, calling attention to racial disparities in the way that black people are treated by the criminal justice system and by American society more generally.
Brown University’s Glenn Loury has emerged as one of the most vocal and outspoken critics of Black Lives Matter and other groups arguing that systemic racism is at the center of the African American experience in the United States today. Loury worries that our institutions are failing “to affirm the primacy of reason over violence in calibrating our reactions to the supposed ‘oppression,'” as he wrote in response to an open letter from his school’s administrators that highlighted “anger” at what they called an “ongoing epidemic of racism.”
The 72-year-old professor—the first African American to be granted tenure in Harvard’s economics department back in the 1970s—talked with Reason via Zoom about how the U.S. has changed for the better over his lifetime, why understanding history is vital to social change, and whether rational discourse has any purchase in social and political debates.
Edited by John Osterhoudt.
Photo credit: Loury at Harvard, Associated Press