August 23, 2019
University of Pennsylvania professor Amy Wax gave an interview to the New Yorker for a new article, published Friday, in which she responded to the backlash she received last month for saying the United States would be "better off with more whites and fewer nonwhites" during a conference on conservatism in Washington, D.C..
Wax, and interviewer Isaac Chotiner, discussed a number of other topics at length, many of which concerned Wax's views on race and racism – "I don’t think every generalization on the basis of race is racist," Wax said – culture, and the particular construction of societies.
At one heated point, Chotiner questioned Wax about President Donald Trump's history of racist statements, while Wax attempted to downplay the word "racist" as a "promiscuous term." Wax then concluded that progressives' desire to determine whether or not the President of the United States is racist is unnecessary:
"We can’t have that discussion if you just go off on this ridiculous heresy hunt: “Is (Trump) a racist? Isn’t he a racist? Is that racist? Is this racist?” That’s really, as far as I can tell, eighty-five per cent of what the discussion now is about on the progressive left. It is so pointless, and it’s so shallow. O.K.?"
Wax repeatedly bristled at the word "racist" throughout the interview, and at one point turned the questioning back on Chotiner. She seemed to assert that, if something is true, it can't be racist:
"Whether or not something is 'racist' — I put it in heavy quotes, because I think it is a protean term, it is a promiscuous term, it is a term that’s trotted out as a mindless bludgeon, whatever. The question is, is it true? And, in fact, it’s emblematic of sliding toward Third Worldism that we now have this dominant idea that to notice a reality that might be quote-unquote 'racist' is impermissible. It can’t be true."
Wax also said she believes colonialism as an explanation for disparities between cultures is a "nonstarter" because, she said, colonialism happened relatively late in human history. Wax instead pointed to what she sees as widely-held cultural practices as a primary factor:
"One thing that’s quite striking is there is essentially no science being done in a place like Malaysia. No science, no technology coming out. I consider that very closely related to the lack of commitment to empiricism, the lack of a cultural practice of attention to evidence, rigor, analysis, facts. They all work together, so I think that when we say colonialism, do they mean that if it weren’t for colonialism, Malaysia would be Denmark? Does anybody really believe that, honestly and truly? I think it’s a nonstarter."
You can read the full Q&A, titled "A Penn Law professor wants to make America white again," at this link.
Last month, Penn Law Dean Ted Ruger called Wax's comments at the convention bigoted at best, and at worst racist.
Penn told PhillyVoice last month that Wax is taking a planned sabbatical during the 2019-20 academic year.