My guest today is Dr. Jonathan Metzl. Jonathan is a psychiatrist and author and a professor of sociology at Vanderbilt University. He's written several books including "The Protest Psychosis", "Prozac on the Couch", "Against Health" and the topic of today's conversation, "Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America's Heartland", which received the Robert F. Kennedy award for nonfiction.
In "Dying of Whiteness", Jonathan argues that GOP policies like cutting education funds, cutting taxes, opposing Obamacare, and opposing gun control are hurting the life expectancy of America's white population. In other words, hurting the very people who support these policies most. He also argues that support for these policies policies stems from racial resentment, a feeling of resentment towards minorities among white people. As you'll hear in the discussion, I don't agree that whiteness and racial resentment are the best explanations for why the median Republican supports these policies. I also think that concepts like "whiteness", and "blackness" are toxic. I think people understandably hear these words as attacks on their racial identities, which they can't control. Therefore, I think we should just rid the discourse of these words. Jonathan obviously disagrees and we talk about that in the episode.
That said, there are some smaller claims I agreed with Jonathan like the fact that the easy availability of guns in this country has made suicide easier for people, especially for the very population that opposes gun control laws. Some of his other claims about the effect of cutting school budgets on life expectancy, I found to be poorly supported. You'll hear me press him on that towards the middle of the episode. In general, I found that there was some distance between the tone of his book and the positions he was willing to defend in the room. I don't know exactly how to handle situations like that, as an interviewer. Do I just talk to the person I'm meeting in the room? Or do I hold people accountable to the precise claims that they made in the book? I don't really know. Anyway, I'm grateful to Jonathan for coming on the podcast and I hope you all enjoy the conversation as much as I did.
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