Podcast host Joe Rogan once again courted controversy this week when he questioned the racial identity of a prominent African-American professor, saying it was “very strange” that anyone would call themselves Black unless they’re from the “darkest place” of Africa.
During Tuesday’s broadcast of the immensely popular “The Joe Rogan Experience,” Rogan brought on clinical psychologist and cultural commentator Jordan Peterson, a fellow charter member of the so-called Intellectual Dark Web. While the conversation went through many hilariously weird turns—such as Peterson’s confident claim that there is no such thing as climate—it was the pair’s discussion on race that really raised eyebrows.
At one point in the interview, first flagged by Media Matters, Rogan noted that Peterson has become an extremely polarizing figure in recent years. After pointing out that many on the left have accused Peterson of intolerance, bigotry, and hatefulness, the podcaster then recalled an exchange between Peterson and liberal academic Michael Eric Dyson.
“What did Michael Eric Dyson call you? A mean, angry white man?!” Rogan wondered aloud, referencing a 2018 debate that featured Dyson jokingly calling Peterson a “mean, mad white man” for “whining” about how repressed he was despite his personal success.
“Hilarious. You’re not mean at all,” Rogan continued. “That’s what’s dumb about that statement. You’re not mean at all.”
Peterson, for his part, took issue with Dyson highlighting his race, insisting “that’s a lie” to call him white.
“I am kind of tan,” he declared. “And he was actually not Black, he was sort of brown.”
From there, Rogan and Peterson went back and forth over their own relative lack of whiteness—all while asserting that the African-American Dyson isn’t Black because his skin color isn’t dark enough.
“If you’re tan then what the fuck am I? Because I’m darker than you. That’s ridiculous,” Rogan exclaimed.
“Neither of us are white,” Peterson replied, adding, “And he was brown, not Black.”
Rogan, meanwhile, took their argument on skin color and racial identity to its inevitable conclusion.
“Well, isn’t that weird,” he stated. “The Black and white thing is so strange because the shades are such a spectrum of shades of people. Unless you are talking to someone who is, like, 100 percent African from the darkest place where they are not wearing any clothes all day and they have developed all of that melanin to protect themselves from the sun, even the term Black is weird.”
Rogan concluded, “When you use it for people who are literally my color, it becomes very strange.”
Reacting to the remarks made by Rogan and Peterson, Dyson told The Daily Beast that while both men were “too funny,” he took them “seriously because they have an influential perch on the culture.” Furthermore, he said he would relish the chance to go on Rogan's program to discuss race.
“Clearly they haven’t kept up with discussion about how race isn’t just about skin tone or color, but about a host of meanings determined in the social world,” he added. "Blackness is not about shade, but about the shade provided by traditions of Black thought, culture, and resistance. But in a way, Blackness is about throwing certain kinds of shade, and I’d love to go on Rogan’s podcast to share my thoughts and chop it up.”
Dyson concluded, “I’m afraid he may be too afraid to engage me directly. Better to talk behind my ear than to my face. But let’s see. We would have a blast of a time!”
Spotify, which streams Rogan’s podcast, did not respond to an immediate request for comment on Rogan’s comments.
Rogan has found himself the center of controversy for months, largely over his willingness to give airtime to misinformation and fringe theories about COVID-19 and vaccines. Earlier this month, hundreds of doctors demanded that Spotify implement a misinformation policy after Rogan hosted a notorious anti-vaccine virologist who bizarrely claimed that “mass formation psychosis” is behind vaccinations.
Legendary rocker Neil Young has since asked his team to pull his music from Spotify in response to the “fake information about vaccines” that Rogan’s been peddling on his show. “It’s something that’s really important to Neil,” Young’s manager Frank Gironda told The Daily Beast. “He’s very upset about this disinformation.”