Why Anti-Racism and Feminism Aren’t as Popular as They Should Be

Our society has serious issues with race and gender. In the United States, there is a huge race gap in median family wealth:

The gender pay gap isn’t as bad as it used to be, but there’s still work to be done:

To varying degrees similar gaps persist in most other rich countries. There are also all sorts of additional non-economic disparities as a result of race and gender norms. People associate different behaviors and attitudes with different races and genders, often unintentionally as a result of internalized norms and learned habits. These race and gender norms and expectations box people in and limit their individuality. These norms are forms of arbitrary and unjust prejudice and stereotyping. These things seem obviously oppressive and objectionable in principle. Yet when we survey people about their attitudes toward the political movements that exist to oppose these systems of oppression, we find a remarkable amount of hostility. During the Ferguson protests, 53% of American adults believed that most of the protesters were just criminals taking advantage of the situation while only 31% believed the protests resulted from legitimate outrage over the conditions there. When asked to choose between “Black Lives Matter” and the counter-slogan “All Lives Matter”, Americans go with the latter by an 11% to 78% margin. Only 27% of Americans think new laws are needed to address racial discrimination:

Only 20% of Americans consider themselves feminists (including 23% of women and 16% of men). Despite this, 82% say that men and women should be “social, political, and economic equals”. Given that this is the goal of the feminist movement, this cognitive dissonance is troubling. Why are so many people who agree in principle with the goals of the anti-racism and feminist movements declining to support these movements? I have a theory.

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