The Prospect of Antiracism
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The Prospect of Antiracism


Abstract Racial reckoning in response to racial injustice has compelled individuals, organizations, and institutions to acknowledge and adopt policies that actively challenge racial injustice. A central tenet of this era of reckoning is that it is no longer acceptable to ignore racist behaviors and expressions. To the extent that active opposition to racial prejudice is an effective strategy for individuals to pursue, we examine individual inclinations to act on matters of racial prejudice. We argue that in spite of best intentions, the motivation to act against racism, what we call “antiracism action orientation,” can be disrupted by system-justifying beliefs that raise questions about deservingness, legitimize the status quo, and therefore defend inaction. Survey data from the 2020 Congressional Election Study show that antiracism action orientation is strongest among African Americans, and those with more positive affect toward racial-ethnic minorities, and supporters of change. Among Whites, racial resentment dominates the motivations for antiracism to the point that typical political allies like Democrats, liberals, and those who acknowledge White privilege reduce their antiracism action orientation to lower levels than Republicans, conservatives, and deniers of White privilege. We conclude that most Americans, but especially Whites, have a high bar for change, making racism an ongoing American dilemma because of both racial attitudes and the costs of change.

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