Profile picture
Noah Smith @Noahpinion
, 24 tweets, 6 min read Read on Twitter
1/I want to riff on this thread by SJW champion Jeffrey Sachs.

Basically, Sachs' thread shows a number of polls indicating rising American support for racial equality, gender equality, immigration, etc.
2/I have said repeatedly that despite some obnoxious tactics, the Social Justice movement represents the best hope for American society.

And I still think that.

3/There are several basic reasons for that.

Reason 1: American has grown more diverse, and we can't survive with a mostly white elite.

Our society has massively benefited from an influx of talented Asians, Middle Easterners, Africans and Hispanics in recent decades...
4/...But the elite was slow to change. Because of the power of interpersonal networks (good ol' boys), the people in charge of government, companies, academic departments, Hollywood, etc. were mostly white, even as the young talent was less and less white.
5/Because people in charge tend to hire and promote and do business with people who are like them, the old white male elite kept hiring, promoting, and doing business with young white men.

The system got less and less fair.

By the early 2010s it was impossible not to notice.
6/Something needed to change; the elite needed to be disrupted.

But because we didn't have a big war or other external shock (and we even avoided a second Great Depression), there was nothing to disrupt the increasingly unfair distribution of power and privilege in America.
7/The Social Justice movement provides a needed disruption. It will result in the booting of some percentage of white men from positions of power, so that the future distribution of power will be closer to the distribution of talent in America.
8/Of course, that leaves the question of *which* old white men will be booted. Will it be the jerks, or will good people get the axe?

I think that overall it will be the jerks.
9/The #MeToo movement means that a lot of men who are jerks to women (though obviously not close to all) will get the boot.

And the rise of Trumpism means that powerful jerks are increasingly sorting into that movement. When it gets the boot, many of those jerks will too.
10/The second reason the SJW movement is important is that America had been seriously lagging on improving Black Americans' situation for several decades.…
11/While the majority of America - not just White America, but an increasingly diverse America - saw life get better and better in the 90s and 00s, much of Black America remained trapped in poverty, harassed constantly by police and courts who treated Black people as a menace.
12/That's not to say life for Black Americans hasn't improved at all over the past few decades. Some things have gotten better:…

But the rate of improvement was far too slow, and economic gaps persisted.
13/Just like in the 50s and early 60s, a period of economic growth and social progress - roughly, 1985-2008 - had left behind much of Black America. A glaring disparity like that can't be tolerated in a democratic society.

So the Social Justice movement emerged to fight it.
14/Finally, there's the gender issue.

Thanks to the rise of the service economy, manual labor declined and women's economic value rose. Women entered the workforce en masse in the 70s and 80s, and by the 90s working women were the norm...
15/But this also exposed two problems. One being the glass ceiling, which I already talked about in the context of race.

The second was sexual harassment, which remained pervasive despite some progress.
16/So the #MeToo movement arose to combat sexual harassment, taking advantage of the new technology of social media, and making alliances with the other parts of the Social Justice movement. It was a perfect - and in my view, much-needed - confluence of factors.
17/In sum, America NEEDED a Social Justice movement. We had been needing one for years, but maybe we got distracted by the Iraq War and the Great Recession...or maybe the technology (social media) just wasn't in place til the 2010s.
18/America NEEDED some kind of shock, some big disruption, to shake up the outdated distribution of power and privilege in society, and to address problems that had long been neglected.

Whatever you think of its particular tactics, the Social Justice movement is this shock.
19/But is @JeffreyASachs right that the movement will win?

In one sense, yes he is right. Social change WILL happen, in most of the ways SJWs want. The distribution of power WILL be more equalized. The elite WILL diversify. Sexual harassment WILL be more heavily discouraged.
20/In fact, though few in today's movement will want to admit it, this is how it went down the last time.

The cultural revolutions of the 60s DID make America a less racist and sexist place than it was in the 50s, despite the backlashes of Nixon and Reagan.
21/The hippies DID win. Black-white income gaps narrowed and black poverty fell a lot. Hiring discrimination decreased markedly. Women entered the workforce en masse. Explicit racism became much more taboo. And America became a more freewheeling, tolerant society.
22/But here's the thing...lots of hippies didn't *feel* like they won. Their hopes and dreams were utopian, but their victories were marginal and incremental. There were many small revolutions, but no Revolution.

And it'll be the same this time around, I predict.
23/The Social Justice movement is America's best hope for a fairer, better society. And despite backlashes and overreaches, it will succeed in making America fairer and better.

But when the dust settles, it will be apparent that the change was evolutionary, not Revolutionary.
24/The contours of American society, and America's basic character, will remain intact. Some problems and injustices will remain.

There will be many SJWs who will see this - or anything short of the utopian Revolution that they half-imagine - as a loss.

But it won't be.

Missing some Tweet in this thread?
You can try to force a refresh.

Like this thread? Get email updates or save it to PDF!

Subscribe to Noah Smith
Profile picture

Get real-time email alerts when new unrolls are available from this author!

This content may be removed anytime!

Twitter may remove this content at anytime, convert it as a PDF, save and print for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video

1) Follow Thread Reader App on Twitter so you can easily mention us!

2) Go to a Twitter thread (series of Tweets by the same owner) and mention us with a keyword "unroll" @threadreaderapp unroll

You can practice here first or read more on our help page!

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just three indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member and get exclusive features!

Premium member ($30.00/year)

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!