A Princeton professor has deftly highlighted how modern social justice movements and their proponents are not comparable to their historic counterparts, and may, in fact, be the polar opposite.

In a time of mass protest against systemic racism, coupled with ‘woke capitalists’ cashing in on social justice for the sake of a quick buck, activism and opportunity seemingly go hand in hand, with those taking a stand, or a knee, often being rewarding both socially and financially. 

The risk-to-reward ratio is highly skewed in their favor in this era of online ‘slacktivism,’ where posting a black square on Instagram can win you brownie points that can, and often do, turn into greenbacks. 

But this was not always the case, as Robert P. George, a professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University points out in an enlightening Twitter thread.

1/ I sometimes ask students what their position on slavery would have been had they been white and living in the South before abolition. Guess what? They all would have been abolitionists! They all would have bravely spoken out against slavery, and worked tirelessly against it.

George explains how, as expected, his students insist that they would have risked it all to abolish slavery if they were white and living in the South before abolition. 

“Of course, this is nonsense… Most of them – and us – would have gone along. Many would have supported the slave system and happily benefited from it,” George continues. 

He then unveils his gambit, offering to credit his students’ claims if they can show that, “in leading their lives today they have stood up for the rights of unpopular victims of injustice whose very humanity is denied, and where they have done so knowing” that they would be abandoned by their friends, loathed and attacked by the powerful, and denied professional opportunities.

4/ (1) that it would make them unpopular with their peers, (2) that they would be loathed and ridiculed by powerful, influential individuals and institutions in our society; (3) that they would be abandoned by many of their friends, (4) that they would be called nasty names, and

5/ (5) that they would risk being denied valuable professional opportunities as a result of their moral witness. In short, my challenge is to show where they have at risk to themselves and their futures stood up for a cause that is unpopular in elite sectors of our culture today.

George’s thread received thousands of likes and hundreds of comments, with some seeking further clarification as to which moral standard the respondent should be held – that of history or that of contemporary society, concluding: “History will be as cruel to us as we are to it.”

Others inevitably rushed to claim the coveted victim status by boldly declaring their own social bravery:

Well, I’m an open trump supporter

Many proposed being “pro-life” in the abortion debate in the 21st century as a postion which meets the professor’s criteria, while others highlighted conservatism and certain positions in the debate on transgenderism and children as unpopular positions to espouse which might fit the bill.

1. I was thinking about this yesterday reading post with people saying affirmation of gender questioning children will be looked back on in 20 years time as child abuse and people will be horrified “we” let it happen and as someone who has stood up for minorities.

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