Written by Prof Neil Levy,
Senior Research Fellow, Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, University of Oxford
This article was originally published on The Conversation
One common reaction to the election of Donald Trump (and perhaps to a lesser extent, the Brexit vote) among liberals like me is an expression of dismay that some of our fellow citizens are more racist and more sexist than we had dreamed. It seems many were prepared, if not to support openly racist comments and sexist actions, then at least to overlook them. It looks as though battles we thought we had won, having to do with a recognition of a basic kind of equality, need to be fought all over again. Many have concluded that they were never won at all; people were just waiting for a favourable climate to express the racism and sexism they held hidden.
This story is surely at least partially true. Anyone who has recently come out in support of Richard Spencer – the “leader” of the alt-right movement – for example, was likely just waiting for the right opportunity to express their racism. But I suspect the story is quite different with regard to most of the people who voted for Trump or Brexit. They never were strongly anti-racist, and they are not really and deeply racist now. Insofar as they had views on these matters at all, they were and are pretty undeveloped.
In fact, our beliefs are often quite vague and malleable. This is particularly true with regard to moral and political beliefs.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.