Collective Guilt and Privilege

The collective guilt of minority groups and the privilege of the dominant majority group:

My observation and thesis is that in the general case there are structural disadvantages to minority groups within most if not all modern societies and likewise there are structural advantages in belonging to the dominant majority group. Minority groups are more readily characterised with the qualities of collective guilt whilst privilege is more apt in characterising the dominant group; both are expressed through the subtleties of language.

When politicians choose to take a country to war causing untold deaths and human suffering, the dominant group maligns only the culpable politicians using the solitary words, ‘he’ or ‘she’.

When a mass murderer from the same background (e.g. ethnic, race, cultural, religious) as the dominant group kills innocent people, the murderer is characterised with the language of individual culpability, “he had mental health issues”, “a lone wolf”.

When an abuser with the ethnic origin of the dominant group abuses the vulnerable, he is maligned specifically.

In countries which have had a torrid history of colonisation, enslavement and mass murder, members of the dominant group may highlight that this is the past and ‘the son cannot be held responsible for his father’s crimes’.

However, when a wicked individual with an ‘apparent’ association with a minority group or community is guilty of a heinous crime, quite often the language of culpability is group based, that of, ‘they’, ‘them’ and ‘their’. Connecting threads are more readily introduced that bind the criminal to a much wider group, bound by apparent culture, colour, race or religion.

Why does this behaviour appear and does it say something about our very nature as human beings. Marginalising a criminal from one’s own ethnic or cultural background will generally occur under the guise of individual guilt, otherwise one would vilify oneself; and we are creatures loathed to burden ourselves with the crimes of others. However, maligning another community in the general has no material consequence to the maligner, as it does not affect him or her. So it’s only a moral compass that prevents someone affording others that which he or she would afford oneself.

Next time when you see a newspaper headline reporting a crime, or a politician tweeting about a heinous crime, stop for a moment and consider the subtleties in language that differentiates different members of society based upon their specific background.

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