Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism.… ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man’s genetic lineage — the notion … that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors.
NB: strong language.
EspañolA video reporter attended the #BlackLivesMatter march on Saturday in Baltimore, to give voice to those who decry police brutality. Instead of explaining their message and showing appreciation, participants accosted and robbed her.
She was far from alone in being on the receiving end of what descended into a riot, with juvenile and tragic violence and vandalism on display for the world to see. The culpable individuals — spurred on by outside agitators, according to the city’s mayor — attacked innocent bystanders as vengeance for Freddie Gray, who died a week earlier in police custody without proper medical attention.
Granted, the violent faction achieved their presumed goal by garnering plenty of attention, but they created far more enemies than friends with their escapades. In letting off steam in such a manner, they reinforced negative stereotypes, marred a legitimate protest, made people fear them, and necessitated a police crackdown, including 35 arrests.
Worst of all, they themselves acted on and perpetuated the conceptual root of racism: collectivism.
Collectivism, both in its political and philosophical manifestations, places the importance of groups (collectives) above the rights of each individual. Stemming from the fallacy that groups act, rather than individuals, collectivism also assigns responsibility to one’s “people” — whatever group that may be — and fosters prejudices and division.
This pernicious and widespread fallacy suggests that you are culpable for (or can take pride in) the actions of anyone who shares characteristics with you: gender, class, genetic lineage, etc. If someone of your nationality does wrong, so goes the thinking, you are liable for punishment too — as Islamic State militants have espoused.
When purported “anarchists” riot and inflict damage, as in Baltimore, they do not blink, because “fuck the police,” as though all policemen are evil. Likewise, the imagined collective of the bourgeois capitalists must be brought down in a class war, so that justifies open season on anyone who appears well-off.
What they fail to forget, amid their venomous groupthink, is that many policemen have not committed the ills that they protest, even if police brutality is a grave concern. Likewise, there is no such thing as a capitalist class, and developed nations such as the United States and Canada have a high degree of income mobility.
Initiatives to prevent police brutality and racism, such as peaceful civil disobedience and live-stream filming of their activities, deserve our praise. Violent agitators aside, many injustices need to be addressed.
But let us also remember the conceptual breakdown that justifies the wrongs on both sides of the aisle. We are distinct individuals with natural rights, which come before misguided notions of the collective that obfuscate right and wrong and perpetuate injustice.