This article is about blaming groups and drawing the line between the individual and the group. This comes in light of the social discourse surrounding recent events, namely the murder of Sarah Everard in the UK at the hands of an off-duty police officer. This event has sparked charged comments about men, reviving hashtags like #notallmen and asking men to modify certain aspects of their behavior. It is easy to want to blame an entire group because groups do exhibit certain patterns. In the case of violence, the majority of reported violent crimes are committed by men and many against women, so, to many it seems justified to blame the entire group—men. The logic seems to follow that “you never know if a man is going to be dangerous or not, so you should assume that any man could be dangerous.” This kind of thinking is practical in certain cases. Everyone runs some kind of calculation in their head about any given person based on many observable characteristics. On the one hand, it can be practical. On the other hand, I think it is unethical and should not be done.

Society seems to be okay with making generalizations based on whether or not the person being judged is part of a “protected group.” For example, people can generalize about men and use these generalizations to judge individual men, but it is not acceptable to generalize about women even though the logic is the same. Other people may assume that every individual black person is overall more dangerous because they cite true statistics about the group, like the fact that 53% of crimes in America are committed by black individuals (Correction: it is 53% of murders not overall crime, which I did not specify when initially producing this piece). Thinking like this always leads to the loss of the individual. This loss is why I think it is important to change the way we talk about statistics and use them to judge individuals from a given group. That isn’t to say that using statistics doesn’t make sense. I think this kind of thought process is logical, but I also think that it is wrong to do because it can justify distorted and/or racist attitudes towards outgroups, traditionally against minorities but now also against those who are not minorities. No matter whom these attitudes are directed towards, it always leads to the loss of the individual.

There are ways to circumvent this kind of thinking. One way I have found is to try to simply think more complexly and realize that many factors determine behavior. In the case of the officer who killed Sarah Everard, I wonder if he had at some point been mistreated by a woman and then decided to map that kind of behavior onto every woman. These kinds of speculations are difficult and perhaps uncomfortable to think about, but there is always more at play than one element that drives an individual’s behavior.

This line between the individual and the collective is one I think is important not to cross, but it is very easy and often safe to do. Further, it is far too easy to realize others are crossing that line but difficult for the individual to recognize it in themselves, especially if they are inconsistent about crossing that line. I also see this inconsistently being applied in the developing story of the multiple shootings that happened recently in Atlanta. Because most of the victims are Asian, many are attributing the crime to Anti-Asian discrimination, which is part of the larger growing conversation around this topic. It seems that even though we don’t know the true motives, people are very eager to label it as such.

Again, I think that people should be judged individually and not based on their group membership even though it is incredibly easy to do. These judgments can often be right, but it is tragic when they are wrong.

Based on my video, edited by Em Solis

Eight people did. Only six were Asian women