Last updated on December 7th, 2021 at 11:42 pm
America has an extremely serious case of schizophrenia that has come into clearer focus over the past decade. Whenever a member of a minority group commits a crime, our country’s elites—that is, leaders in the media, Hollywood, academia, and Big Business—repeatedly tell us that the perpetrator is to be judged as an individual and that we are not to judge all members of his racial or ethnic group by his acts. However, whenever a white police officer shoots the member of a minority group—even if the officer acted reasonably and even if no racial motive can be attributed to him—those same elites repeatedly tell us that all whites are racists and that our country has always been irredeemably racist.
Since these conceptions of individual actions are contradictory, we must choose one to adhere to in order to be logically consistent. So which will it be? Shall we view the action of a person individually; considering the person to have moral agency and hence bear sole responsibility for his action? Or, shall we view the action collectively; attributing the action of the person to his entire identity group and hence hold that entire group responsible for the action?
The answer seems pretty clear in America. While we have not always acted consistently (what country ever has?), a clear principle running throughout our history is that individuals are to be judged solely on their own merit and character. Enshrined in our most hallowed documents, from the Declaration of Independence to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, this principle supports that idea that all people are created equally, are endowed with the same God-given inalienable rights, and are to be judged as individuals, not members of particular groups. Indeed, our country’s Civil War, where over 600,000 combatants died, was fought to defend this principle. Martin Luther King, Jr., and other civil rights leaders in the 1950’s and 1960’s based the Civil Rights Movement on this principle. The landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 puts this principle into law by specifically banning, among other things, discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, and sex in employment and public accommodation. Individual character and competence are to be the sole guiding criteria.
Importantly, this principle of individual responsibility is one also enshrined in the Judeo-Christian worldview. Indeed, according to Christianity, at the end of the world each individual will be judged by God solely on his own acts or omissions (Gospels of Matthew 25, James 2). Group membership will not save anyone.
So the next time our elites try to blame all members of a particular group for the action committed by one member of such group, let’s push back and remind them of the hallowed principle of individual responsibility for individual actions. Since we are all free moral actors with the same God-given rights, we should be judged individually for our actions. Anything less than this demeans our character, our country, and the Judeo-Christian worldview.