Groups and individuals often engage in scapegoating minority groups as a means of social control and easing their own consciences when working to cope with a challenge or solve a problem.

The problem is that scapegoating does not solve problems. It, instead, perpetuates the ill effects of a problem due to the refusal of the majority of individuals in a group to take personal responsibility for their personal choices. When individuals who belong to the majority of a group collectively scapegoat a minority of the group, the group’s problems remain unresolved.

Scapegoating does not solve problems and meet challenges in the collective life of a group. It dangerously perpetuates and makes them worse.

Many racist European- Americans, both in the North and South, often used African-Americans as a scapegoat for the collective problems of Americans, both before the Civil War, during Reconstruction and beyond.

Whatever problem occurred, somehow someway, many racist European-Americans found a way to blame the African-American minority in their communities and the nation as a whole. In reality, it is illogical to assert African-Americans could possibly be responsible for any collective problem of any community or the nation.

Racist European-Americans had effectively ensured that African-Americans would be marginalized from the mainstream in all aspects of community and American life before and after the Civil War and beyond.

African-Americans had been segregated away from the ability to pose any kind of real threat to the cultural, social, political and economic dominance of European-Americans in American life before, after and beyond the Civil War. Therefore, it was entirely fallacious and illogical to blame African-Americans for any real collective problem of a community or American life as a whole.

However fallacious or illogical scapegoating African-Americans might be, racist European-Americans expended much time and energy working to deflect their own responsibility for their personal and collective problems onto African-Americans.

If economic problems developed following the Civil War, racist European-Americans often blamed African-Americans for the economic downturn. They increased employment restrictions against African-Americans and sometimes formed mobs to drive African-Americans from their communities. These violent mobs attacked African-Americans with impunity as European-American law enforcement officers stood by and only arrested African-Americans who chose to defend themselves against the violence of the European-American mob.

Racist European-Americans often chose to refuse to consider the reality that the economic choices of European-Americans had been the cause of economic downturns or other difficulties.

Sadly, scapegoating African-Americans and other minorities instead of understanding that a community’s or nation’s problems are collectively caused in a small part by all of the individuals who make up a community or nation is still a reality today.

Scapegoating a minority group as the cause of community and nationwide problems does not resolve problems. All citizens of a community and the nation must take personal responsibility for their own choices in order to create positive solutions for society’s problems.

Grady Atwater is site administrator of the John Brown Museum and State Historic Site.

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