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Preventing Scapegoating

How can we work to prevent scapegoating in the face of violence?

When people have been victimized, hate may be an initial response, but it is never an acceptable response. Our feelings of hurt or anger are justified when we suffer egregious deeds of hate, but to single out people who happen to have characteristics similar to those who perpetrated such crimes will not help those who have been victimized, nor will it prevent such atrocities from happening again. Anger can produce positive efforts towards righting injustice, but hatred and scapegoating innocent people will inevitably overpower every other reaction and become all-consuming and self-destructive. If your child begins to stereotype, or to make stereotypical comments about any group of people, you may want to:

  • Introduce your child to the term "scapegoating." Explain that scapegoating is blaming an individual or group for something based on that personís or group's identity, when in reality the person or group is not responsible. When one person acts in a certain way, it is not representative of that person's entire cultural group.

  • Encourage your childís empathy development by posing a stereotypical statement that may relate more directly to your child, and asking how these statements make him/her feel. Some examples might be, "All third graders are babies," or "Teenagers are disruptive."

  • Explain to your child that often times, scapegoating can interfere with getting to the real reason why something might be wrong, because people are inclined to feel satisfied that they "found the answer" or "found the person to blame."

  • Initiate a dialogue with your child by asking, "if stereotyping continues to take place in a community, what might eventually happen?" It is important to emphasize that, most likely, people will be unfairly hurt or blamed, and that an uncooperative environment might develop, making it harder to heal as a community and a nation.

  • Bring the issue home for your child, by asking him/her to think of a problem in their own school and the person or group that is often blamed for the problem. Encourage your child to consider how they can put an end to scapegoating, stereotypes, rumors, misinformation, and discrimination in their school and with their peers.

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Related ADL Articles:
Talking to Your Child About Hatred and Prejudice
A Parent's Guide to Hate on the Internet
What to Tell Your Children About Prejudice
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