The Ethical Paradox of Group Loyalty
In Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America, Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith talk about the way in which individuals in groups tend to be loyal to (and thereby committed to the welfare of) other insiders, which is ethically laudable. However, group insiders simultaneously tend to take a “sucks to be you” attitude toward outsiders (that’s my paraphrase, of course). So the social solidarity that encourages ethical behavior within the group may encourage unethical behavior toward those outside of the group.
They also note that sociological research has demonstrated that people tend to evaluate others within their own groups positively and people in other groups negatively, even when the groups are randomly assigned. This bias in favor of one’s own group of course exacerbates the paradox of group loyalty.
I found the following images on the internet that might help me illustrate these principles the next time I teach this book. (I previously talked about how I use this book to teach about white privilege here.)
From the comic strip xkcd on “pep rallies” (click to see original size):
This is a t-shirt you can buy at the Onion online store: