Dear Arthur, Thank you for your thoughtful reply.
I am in agreement with you that the individual is not responsible for the wrongs done by other members of a group to which they belong, especially one they belong to by chance.
What I was referring to was what I see taking place in my normal life. As people have become more aware of the way in which language is used to lift one person or group up while putting another person or group down, they are calling foul when they see it.
It’s never pleasant to be called out for doing something, especially if, when you were doing it, it did not occur to you that it was offensive. It’s natural to be defensive and react in an “I don’t have a problem; you’re the one with the problem” way.
But this is where individual actions are tied to group actions. Often, within a group, certain norms prevail. If one is part of a group, one’s thoughts, altitudes and speech often unconsciously represent these norms. These norms may involve beliefs which are incorrect (though universally accepted within the group as true) and language which seems “normal” within the group but is offensive to others.
For an example, let’s use the “elite” as a group.
Elite culture certainly has norms that are different from the majority. Elites as a group say plenty of incredibly offensive things whose underlying puropse seems to be elevating themselves while disparaging others. As a group, they also hold many “truths” that are, in fact, false.
Is any individual member of this group responsible for the actions of the group as a whole? Of course not. However, by being a member of that group, individuals may unconsciously harbor beliefs and speech normal to that group. And, if they do, they will never become aware of their cultural ticks unless someone points them out.
Then they have a choice. They can soak in the criticism and reflect on their behavior, or the can become defensive, retreat into their group and circle the wagons, commiserating over cocktails how awful, ignorant and offensive their critics are.
And both take place. It depends on the individual.
I think the first is the path to both becoming a better human being and creating a better society and the latter is petty and childish.