4.4.5 The Potential for Ethnic Conflict
As described earlier (22.214.171.124), people are reassured by a sense of belonging to social groups. They value their membership. Social groups form around having shared experiences or tastes: such as living in the same neighbourhood, or working together, or being educated together, or having shared leisure interests. People naturally belong to several such groups. And there can a sense of rivalry between some kinds of group: sports teams, for example.
A shared culture can also be the basis for feeling a sense of group identity – and awareness of difference from other groups – but although people from different cultures can live together peacefully (4.4.1), a sense of difference can become a basis for conflict as described in the following sub-sections:
● Any social group’s sense of identity can be strengthened by depicting other groups negatively (126.96.36.199). This has the potential to turn into hostility.
● Leaders can try to strengthen their power by exploiting that potential: stimulating fear and hostility towards people of different ethnicity, even if they have been coexisting peacefully there for generations (188.8.131.52).
● Immigrants may look different and might have unfamiliar customs. Resentment against the resulting change in the character of a neighbourhood can fuel ethnic conflict (184.108.40.206).