'All it Takes is One'

12 Pages Posted: 5 Mar 2012

Date Written: March 3, 2012


This working paper builds on two key facts of history. First, ethnic groups that occupy a common geographical territory and reflect a history of one group exploiting or oppressing the other group naturally find their way to violent conflict — unless there is an escape mechanism. Second, there is usually one key incident or person (the “power of one”) who sparks conflict between ethnic groups that have experienced an oppressor-oppressed relationship. By examining six historical cases of oppressor-oppressed relationships (Exodus’ Hebrews-Egyptians, India’s Hindus and Muslims, Rwanda’s Tutsis and Hutus, Bosnia’s Muslims and Christians, Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese and Tamils, and Sudan’s North and South), we develop a warning for Black and White Americans. Specifically, we conclude that, unless an escape hatch is developed (namely nation formation), history will find these two ethnic groups locked in violent conflict at some future point.

Keywords: oppressor-oppressed oelationships, ethnic groups, violence, conflict

JEL Classification: N42, N44, N45, N47

Suggested Citation

Robinson, Brooks B., 'All it Takes is One' (March 3, 2012). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2015536 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2015536

Brooks B. Robinson (Contact Author)


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