Persecution is typically an attack or overall negative form of attention aimed toward a person or group of people based on a general aspect of their being, such as race, age, religion, gender, or any other similar issue. As a basic concept, it can often overlap with ideas such as racism, sexism, discrimination, and other similar issues, though it can often be used alone as a term to indicate an effort or movement being made against a group or person. Persecution is often an aggressive or negative effort that can be made by just about anyone or any group toward another person or group, regardless of perceived levels of social status or power.
There are many forms of persecution, typically based on perceived differences in beliefs or physical attributes. Religious persecution is one of the most common forms, and seems to have existed throughout much of recorded human history. This is often caused by people of one belief or religious system seeing other forms of religion as inferior or incorrect. While this type of attitude can be potentially innocuous, it can also manifest as violence. Numerous wars and murders have been committed due to this type of intolerance.
Racial persecution is often based on physical differences or differences in family or tribal background. This type of maltreatment has created situations such as African slavery and the European and American slave trade that grew from such negative attitudes toward other people. There have also been a number of cases of genocide instigated due to racial or ethnic intolerance. This type of action can often have little to do with the color of a person’s skin or differences in facial features, and more about the perceived ethnicity of others due to differences in genealogy and cultural or tribal history.
Other common forms of persecution include those based on gender, sexual orientation, class or social status, and even artistic preferences. Due to the nature of such attitudes, those persecuting others do not necessarily have to be in a position of real power, but can simply be using greater numbers or mob mentality to drive others to hatred and violence. From a legal standpoint, persecution can often become a criminal act, and when perpetrated through action or hate speech can be considered a domestic crime, a crime against humanity, and potentially a war crime. There is also a psychological disorder often referred to as a “persecution complex” in which a person believes he or she is being persecuted, often by hallucinatory figures or delusional entities.