Is it wrong to call someone who steals a "criminal"?
In a recent thread on NextDoor, a group of neighbors living in the Noe Valley-Glen Park area were engaged in a discussion around the city's crime and debated whether labeling a person who commits petty theft as a "criminal" is offensive.
In the site's Crime and Safety area, where residents share strategies for fighting crime, Malkia Cyril of S.F. suggests that her neighbors stop using the label because it shows lack of empathy and understanding.
Cyril pointed out that instead of calling the thief who took the bicycle from your garage a criminal, you could be more respectful and call him or her "the person who stole my bicycle."
"I [suggest] that people who commit property crimes are human and deserved to be referred to in terms that acknowledge that," Cyril, who's the executive director of the Center for Media Justice in Oakland, writes in the thread.
"I think we should think twice before speaking in disparaging terms about 'those criminals,'" she adds later in the thread.
This posturing is nothing more than moral hedonism, wherein one seeks to gain a feeling of moral superiority (and status) by publicly displaying one’s empathy and understanding. Of course, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with being empathetic and understanding, and I see no particular reason to be inhumane to thieves, but I would suggest that it would best to simply practice one’s morality privately and quietly.
Much like the Pharisees in Christ’s day, there are those who put on displays of piety and morality in order to receive the praise of men. Like the Pharisees, they undoubtedly have their reward.