Exhibit 8: Dehumanization
The start of much evil is when we dehumanize another person. When we believe another is less of a person than another, or not even a person, then we start the path towards mistreatment.
Dehumanization or an act thereof can describe as the denial of full humanness to others, and the cruelty and suffering that accompany it.
Lest we think we are immune to dehumanization, we are all very prone to it.
Political prisoners favored fellow-activists over criminals and asocials category that included the homeless, the mentally ill, and prostitutes whom they regarded as practically subhuman.
Like many Nazi institutions, the K.L. embodied conflicting impulses: to reform the criminal, to extort labor from the unproductive, to quarantine the contagious. But most fundamental was the impulse to dehumanize the enemy, which ended up confounding and overriding all the others. Once a prisoner ceased to be human, he could be brutalized, enslaved, experimented on, or gassed at will, because he was no longer a being with a soul or a self but a biological machine. The MuselmÃ¤nner, the living dead of the camps, stripped of any capacity to think or feel, were the true product of the K.L., the ultimate expression of the Nazi world view.
The impulse to separate some groups of people from the category of the human is, however, a universal one.
We see this in the treatment of Native Americans.
So “sub-Saharan Africans and Native Americans were denizens of the bottom of the human category,” when they were even granted human status. Mostly, they were seen as “soulless animals.” And that dramatic dehumanization made it possible for great atrocities to take place.
We see this in the treatment of blacks in America.
The Supreme Court’s rejection of Dred Scott’s claim to freedom was not based on legal precedent alone, but also the deeply held belief of Black inferiority. The belief in their inferiority and the superiority of whites was a long held justification of oppression and brutal practices against Blacks. Even constitutional amendments could not eradicate the sentiment.
It has once again placed an ugly truth about mainstream America in the spotlight that it views African American boys as less than human.
We see this in female infanticide.
Female infanticide is a major cause of concern in several nations such as China, India and Pakistan.
We see this in our attitude towards the homeless.
But human beings in our society ”including me” have an ingrained proclivity toward labeling, judging, and punishing the unhoused. The behavior fits into a category with a name: the dehumanization of the homeless.
We see this in the treatment of LGBTQ.
Discrimination and dehumanization by individuals, institutions and societies, rob LGBTQ people of their God-given dignity.
We see this in the treatment of the disabled.
Press coverage of a young man thrown out of his wheelchair during the UK student protests suggests that “real” disabled people are not whole human beings.
We see this in the abortion debate.
Central to the abortion debate is the extent to which a fetus
constitutes a person under the Fourteenth Amendment. Pro-choice
advocates argue that categorizing the fetus as a person will lead to the
prioritization of fetal rights over and against the mother’s
constitutional right to privacy.93 Alternatively, fetal personhood, or the
idea that zygotes and embryos are legal persons subject to the
protections and benefits of the law, frequently serves as the ideological
underpinning of anti-choice legislation.
Although all human beings likely qualify as constitutional persons,
there is no jurisdiction in the United States that treats prenatal entities
as persons for purposes of constitutional protection.
The list can go on and on. Bottom line, we frequently dehumanize another and we all are prone to treat another as less than human.
For now, it’s important to acknowledge that dehumanization is more common than previously thought.