dehumanization.

Although racism isn’t legal in this country, it still sours and decays the world. It is a dark blemish that has bruised the minds of people so that without knowing it their words and actions carry a stench of racism. It silently infuriates me when I encounter this contagion in the world today and even more so when I fall to its infection.

Nike's campaign against racism.

I’ve been passionate about fighting racism for a number of years now and I have been attempting to explain my stance adequately ever since I made that mental decision. But this post is not only about ending racism, but about a new way to think and live.

Recently on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Dr. Cornell West said he believes that “Any ideology or perspective that dehumanizes someone is wrong” and I agree with his statement and say that racism falls under this category of an ideology that dehumanizes an individual.

Before moving on, I want to define the word “dehumanize”.

The word “dehumanize” has an obvious primary meaning which is that the individual is made inferior, or less than human. On the other side of the coin, dehumanization has a secondary meaning. The dehumanization of an individual can also occur alternatively by making the individual superior, or more than human because of their race. The latter meaning is more common nowadays I’ve found and has become more acceptable too but takes some explaining. For example, there is a belief in school that if you are of any Asian descent you should do well in the academic world and success is attributed to your race but not to your hard work. The same thing happens in athletics all too often as well—for instance, a guy that is great at basketball who puts in hours and hours of hard work is only good because he is black or the soccer player is only good because he is Hispanic.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not perfect in the very least. I have made racist comments consciously and subconsciously, though neither is more excusable than the other. It took me a while to realize that I was spreading the ideology of racism I confess but once I did, I began to wonder why and how it still does exist.

I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that since racism is pretty much “illegal”, people believe that it does not exist. And I’m talking about racism against all races; against black, white, yellow, red, brown, the full spectrum. All that prejudice, all those prejudgments that we make about a person based on the exterior that cause us to treat them differently.

These days, racism does not happen with malicious intent too often, I would say. More often these days, racist jokes seem to be the mode by which racism spreads. The last thing most people would want to be called is a racist and I’m not trying to call anyone a racist. I’m merely attempting to point out a problem that still exists, that something that is “just a joke” does not mean that it isn’t racist.

I used to be okay with racist jokes. Especially I thought it was acceptable if the person telling the joke happened to be the race that was the butt of the joke. I used to laugh heartily, thinking to myself that it was all “just a joke” that racism was pretty much dead or that it didn’t count if no one took offense. I used to make these jokes myself. But I soon realized that I was perpetuating the circle of the dehumanization of people. People with feelings and thoughts and hopes and personality and character; And I believe this is the crux of the whole issue.

Racist jokes lead us to believe in stereotypes and if we believe in stereotypes, even jokingly, we write off an individual as a stereotype that looks like they fit the bill. What we should be thinking instead is that all people are specially created people that you and I must love. People are people. Confusing and repetitive, but let me explain…

While on a mission trip to Louisiana two years after Katrina hit, my team and I volunteer at a local church that would provide free meals. I will never forget the distinction in attitude and mindset that the leader of the shelter gave us. She said that instead of thinking of the men and women coming to get a meal that day as being homeless people, we must think of them as people that are homeless. You see the difference in mind set by switching those two words?

It is not that I am a brown person or that you are an Asian person or that he’s a white guy or that she’s a black girl. We should first recognize that we are all bonded together on the common level of humanity and feel the bond of brotherhood, the bond of family and, at least on some level, love.

Extending this discussion I would even say that in the similar way that seeing homeless people instead as people that are homeless, we must see “gay people” as people that are gay, Muslims as people that are Muslims, murderers as people who have committed murder, superstars as people who are famous, even the President as the person who is the President. Because at the end of the day, in the bright light, naked, vulnerable and exposed, we are one and the same: human.

And if we ever want to make change in this world and if we ever hope to save this world and if we ever profess that we have the ability to love, we must acknowledge our neighbor and love them as we love ourselves, not necessarily blind to the differences but more that we should love regardless of those differences.

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2 thoughts on “dehumanization.

  1. Hey Daniel,
    Great reflections!! I agree with your thoughts, especially the idea that we should recognize that we are all bonded together on the common level of humanity, before we go about ‘labelling’ other people based on some other factor that might seperate us, rather than unite.
    Keep sharing these thoughts and ideas!!

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