Illustration: Hunter Paramore
People. We are all connected in one way or another.
He might be a friend; she might be a classmate; they might both like baseball, and he might have your same hair color.
These connections help us see others as ourselves, putting us on equal ground. If we take those connections away or if we choose not to see those connections, we begin to see others as different.
We even begin to see disconnections rather than connections. And then, perhaps, without even realizing it, it begins to be acceptable to point out our dislikes and what makes us better than others.
Dehumanization is evident today. We need to recognize it in our lives and make corrective changes.
According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, to dehumanize is “to deprive of human qualities, personality or spirit.”
By criticizing an entire sex based on one bad relationship, we are making hurtful generalizations.
When we poke fun at an entire race, we are looking past the creative and interesting aspects of an individual’s personality, or his or her compassion and sensitivity towards others.
Think of the everyday people and stereotypes we come across: rich, the “99 percent,” homeless, cultural communities, mentally disabled, women, men, homosexuals, “Utah Mormons,” singles, married, inactive members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or a “holier than thou” view of those who are not members of the Church.
We may not think poking fun at “those” Utahns and Idahoans is an issue, but by stamping that label on someone, we immediately take away their individuality, their human essence. Even on such a small scale as constantly teasing a roommate or friend for things they are, they do or have done — suddenly just one characteristic or issue is defining them.
When we refer to people in any stereotypical way, we are not treating them as equals; we are in fact dehumanizing them. We sever that connection, which allows us to tolerate any kind of discrimination.
There are very real dangers in dehumanizing. The act of dehumanization has repeatedly been the beginning of major world wars and tragedies like the holocaust, the genocide in Rwanda and even the mass killings of Native Americans in the United States.
It is easy to point out the very obvious perpetrators of historical genocides. It may be just as easy to recognize those we know closely who fall under the racist, prejudice or even extremely judgmental category.
And they are something to be looked to as examples of what not to do, but we need to evaluate ourselves and notice the everyday cases of dehumanization.
As students in a fairly non-culturally diverse community, we may laugh along to a racial joke or insensitively discuss stereotypes.
It may appear seemingly harmless, but we don’t realize that we are depriving those we tease the chance to be people, and in turn, don’t allow ourselves to learn anything from them.
Dehumanization carries this awful sense of seriority, a mentality that “if they aren’t like me, then it doesn’t matter how I treat them.”
We should not begin to be distressed only when dehumanization turns violent, but stop it at its very budding.