- Politics and Social Issues
Modern Day Dehumanization
Dehumanization in the modern world
We may be able to find prime examples of dehume in the past, but it still exists today!
The sad truth of dehumanization
One of the most horrid effects American slaves endured was the lack of constitutional rights. The slaves were deprived of some of the most basic fundamentals provided by the social contract exposing them to severe dehumanization. These dehumanizing measures varied from taking away the right of life to suppressing the individuality of the slaves. Even in today’s world we see people who are subjected to this poor treatment. The atrocities of dehumanization seen in American slavery are present on a larger scale in the modern world.
The term dehumanization refers to the act of depriving a human of their natural rights or personal attributes. One of the most basic measures of dehumanization seen today and during slavery is making the victim so sub-human it is alright to kill them, breaking their right to life. Frederick Douglass the tale of a young slave being shot in a stream for avoiding a whipping. The white man who shot him received no punishment for the murder he committed. How little weight this death brought upon the slave owners can be seen in the saying “that it was worth a half-cent to kill a nigger, and a half-cent to bury one” (Douglass 69). The dehumanization of people by making them so sub-human can be seen often in modern day China and India. The value of women in these cultures is so low that abortions or the murdering of infant girls is a common act. By reiterating the saying from Douglass’ book in a modern voice “midwives in Chennai were sometimes paid $2.50 to smother a baby girl born with a cleft deformity” Levitt and Dubner show how little value the lives of these dehumanized people carry.
Another common measure of dehumanization is the suppressing of one’s right to the freedom of expression. In limiting the slaves ability to read and write the slave owners effectively limited their freedom of speech and press. The denial of these freedoms can be seen in modern day society, particularly in China and North Korea. The communist regimes that rule these countries, although by different means, limit the people’s freedom of speech and press. By denying people their right to expression, a key personal attribute, the slave owners and communist leaders are dehumanizing their subjects.
On the other hand, the severity of the dehumanization differs when dealing with the freedom of expression. The slaves were forced to submit to the culture of their master or were left with no time or resources to continue their own personal traditions and beliefs. Modern day limitation focuses specifically on the freedom of speech and press and less on other forms of expression and culture. It is less dehumanizing when the communist regimes allow their citizens the right to religion and the arts.
One of the most severe forms of dehumanization that is relevant both to Douglass’ experiences and modern day problems is the sexual exploitation of women. The harms of this are created when women, by the process of dehumanization, are seen as objects rather than human beings. Douglass’ shows how the slaves were dehumanized when he says, “there were horses and men, cattle and women, pigs and children, all holding the same rank in the scale of being, and were all subjected to the same narrow examination”. This problem of making humans items exists in the modern world. Emily chang shows how “the military practice of allowing enlisted men to purchase sex, encourage(s) the viewing of women as props. This assists in the process of dehumanizing prostituted women”. When “women are considered the subordinates of men, not their moral equals” (Dunlop 1) it creates the grounds for rape and other sexual mistreatment and the dehumanizing of these women.