The Dehumanization Process
The dehumanization process starts subtle. First there’s a simple tension, then ostracization, and lastly, the target people are reduced to something distinctly sub-human. Dehumanization has happened multiple times in human history and is more common than you may think. Man, in his fallen nature, is well-versed at this.
But, despite our fallen nature we have a responsibility to expose evil when we see it. Given the potential consequences of dehumanization it’s important to review the historical cases in hopes to avoid another.
The Rwandan Genocide
Particularly grotesque examples of dehumanization are the propaganda messages that were disseminated during the Rwanda Civil War, which influenced a genocide of approximately 800,000 Tutsi people. In Rwanda, there was already tension between the Tutsis and Hutus Rwandans from a conflicting past, and eventually, conflict ensued. During the war a government-funded (Hutu) radio station began sending anti-Tutsi hate messages over the air, calling Tutsis “cockroaches” and “snakes”. This played on the minds of the Hutu people, enticing them, and led to the mass killings and sexual violence now known as the Rwandan Genocide.
Some have called this phenomenon “Death By Radio”.
Observe the words the Hutu radio station used. “Cockroaches” and “snakes”. A transcript from the radio station quotes, “If we exterminate all the cockroaches no one will judge us because we will be winners.” These terms are distinctly sub-human, the terms are associated with feelings of disgust.
Perfect propaganda – that reaches into the depths of the human heart and pulls out the evils that lurk there. The Hutus were a smoldering coal, the propaganda was gasoline.
The same type of language was used by Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge, a communist regime that ruled Cambodia in the 1970s. Their rule resulted in the death of approximately 1.9 million Cambodians (roughly one fourth of their population). Khmer Rouge constituents described their enemies as “worms” that needed “weeding out”. Any Cambodians that had affiliation with the prior government or were ethnic minorities were categorized as such.
Again, observe the terms that were used. “Worms” and “weeding out”. These terms explicitly categorize a group as something otherly and parasitic – almost disease-like. This is a trademark of dehumanizing language.
And Now, “Whiteness”
“Whiteness” has been described as a “pandemic”, “whitefluenza”, and an “epidemic”. Just this year, The Root published an article describing whiteness as a public health crisis. The article is mostly rhetoric without much technical sustenance, however, it’s disturbing that the article is quoted, “it [whiteness] infests consciousness”.
Since then, American academia has caught on. The University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development has funded a research project titled “The Whiteness Pandemic Project” that has produced multiple peer-reviewed publications. And Dr. Donald Moss, an established psychoanalyst who teaches at the New York Psychoanalytic Institute, published an article describing whiteness as a parasitic psychological condition.
It’s pleasant to know that tax dollars are funding this.
Some might ignore the aforementioned examples of dehumanizing language because it’s only about white people. But if you’re a Christian, you believe that people are made in God’s image – no matter what socioeconomic or cultural position. Thus, this language is a monstrosity and should be called out and cast out. If you’re secular and hold to Western enlightenment values you likely hold a similar morality.
It doesn’t matter who the language is targeted at. Even white people. That may not be popular today, but Biblical truth often isn’t. The risk of ignoring this language is too great. We can say that because there are heaps of evidence. If dehumanizing language is ever used it ought to be anathematized.