Is Dehumanization Always Violent?

By:Molly Reeves

Should segregation not count as being dehumanizing because it wasn’t always violent? Should a child that is being cyberbullied not be considered abused even though there is no violence involved? Although dehumanization is normally seen through violent acts, violence is not the only way people are dehumanized. Dehumanization is caused when someone or a group of people treat another person or group less than human. Many people would say that to treat someone less than human they would have to be physically abused, but verbal abuse and segregation from a community can have the same dehumanization effect. There have been many instances of verbal abuse and segregation where people have been made to feel less than human through nonviolent measures.

Dehumanization through nonviolent acts can be seen throughout history.  For example, back during the 1880s to the 1950s, the Jim Crow Laws segregated African Americans from everyone else in the schools, bathrooms, and businesses. It was illegal in some states back then for a man of color to even use the same watering fountain as everyone else. Penalty for breaking that law could be anywhere from a huge fine to an extended period in jail.  Even Martin King Luther Jr. had mentioned in a rally at White Rock Baptist Church “Let us not fear going to jail if the officials threaten to arrest us for standing up for our rights.” Now although this is meant to be inspiring words to get people to stand up to segregation, it can also show how King thought that the more common punishment was to go to prison. Another example of the segregation back then was how in some states all African Americans had to sit in the back of a bus that had white people on it. All of these “separate but equal” laws were just a way to dehumanize the African American Community. Most of the time violence was never use to separate them. They were dehumanized through acts of verbal abuse by calling them names and separating them from the rest of the country, making them feel less than everyone else

Another example of dehumanization is cyberbullying. In the U.S., one out of every three people have been cyberbullied. Cyberbullies use the anonymity of the internet to hide who they are while making fun of other people and to make them feel badly about how they look or what they do. Teenagers that are considered weird or different at school can be made into an outcast by their peers and therefore become dehumanized. As Jim Bloch, a Voice Columnist, had once said “the victims of bullying in our schools and neighborhoods are susceptible to anxiety, depression and, in extreme cases, suicide.” Because of the way they feel when they get dehumanized and cut off from everyone else, cyber bullied victims are 2 to 9 times more likely to consider taking their own lives. Even though violence is normally connected to dehumanization, verbal abuse can still make someone feel less than human.

There are some people out there that think that cyberbullying shouldn’t even be called bullying and that it isn’t even close to being dehumanizing. They believe that cyberbullying is just foolish nonsense and that anyone that is being cyberbullied should just get over it. As one commenter on a cyberbullying research website states ¨’Oh no. Some girl said to me in an email ‘ur fat lulz’. I’m scarred for the rest of my life.’ Nowhere NEAR as bad as getting hit, punched, abused, etc.¨

Although most would say that dehumanization is created from violent acts, not all examples of dehumanization have used violence. The definition of violence is “the exertion of physical force so as to injure or abuse,” so how can cyberbullying still be dehumanizing if it doesn’t even involve human contact? How can segregation make people feel less than human even though the punishment for it did not always involve physical fighting? Dehumanization comes in many forms, and not all of them have to use violence to still make people feel less than everyone else.

This is a revised argument from an original argument Is Dehumanization Always Violent?