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This Is What Happens When You Dehumanize People

by Katie on June 18, 2018

I remember in middle school learning about the horrors of the Holocaust and wondering — how on earth did that happen? How did people allow it to happen?

I felt the same way learning about slavery, and the Japanese Internment camps. How could such cruelty take place?

And now, here we are. The U.S. Government tearing apart families at the border. Children, including toddlers and babies, taken from their mothers. Detained in warehouses, sleeping in cages. The parents having no idea where their children are going, who will be taking care of them, or when (or if) they’ll ever be reunited. Our government is essentially kidnapping children in the name of safety and national security (and using the Bible to justify doing so).

How on earth is this happening? How did we get here?

I think it’s starts with language, most especially dehumanizing language.

As Brene Brown says, “Dehumanizing others is the process by which we become accepting of violations against human nature, the human spirit, and, for many of us, violations against the central tenets of our faith.”

Animals. Illegals. Catch and release. Does that sound familiar? We’ve heard these words a lot lately. Referring to groups of people this way is the first step in making them seem less than human.

Once they are dehumanized, we are able to look the other way, or actually support when our government commits absolute atrocities against our fellow humans.

The danger of dehumanizing is this: If they aren’t really human like us, then who cares if they suffer? Who cares if they are separated from their families? Who cares if they are escaping violence in their countries and are running for their lives and their children’s lives? Who cares – they’re not like me anyway. And besides, they shouldn’t be bringing their kids here in the first place, it’s their fault they are being separated.

Dehumanize, dehumanize, dehumanize.

Here’s the alternative: recognize the shared humanity in all of us. Recognize how we are all connected. Try to imagine having to leave your home to escape violence. Leaving your home to protect your children. Try to imagine the sheer terror of making that journey and having your child taken from you, not knowing where they are going or if you will ever see them again. These mothers and fathers are just like you. Take that in.

It can be extremely painful to open our hearts to the suffering of others. To allow our hearts to break. To take in our shared humanity. But that’s the only way to let the light in. And that’s the only way to take loving action that may help ease some of the suffering.

And besides, we can do hard things. We must do hard things. We must we must we must.

For ways to help, click here.

May we all feel our shared humanity, and allow that connection to guide our actions.

With love,


Photo by Max Ostrozhinskiy on Unsplash

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