Recognizing Humanity

“Dylan lived on the only floor of the building–the sixth–that had a ledge; interestingly the 6-12th floors are referred to as “the twilight zone of humanity” in suicide baitings because the victim can HEAR the taunters. Anything below the sixth, people recognize the victim’s humanity; above the sixth, the victim can’t hear the hecklers’ provocations.” – Kathy Yount, mom of son who committed suicide by jumping off of sixth floor of San Francisco building.
“It neither kills outright nor inflicts apparent physical harm, yet the extent of its destructive toll is already greater than that of any war, plague, famine, or natural calamity on record — and its potential damage to the quality of human life and the fabric of civilized society is beyond calculation. For that reason this sickness of the soul might well be called the ‘Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse.’ Its more conventional name, of course, is dehumanization.” ? Ashley Montagu, The Dehumanization Of Man
On the Boston Marathon bombing: “People will say — have been saying ‘How can anyone do this?’ But we know. We know exactly how they can do this because the capacity for such cruelty, such rapacity exists in nearly all of us. While the dust has hardly even settled on this evil, and we have no idea who perpetrated a crime so heinous that the fact that none of the lives taken or ruined were likely even known to this monster, this is a purely human evil and it is unfamiliar only because of degree.
“This is the petty nastiness that allows a cutting remark in place of simple kindness. It’s the small, spiteful meanness of gossip about a friend. It is the evil that allows a bully to torture a child half his or her size. This is the cruelty that harms small animals. This is the evil that rapes. It is the rage and hate that fostered and nurtured the Holocaust, Rwanda, Cambodia, Kosovo. And it starts the moment the perpetrator dehumanizes those around him or her. It’s small when individuals indulge in it, but what we saw today is the same thing, only writ large. And it begins when we stop seeing the human faces of those around us.” – Maya North.


We have discussed at length the power of dehumanization to marginalize and even control those we perceive as different. In its worst forms, dehumanization leads to ostracization, bullying, and even war and genocide. However, as North writes, it is aso “the petty nastiness that allows a cutting remark in place of simple kindness. It’s the small, spiteful meanness of gossip about a friend.” The sociological study on road rage reveals the capability for dehumanization inside of all of us.

Use your personal experience as well as two of the following: the essay by North about the Boston marathon bombing, the essay by Yount about her son’s suicide, the quotation from Montagu, and the film Crash.

the two articles and movie infomation is attached.

***Discuss a scenario you have experienced in which a person dehumanized another in a small, “ordinary” way. You may admit to personally being the offender or the victim in the situation, or you may have only been a spectator (in which case did you remain silent? Why?). Describe the reactions of all parties involved and tell the reader how the event shaped your thinking of those who are different from you.


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