How do our words dehumanize?

The way we use language affects how we treat others.

Whether it’s the violence of war, torture, abortion, capital punishment, euthanasia, human trafficking -- all of these acts are perpetuated by dehumanizing language that makes the victim seem somehow “subhuman.”

Why Should we Rehumanize?

By using dehumanizing language, we negatively shape the way we view groups of people. We may begin to view them as “less-than” or “subhuman”. When we view someone as less than us, it creates a psychological separation, which makes it easier to allow or commit violence against them. Every human being has inherent dignity by the virtue of our shared humanity and the rational nature that comes with it. No matter our age, innocence, size, race, nationality, or ability, we are all equally human; our language and actions should reflect that fact.

How can we Rehumanize?

Be mindful of any dehumanizing language you use; catch yourself and correct yourself. Pay attention to the way other people you know talk, and if they’re using dehumanizing language, don’t be afraid to ask them to stop. Use rehumanizing, human-centered language (for example, say “the man with dementia” instead of “the demented man,” or refer to dehumanized individuals as “human beings” to affirm their human dignity).

Current and Historical

Examples of Dehumanization

Unless we actively challenge dehumanizing rhetoric, it will continue to permeate our society and lead to acts of violence. People must see that the same dehumanizing rhetoric used to oppress groups of human beings in the past is being used against marginalized groups of today.

Below are some examples of how eight different groups of human beings, historical and current, have been dehumanized using the same categories of words.

Further Reading on Dehumanization

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