Monday, October 2, 2017

Non-Humans Do Not Matter

How did ostensibly good and kind people, who loved their children, enjoyed sunsets, and attended church, own slaves or gas their neighbors?  The first step is always the dehumanization of a class or group of people.  To the Germans; the Jews, the Gypsies, the homosexuals, and the rest were the untermenschen, the subhumans.  'They are not worthy of consideration, they are less than fully human.Once a group or class is seen as less than human, any horrific treatment of them becomes possible.

The following is from the book, The Temple of Music* by Jonathan Lowy.  The book is set in the late 1800's, to early 1900's.  The scene is at a party where a discussion is ongoing about how little advancement has occurred among the former slaves since slavery ended.

"...As I was saying," the professor raises his voice a notch now and turns towards the colored man.  "I have studied them and I have found the following.  The Negro children may be sharp, intelligent, full of vivacity, but on approaching the adult period a gradual change sets in.  The intellect becomes clouded, animation gives place to a lethargy, briskness becomes indolence.  The reason, I have deduced, is that the growth of the Negro brain must be arrested by the premature closing of the cranial sutures and the frontal bone.  There is no doubt the arrest or deterioration in mental development is largely responsible for the fact that after puberty[,] sexual matters take the first place in the Negro's life and thoughts.  You will not be surprised to find in the Negro a lowered morality, as evidenced by the higher rates one finds in our prisons.  Contrast with the white, whose brainpan expands, allowing for proper development."

The point of sharing this vile quote is that it in itself is largely a quote.  The assertions made by the professor are word for word from the famed 11th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, published in 1911.  Against this backdrop of that socially acceptable analysis, black Americans were trying to carve out a piece of the American Dream.  While real science eventually debunked that vile analysis, the dehumanizing attitudes remained throughout our society.  In 1939, Bille Holiday recorded Strange Fruit.  The segregation of bathrooms and other public facilities was not fully outlawed until the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  Laws prohibiting interracial marriage were not declared unconstitutional until 1967, in the Supreme Court's aptly named Loving Decision (Loving v Virginia).  (Although, the last law against interracial marriage, in Alabama, wasn't officially repealed until 2000.)

We seem to have two kinds of people in our society today.  There are those who see that certain classes of people are too often treated unfairly; considered to be less worthy, less intelligent, less honest, and less deserving of basic human consideration than other classes.  And there are those who don't see it all.

If you contend that there is no racial or social injustice in our country that is worthy of protesting, then you are part of the problem.

Christopher Dinnes
M/V Liberty Eagle
Berbera, Somaliland 

*The Temple of Music, by Jonathan Lowy is a now little hard to find.  I own it in eReader format; a format which came, ruled, and disappeared all in the seeming blink of an eye.  I did find that it was available as a Nook book from Barnes and Noble, on iTunes as an iBook and as a used book in places like AbeBooks.  

Disclosure: No financial considerations have been given for the preceding book links.  I just really enjoyed the book.