Not Quite (Hu)Man

Way back when some of us thought The Naked Emperor couldn’t be elected, he boasted that his celebrity status meant that any woman was his for the grabbing. This wasn’t surprising to those of us paying attention; the stories and his verbal and nonverbal communication painted a pretty clear picture. What was surprising (at least to me) was that the population at large didn’t care. This ate at me for a while before it hit me that what freaked me out was that this contained the message that simple human dignity wasn’t mine to claim. Trump, rape culture, us as Things… it’s all part of this denial that women are, I am, fully human. This insight brought me into a feeling of despair and sadness I do not remember experiencing before.

In the next moment light again flashed in the epiphany that this denial of humanity is what the Black Lives Matter people have been trying to get us to see. I had believed them before, and had intellectual understanding, but that punch in the gut connection was a whole new thing. Though my Whiteness bars me forever from complete empathy, meeting in that type of grief shattered yet another layer of the shell that protects me (us) from feeling what racism does.

This mechanism of making the Other less than human is key to all the other screwed up stuff. Today this article on how that works bobbed by in the stream. And I wanted to share it with you.

Author: Aron DiBacco

Aron thinks about conflict, communication, and how to help move the world in the direction of inclusive equity. She does these things through teaching, facilitating dialogue, social science research, and writing.

9 thoughts on “Not Quite (Hu)Man”

  1. So I’ve decided to stop being a goof and let you know I’m here (at least sometimes). Great post and eye-widening article. It’s amazing to me how hard it is to be a good human. I see my own failings when I recognize them in others. Maybe you can help me with this: I’d like to get to know some Others. I’d like to exchange letters with women from other countries. Really simple “tell me about your day” letters. They can’t be Other if we can get to know them, right? I should probably start with the Trump supporters I know but they’re waaay too Other for me at the moment. Any ideas?

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    1. The paradox, of course, is that the more worried we are about if we are good humans, the more likely it is that we are (good humans).

      I heard this thing* the other day where someone gay related having been asked “How many times … have my words bruised you?” Someone else in the room complimented the asker for asking, but he persisted, saying “No. Don’t patronize me. How many times have my words bruised you?” They went on from there, with people in the room giving him honest feedback and him asking “Are you telling me it’s painful for you to be around me?” “Yeah, it is”, the group told him.

      If we’re on either end of that conversation, we’re on the road to okay.

      * onbeing.org/programs/padraig-o-tuama-belonging-creates-and-undoes-us-both/

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  2. Aron I really appreciate your remarks and this excellent but disturbing article. I think that we need to be as proactive about trying to diffuse this demonization of the other – whether it’s a Trump supporter or a Muslim as we are resisting the horrible political change Trump et al are perpetrating. In Rwanda the government has taken education about how hatred and “otherness” descends into madness very seriously. In addition to the amazing Genocide Museum in Kigali, http://www.kgm.rw/ eleven educational centers throughout the country teach conflict resolution skills, how ethnic hatred manifests into retaliation and concrete action Rwandans can take to make their society better. We should not have to wait until we have a genocide to take hatred for the other seriously as a social problem that needs serious attention. We have many examples within our own long history of how the ism schism results in real harm to individuals and classes of Americans. We need to find ways to end the poisonous bickering that is most visible online, (and in other media) but also shows up at public events (town halls) and unfortunately on the floors of state legislatures and congress. I have a theory that if we can peel away those from the more reasonable edges on the left and the right and engage in some serious dialogue about what kind of world we want to live in we can begin to collectively build a more tolerant and peaceful community and planet. It’s hard work, not a casual undertaking, that would be helped immensely if schools, churches, mosques, synagogues, community organizations, businesses and even local governments were committed and involved. I’m afraid without such an effort we will continue to devolve back into our frightened and ignorant corners and some of us will end up being unwilling or willing pawns of demagogues and authoritarians, who seem to be much more numerous in the U.S. than conventional wisdom would suggest.

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  3. Aron, The empathetic connection you realized with BLM as you experienced your own dehumanization against the stark context of trump’s violent misogyny (and its acceptance by the electorate and media) is something I can tell you I experienced also–not in precisely the same way as you describe. But in a similar way. And for me too, there was that one eye opening moment of understanding my own shift in consciousness. For me, it has been the entire landscape of leading up to the presidential election which hit Clinton supporters with a deafening thud on Election night. As the trump transition team shaped up and I became increasingly outraged about all the intersecting thrusts of oppressive formations of power (white supremacy, male supremacy and domination, heteronormativity, militarism, nativism, capitalism and class warfare, etc.), I suddenly had that moment of, “ohmygod, what I’m seeing and feeling right now, this way in which my entire existence and the value I attach to my life as a woman, to my daughter’s life as an African American young woman, to the life of my communities, my immigrant neighbors and students, etc. is under life-limiting (in some cases life-ending) attack” brought me into a new consciousness of empathy–being able to relate MORE FULLY to the dehumanization experience of African Americans. This is what we mean by coalitional subjectivity and it’s amazing to me how much interaction and solidarity we’re seeing between progressive and radical organizations and political movements at this time. I think you’ve hit on something in your column that really needs to be articulated broadly so all of us who’ve had one or more of those ah-ha moments since November can begin to deploy this coalitional subjectivity as a tactic of freedom and social transformation. As a friend of your sister, and a recent FB friend of yours, I just want you to know how proud I am of you for starting to write and publish as you’re doing during this tumultuous and dangerous time of which we are all a part in the U.S. And I’m inspired and appreciate the work you’re doing. Thank you for writing this piece! And I want to recommend a book if you have time, by Chela Sandoval, METHODOLOGY OF THE OPPRESSED (not the same as Paulo Friere’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed)…about love as a radical tactic of social transformation.

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    1. Dawn Rae, is Shay how we connected? I wondered. I have also been following your posts and even checked to see if you were near me so I could suggest working on a project together. Thank you for your thoughts on this critical topic.

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