I was driving to work, minding my own business, when it hit me right between the eyes -- I'm guilty of a big scary thing called "dehumanization."
It happened while I was listening to The Marie Forleo Podcast, which a friend had recommended. In the episode, Marie interviews sociologist and author Brené Brown.
[Begins unrelated rant]
Are you automatically assuming I agree with everything Brené teaches? The truth is, I've never read any of her books, and I think this was only the second time I'd ever heard her voice. But we do that so much now -- we assume that because someone says they like one thing someone else says that they must agree with that person on all things, or that that they belong to whatever group that person belongs to. It's maddening.
Marie brings up a part of Brené's new book that talks about dehumanization, which is basically when we use words or images to deprive a person or group of their full status as fellow humans. That sounds super deep and academic, but it's really not. It's basically when we label someone as something other than a person so we can hate them (or blame them, etc.).
I can think of so many examples where I've been part of this problem: Calling all hispanics Mexicans, calling a woman a girl, and on and on (some examples, I'm too ashamed to even share). Thankfully, I've stopped using several of these dehumanizing terms, but the interview really checked something in me. I might be doing better in some areas, but I'm still failing in others.
As I pulled into the parking deck, I could feel my shame changing to a genuine desire to do and be better.
I will say that this is one of those things that can go too far. We have to use representative words for groups of people. It's the spirit of those labels that seems to matter, and I know deep down when I'm using a label incorrectly even if it wouldn't sound that bad to someone else. When I stop to think honestly, I know when a label I'm using reflects that I don't view a person or group as fully human.
And that's a very very dangerous thing. That's the type of thing that leads to discrimination in the workplace, bullying, and at it's worst the kind of hatred that leads otherwise normal people to sanction and participate in things like the holocaust.
That's heavy for a blog post, I know, but it has been weighing heavy on me. I want to make sure it's not something I just shrug off and move on. I want to change. I want to be better.
If you're interested in hearing the clip yourself, this video will start playing at 10:53. The topic runs until about 16:00.