Consequences of Dehumanizing Black Children

ashley-cook-8-stages-of-genocide-7-728Hat-tip to CFBostonBrian who referenced a link on his blog.  Reading that link, I found another link to a 20 page report by Phillip Atiba Goff and Matthew Christian Jackson of the University of California, Los Angeles; Brooke Allison Lewis DiLeone of the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Boston, Massachusetts; Carmen Marie Culotta and Natalie Ann DiTomasso of the University of Pennsylvania.  The research paper is titled “The Essence of Innocence: Consequences of Dehumanizing Black Children.”

Their study, conducted in 2008, indirectly corrected me on using the term “demeaning”.   I should have been using the term “dehumanizing.”

When Trayvon Martin was killed in 2012, there were people online who vigorously argued against Trayvon being a child.  That argument continues today.   I looked for reasons behind the demeaning because it was more than racial prejudice — it was absolute hatred, wishes of violence, and disrespect for human life.

The research and study conducted by Goff and colleagues supports that there is a link between dehumanization and sanctioned violence.   It gives a history of dehumanization in the United States as a necessary condition for state-sanctioned violence. :

“The logic of this assertion is that dehumanizing groups morally excludes them (Opotow, 1990), making it permissible to treat people in a way that would be morally objectionable if they were fully human. U.S. history is replete with examples of this kind of moral exclusion of Black children. For instance, the policies of chattel slavery (mostly pertaining to peoples of African descent) permitted children to be separated from their parents and forced into labor at any age (Guttman, 1976). In 1944, a Black 14-year-old, George Junius Stinney Jr., became the youngest person on record in the United States to be legally executed by the state (electrocuted without the benefit of a lawyer, witnesses, or a record of confession; Jones, 2007). And, notoriously, in 1955, a 14-year-old Black boy named Emmett Till was dragged from his bed, disfigured, and lynched for allegedly whistling at a White woman (Crowe, 2003). What psychological context could explain this treatment of children? Again, there is reason to believe it may be contexts that provoke dehumanization.”

Its introduction explains the social category of “children,” and defines it as a group of individuals who are perceived to be distinct, with essential characteristics including innocence and the need for protection.  The research examined whether Black boys are given the protection of children equal to their peers.  The research tested 3 hypothesis;

(a) that Black boys are seen as less “childlike” than their White peers,

(b) that the characteristics associated with childhood will be applied less when thinking specifically about Black boys relative to White boys, and

(c) that these trends would be exacerbated in contexts where Black males are dehumanized by associating them (implicitly) with apes.

The research found that dehumanization of Black males is actual racial disparity in police violence towards Black children.  Researchers also found converging evidence that Black boys are seen as older and less innocent and that they prompt a less essential conception of childhood than do their White same-age peers.

Bandura Value JudgmentsTests involved White participants who were subliminally exposed to images of apes before watching a video of police beating a Black man.  Participants were more likely to endorse that beating, despite the extremity of the violence. Participants did not, however, endorse the same beating when the suspect was White or when they had not been primed with the ape image.

The report makes some profound conclusions;

“In other words, our findings suggest that, although most children are allowed to be innocent until adulthood, Black children may be perceived as innocent only until deemed suspicious.”

Keeping in mind that the research was conducted in 2008, we see evidence today that the findings are true.  Tamir Rice was 12-years old when he was on a playground with a toy gun, and was shot down by a police officer in Cleveland, Ohio.  Those justifying his killing argue Tamir’s physical appearance.  The dehumanizers could not argue that the photo of Tamir was from when he was 8 years old, so they began dehumanizing Tamir’s parents.

Timothy Loehmann, who killed Tamir Rice, gave a signed statement to investigators where he demonstrates disrespecting Tamir as a human being by his failure to mention Tamir’s name, and saying he “appeared to be over 18 years old and about 185 pounds.”

Darren Wilson, who killed Michael Brown, described Michael before the grand jury as looking like a “demon.”

George Zimmerman called the non-emergency number and described the suspicious person as in his late teens.  At his bond hearing however, he said that he thought Trayvon was around his age.

Eight years after the research, we find people on social media who consistently dehumanize Blacks by calling or comparing them to animals; who wish violence against those they dehumanize; and who believe that it is okay to represent a Black teen as an adult.

Andie comment about age

Piercy's comments of dehumanization


Mark Dice comment of dehumanization


Dehumanization, although a concrete historical fact, is not a given destiny but the result of an unjust order that engenders violence in the oppressors, which in turn dehumanizes the oppressed.
― Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Posted on 08/15/2016, in Black lives matter, civil rights, research and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 31 Comments.

  1. Deborah the Closet Monster

    Anthony and I just finished our 900-mile drive south after a visit to hugely white Eugene, Oregon. I had a lot of opportunity to think about dehumanization, even apart from what we experienced while there; I spent much of the ride reading Glenn Greenwald’s Liberty and Justice for Some. I highly recommend it, though I feel sick to my stomach having read it.

    The key to changing things is to have a majority recognize problems they don’t benefit by recognizing. How to change that, then? I’m working on that. I am.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hey Deborah,
      Thanks for working on it, and if there is anything we can do to help get the word out, let us know. I realize that change is per individual, and that it is also caused by others being informed because knowledge is power. I’ll look for the Glenn Greenwald book. Thanks for recommending it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Mr. Militant Negro

    Reblogged this on The Militant Negro™.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is so sad but true. This is why I hate to see any group demonized because I know the next step. This is what too many tried to do to our president. This way they could justify not working with him. Next comes lying, crooked Hillary Clinton who needs to be locked up. This then justifies those who do not wish to cooperate with her.

    Our Black children are vulnerable to being harmed because too many in law enforcement demonize our Black brothers. This is why I am so grateful to “Black Lives Matter.” This cycle has to be broken.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Gronda,
      You saw the dehumanization of President Obama and how it hindered progress in America. I had screenshots of the President and First Lady made to look like apes, in addition to Trayvon and Michael Brown, but decided to not post them.

      You are so correct about the vulnerability of children. In a video posted on the thread about the DOJ’s findings of the Baltimore police department is a man who says he was 8 years old the first time he was stopped by a Baltimore City cop and asked what he was doing. It becomes a way of life, and it’s oppressive.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Two sides to a story

    Way too many people have faulty opinions and make up their own facts. If they’d honestly do real research and open their hearts, they could never express the kind of hatred and dehumanizing remarks above.

    I have to ball my fist up sometimes and try hard to not hurt azzholes. They’re hurting themselves enough with their own toxic attitudes, but sometimes you’d just love to see lightning strike or pants catch fire for a change.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hey Two sides! Over the weekend, I read so much about dehumanization that I began to feel overloaded. One was a report on tests of the brains of participants who dehumanize others. It was a professional paper so there is lots of medical stuff in it about the brain, but the findings were that those who dehumanize have less feelings in areas of their brains that feel compassion and empathy. I thought about that when reading your comment;

      “They’re hurting themselves enough with their own toxic attitudes, …”

      It caused me to think that their lack of moral compassion for others also applies to themselves, which is why they go about acting like nothing hurts them.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. yahtzeebutterfly

    As long as this horrible dehumanization goes on, our Black children are in danger. We need to push hard to stop this NOW!

    We cannot lose anymore precious, dear Black lives.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Well my dear Yahtzee, there is lots of damage already done, and it will take time and direct counseling to undo that damage. Why do you think the birth place of Barack Obama was so important to the Birthers? America’s history of dehumanizing Black boys was intended to prevent Black men from even imagining that they could be elected to the highest position in this nation. How dare teachers not give him low grades! How dare the police not arrest him so many times that he would be embarrassed to run for public office! Certainly, had he been born and raised in America, he would not have succeeded in life and would never think that White, Brown, Yellow and Red people would vote for him — that’s the foundation of the Birther’s motivation.

      They think that only Blacks from other countries or first generation Blacks of immigrants such as Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, and Colin Powell, would not be effected by the dehumanization and achieve successful goals in America.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I sincerely hope that there was some sort of sampling error in the priming study – otherwise we are an even crueler race than I feared. Pictures of APES leading to more tolerance of violence toward black men? I would feel sick if the apes had been beaten – and furious to see that kind of violence extended to a human of *any* race. Cruelty is cruelty – and scientific studies need to be confined to that sad reality, NOT in attempting to understand (and justify?) cruelty to blacks – or purples! – male, female, young or old.

    Black boys are seen as less “childlike” than their White peers? Well, many too many ARE less “childlike” because the innocence seen in same-age white peers has been stolen from black boys in service of “behaving right” for self-protection. How many white boys must be schooled from a young age in how to behave when confronted by police or a group of [supposedly] grown-up men for fear of reprisals?

    That does NOT mean that ALL children are not still children emotionally or neuro-developmentally, or that black children are undeserving of the protection that society extends to children generally.

    My heart hurts and my stomach is in knots when I read articles like this one – SO important, yet so disturbing. The reactions and behavior we see still and far too often is inexcusable. Those of us born into “white privilege” have a moral obligation to speak out against it!

    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMore dot com)
    – ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder –
    “It takes a village to transform a world!”

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hey Madelyn. I read the report over about 3 times, but don’t remember seeing that they reported a sampling error. What concerns me is that this study and report, published in 2008, was probably only read by professionals in that field and not those who really need to read it, such as Police Chiefs, Sheriffs, and even activists for equality and reforming the criminal justice system.

      Yep – I felt sick reading the findings of the report, but the report is something that I needed to know, and then felt that the public needs to know. It’s almost like diagnosing a medical condition. Once we know the reasons for pain and suffering, we can look for how to heal.

      Liked by 1 person

      • “Once we know the reasons for pain and suffering, we can look for how to heal.” And that IS the point, isn’t it?

        Unfortunately, information trickle-down to the people who need to know about it is believed to take 15-20 years. (due to the time it takes to secure funding, enroll participants, conduct the studies, write up the findings, apply to the Journals and get accepted for publication so that the rest of the scientific community can become aware of them — still not including the need for replication before it will be accepted and the time THAT takes, etc.)

        Only afterwards do the secondary science pubs and their blogs pick it up, where it *might* be read by the public at large.

        Thanks for bringing it to awareness on your blog.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Hey Madelyn,
          You’re so right — the people who need to read it probably won’t know about it, or want to read it. Just to think, it was conducted in 2008 and I didn’t know about it until this weekend, and would not have known about it had it not been for another blog linking to another report by the organization.

          I really appreciate your comments on this issue.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Those of us in the online community who are aware and concerned must stick together in this “war” for the rights of all, right?

            Whether our struggles are mental or physical, internal or inflicted by others, we all deserve respectful treatment and must speak out in support of all, IMHO.

            A favorite quote by Winston Churchill: “An appeaser is one who feed the crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.”

            Liked by 2 people

        • To add to Madelyn’s point, it does seem, in a way, like we’re looking for “scientific” excuses for racism. But i guess the more we know is always better. Maybe we can find a vaccine or something.
          But it’s too bad the racists arent the ones interested in understanding their racism and looking for a cure!

          So how about in the meantime, for everyone else’s peace of mind, can’t we simply demand certain moral & intellectual standards as well as professional training, of the police officers we’re giving authority to use deadly force?
          It’s not that much to ask since “Death is Different!”
          And we already have ways to control for these attributes. No bigots and/or idiots allowed!
          And at the very least we shouldn’t have to ‘investigate’ a police officer on video uttering racial slurs at citizens, or slamming a 15yr black girl to the ground for texting in class.

          Liked by 2 people

          • Well said! Thank you. A vaccine – lol – and wouldn’t that open a bio-ethics can of worms!

            It’s not rocket science, or a matter of science at all, actually. It’s a matter of legality in accordance with the freedoms we all want to be able to experience in “polite society.” Like it or not, some behaviors simply cannot be tolerated unless we are all willing to return to the ‘strongest-meanest man wins’ days of gun-totin’ and gun slinging’.

            Peer pressure is a powerful force – and that has already been scientifically validated. As Churchill said (and I have quoted all over the ‘net), “An appeaser is one who feeds the crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.”

            As long as any of us remain silent in the presence of what we know in our hearts is wrong, we’re setting up the bad guys to win. If we speak up – *every single time* we even hear a comment that smacks of racism, ageism, prejudice of ANY flavor, perhaps we can move the needle of public opinion incrementally closer to the human rights for all side of the ledger board. Silence does, after all, imply agreement (if not consent).

            btw- training initiatives and prereqs for anyone carrying a weapon (officially or un-) wouldn’t be a bad idea!


            Liked by 2 people

  7. “Their study, conducted in 2008, indirectly corrected me on using the term “demeaning”. I should have been using the term “dehumanizing.”

    The study is on point and so easily understandable to those with open hearts. I do remember when Zimmerslime’s supporters were so racist while claiming race had nothing to do with the murder of Trayvon Martin. They’re too stupid to even realize what it is they’re doing.

    Liked by 2 people

    • “They’re too stupid to even realize what it is they’re doing.”

      Either that, or they’re smart enough to attempt to try to avoid legal or other consequences. Trump’s excuse the other day saying his words were “sarcasm” reminded me of a comment submitted here by David Piercy after he admitted holding sovereign citizenship ideologies — he said it was “satire.” They say what they believe until they realize that it is not to their benefit.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. If you drill it into someone’s head from an early age, that their lives are of less value, eventually that person will see very little value in everyone else lives as well as their own.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mindyme,
      That could very well be true. You said something years ago that I’ve not forgotten — hurting people hurt others.


  9. chuquestaquenumber1

    Add the “Black parents need to teach their children to respect police.” comment from Rudy (my own children wouldn’t campaign with me when I ran for president.) Giuliani. That also contributes to the dehumanizing of black children.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Chuquest,
      Indeed! When people are already primed to believe that a certain group of people are not fully human and/or violent, there is nothing that group can do to “earn” respect. I remember the following so well;

      Liked by 1 person

  10. chuquestaquenumber1

    Dehumanized black children grow up to be dehumanized older black beings. This leads to unarmed non threatening black people killed by police. This also leads to injustice. Even after a “conviction”

    Many of these dehumanized black victims of police terrorism have children that have to bear the trauma of how their parents are no longer with them.

    This offer by Peter Liang is insulting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Chuquest and thanks so much for the update. I did not know that Liang had offered that. $25K?!?!? That’s all the value he placed on Akai’s participation in his daughter’s life?


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