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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.”

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