Chapter 4: How does dehumanization render a person powerless?
I must admit, even as a person who regards life as God’s greatest gift to us, there was a piece of me that felt relief when reading that Demby was shot and killed. He is now at peace. He is now free. He is no longer powerless. There is no greater sin than to strip away the humanity of another person. When looking at the principles of Catholic Social Teaching, they all hinge upon the first principle of human dignity. Without first recognizing that each and every one of us is created in God’s image – no one person any more or less so than another – we can’t even begin to address the other principles of “the rights of the worker” or “care for God’s creation,” etc. After all, when a person’s dignity has been denied, when his status as “person” has been denied, why would that person have any greater voice than, say, a horse? Mr. Gore would never hear Demby’s voice because, as far as Mr. Gore was concerned, Demby didn’t have a voice. Demby knew this.
The juniors are currently learning in their Social Justice class the importance of hope when working for racial justice (or any form of justice). Hope requires the belief that, even if only a remote possibility, there IS the possibility for people to change and for society to change. Without that hope, injustices will only grow worse. However, with that hope comes empowerment. With empowerment comes a voice. With a voice comes change. Thankfully, people like Frederick Douglass held onto hope throughout the worst of circumstances. I am confident our students will also be empowered voices who bring about change in our society.
Our sense of pride and purpose comes from our sense of who we as individuals. Children who grow up in circumstances that foster love & self worth responds to the world differently than those who come out of trauma. A large number of our children in the inner cities across this nation have and continue to experience trauma (not necessarily violence in the strictest sense of the word). Dehumanization causes helplessness in humans if they are treated like animals ( talked down to, mentally abused, deprived of proper healthcare, education & adequate housing). As adults we have a responsibility to speak life into all children we come in contact with so they will feel empowered whatever their life circumstances.
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