look where it starts…

  • It starts with language.
  • We create categories to distinguish people into “us and them.”
  • We then give names or other symbols to the classifications.
  • We attempt to use law, custom, and political power to deny the rights of other groups — perhaps maybe silence them.
  • Then we dehumanize. One group denies the humanity of the other group, by equating its members to something lesser — often with animals, vermin, insects or diseases. Maybe we suggest they are evil, incapable, or simply not of sound mind.
  • Social media is used to vilify the other group. 
  • Hate on television, in print, and radio is utilized.
  • The majority group is taught to regard the other group as less than human and even alien to their society. They are indoctrinated to believe that “we are better off without them.”  
  • The other group is often equated with filth, impurity, and immorality. Something is wrong with them. 
  • We hear speeches decrying the other group as lesser. As worse. Their leaders, supporters — all of them — worse. Amoral. Immoral.

So, friends, let’s ask a couple of key questions before our one big, brave one today…

Are we hearing the above in our culture today?

Are we reading about such classifications? … seeing such content?

Is this happening on television, in print, on radio and social media?

And… hard to ask this… but are we being encouraged to think of another group as lesser? … less enlightened? … or less something?

Allow me to humbly reference Prof. Gregory Stanton, a former law professor at Yale, George Mason, and multiple other established institutions of higher education. In the late 90’s, when serving in the U.S. State Dept., Stanton drafted the U.N. Security Council resolutions responsible for creating the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and more. He is best known for his work on genocide studies — the intentional destroying of people.

In 1999, Staton left academia to establish Genocide Watch, an organization which exists to predict and prevent genocide. We would know genocide when we see it — right? 

… the Holocaust… the Holodomor… the Armenian Genocide… the Assyrian genocide… the Cambodian genocide… the Kurdish genocide… the Rwandan genocide… the Guatemalan genocide… the Bangladesh genocide… and so heartbreakingly more…

So in regard to what’s relevant today, remember our first sentence: “It starts with language.”

The 10 bulleted statements above are taken from Stanton’s well known The Ten Stages of Genocide. “The process is not linear. Stages may occur simultaneously.” Here are the stages:

  1. Classification
  2. Symbolization
  3. Discrimination
  4. Dehumanization
  5. Organization
  6. Polarization
  7. Preparation
  8. Persecution
  9. Extermination
  10. Denial

Let us not overreact. Let us not confuse now with Nazi Germany; this is not.

But let us be brave enough to ask one big question:

Where are we unknowingly supporting one of the above?

The reality is that if we can “dehumanize” another group  —  because of how they look, where they live, what they believe, or even who they vote for  —  then we can justify all sorts of arrogance, judgment and otherwise known-to-be-awful behavior.

Remember: it starts with language.