Finding the human in the Dehumanize

Ernestasia Edwards

Throughout history it is no secret in the power dynamics of the world, that race played and continues to play a big part of. If we went as far back as 400 to 600 years ago people of the darker skin pigmentation were always depicted in a negative way. From being described as savages and animalistic to ugly and less then , it was a clear conclusion of dehumanization. From the beginning of Europeans colonizing Africans, they shared similar motives as Odysseus when it came to their cause for dehumanizing. Just like Odysseus they used their personal gain to imbrute the Africans. In Africa they contained many resources for wealth and overall success, such as gold, land, diamonds, etc. Due to the fortune that Africans had, Europeans let their greed and selfishness get in the way of treating them with respect and creating a wholesome partnership. Instead they decided to enslave and dehumanized Africans to get the resources for themselves. Just as Odysseus did when he wanted to use manipulation and lies to trick the mind of Philoctetes, just to obtain the weapon he had possession of. In passage 2 lines 54–84 and passage 4 (219–254) Odysseus is talking to Neoptolemus as he explains his plan to use deception to gain the bow that Hercules had gifted Philoctetes. He goes on and on about the plan as he tries to convince the good hearted Neoptolemus of doing this action. I feel like this is even dehumanizing to Neoptolemus because he is being convinced to go against his morals and is being used as a tool, basically, for Odysseus personal gain. If I were to use this to be applicable to the colonization or dehumanization of Africans/African-Americans this can be the people who originally weren’t all there for greed and evil intentions. For example during the establishment of slavery a lot of white children, master’s kids, didn't share the same evil intentions or hatred for Black people as their parents, but many of them were convinced and manipulated to carry that same hostile ways towards black people. Going back to the very beginning though, Europeans use the manipulation to convince the Africans that they needed the Europeans to succeed and help control their valuables. Although all of that was a clear lie they use the deception of trying to be friends with them at first knowing they were only there for their own selfish reasons. Once they gain their trust they betrayed them and started to enslave them. With that they convinced them that they were wild and inferior to the Europeans and other colonizers at the time. This is very dehumanizing to tell someone that their way of living (which was perfectly fine) wasn't good enough and they need to be dependent on someone else. This kind of manipulation carried on for years to come. The dehumanization only continued for the worst especially when they broke up the black community and started colorism. That foundation was already set by the Europeans when they dehumanized the Africans but it got worse when society and social norms started to take a toll and everything people believed in and followed. More specifically people who were dark skin were seen as wild and barbaric. It had gotten so severe that in movies if a black person was in it they were depicted animalisticly and they had created things like “the black face”. This was used to add to the discrimination and barbarizing of black people, but more specifically dark skin people. This kind of unfairness carried on outside of just the African/black community, on the island of Hisponola, Haiti and Dominican Republic had many fueds based soley on skin tone alone. Dark skin Dominicans were being treated bad in comparison to the lighter skinned ones and Haitians were being killed, kidnapped, and kicked out of the Dominican Republic side of the the island. These kind of degrading actions were so powerful that dark skin people were internalizing this hatred and letting themselves believe they were less than and dehumanized. Many of the bleached their skin, wore lighter makeup, or let society convince them they weren’t pretty and presentable enough. This also reminds me of when Philoctetes, in passage 5 lines 468–506, he starts degrading himself as he begs for help. At this point he has completely internalized the dehumanizing of himself just as dark skins have overtime due to history and societal norms (which are based off of historic ways). And this is shown everywhere, from magazines to cartoons to movies. Magazine covers rarely ever shown dark skin people, they implemented cartoons like Boondocks which included characters like Uncle Ruckus. Uncle Ruckus was a black man who hated black people and seen himself as white no matter how dark his skin was and became a “pet” for the white people as he bowwed down to them. He labelled them as better and superior to black people because he was taught to hate himself, because of his skin tone. This led him to hate the darker skin because unfortunately it was the root to his abuse.

Uncle Ruckus

Only ways I know I can help change this, is not condoning the systemic differences that are set in society. Furthermore, speaking against this kind of dehumanization and be the change or bring out the humanity in those who were dehumanized. Philoctetes became fully humanized after he was “felt”. Neoptolemus seen the human in him despite Odysseus efforts to try and convince him that he wasnt worth. This is why many people have to look past what beauty standards society has said, just as I do myself. I find beauty deeper than the skin level but also if I were to base it off of skin tone all skin tones would be beautiful in my eyes. Some people have to let go of the installment of discrimination and the historical ways that were set based off of racism in order to truly break the dehumanization of dark skin people or even back then, Africans. Again sharing this history in educating people on these differences will show my leadership behaviors to help exhibit finding the humanity in those who were deemed as not human.

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