Yesterday America woke up to election results that reflect a great division in our country. The electorate was almost evenly split between the two main party candidates, with the winner’s campaign representing the hatred of all people who are not White, male, American, straight, rich, and Christian. It also represents the entrenchment of the “hierarchy of humanness” that exists in our capitalist, white supremacist, and patriarchal modern culture in which some are considered more human than others. Paolo Freire described this same hierarchy in his book Pedagogy of the Oppressed. No matter what language we use to describe it, the result is the same: the dehumanization of all and a lack of a belief in a common humanity.
The human sciences consistently reveal that humans are empathic, social, altruistic, and cooperative, yet our modern culture devalues and disconnects us from these capacities. Stereotypes about gender, race, class, sexuality, and religion divide us, leading us to overlook our common humanity. According to research with girls and boys, this clash between nature and culture creates a crisis of connection in which they learn, as they develop, to privilege autonomy over relationships, individual interests over the common good, and the hierarchy of humanness. This crisis during childhood and adolescence sets the psychological stage for further isolation. Consequences include distrust, depression, suicide, mass violence, and declining rates of empathy, all of which are evident across the U.S.
However, the sciences also suggest we have the capacities within ourselves to resist the crisis of connection and to create a more just, and humane society. We can resist by not buying into the culture of fear that the new president-elect and his followers are capitalizing on and promoting. We can resist by educating ourselves and not buying into stereotypes. We can resist by valuing people over profits. We can resist by not participating in the power struggle for more privilege, but rather pursuing freedom and justice for all. Resisting is a joyous action and one that keeps us healthy, sane, and together.
The results of this election have drawn attention to just how much work there is to do in fighting dehumanization and disrupting the hierarchy of humanness. We at the Project for the Advancement of Our Common Humanity at NYU (PACH; pach.org) are ready to redouble our efforts to fight all forms of dehumanization and oppression that this American culture throws our way. Please join with us and let us know how and where we can join with you in resistance.