Dr. Mike Obsatz, Professor Emeritus at Macalester College
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Empire Consciousness, Oppression and the Dehumanization Process
To dehumanize people means to create in image of them that presents them as less than human. They are not really worthy of the rights, considerations, and fair treatment by others. Dehumanization is part of Empire Consciousness, which is about power, domination, control, and shaming. People at the bottom are usually dehumanized, made to be considered "less than," as they are oppressed.
Many minority groups have been stereotyped and dehumanized over the centuries. Native Americans, Jews, Blacks, Hispanics, and other minorities have been portrayed by false images of them or by exaggerating one aspect of them. Slavery has existed for many centuries, and slaves are always dehumanized.
The Bible discusses how the Jews were enslaved to the Egyptians. Others were enslaved as well during that time. Caste systems and class systems were present in biblical times.
During the 1800's in America, Africans were imported into slavery. Slaves were bought and sold. Families were destroyed. Upper class White slave owners hired lower class White people to police the slaves. Lighter skinned Black people were servants in the house. White lower class people were not servants--they were the militia. This created a divide between Black and White lower classes. The fear was that if they were united, they might overthrow the land-owner and slaveholder, revolt, and flee to freedom. It was an intentional way for the wealthy to divide and conquer.
Systemic racism and classism is how Empires work. One of the by-products of Empire Consciousness and hierarchy is fear. Those at the bottom fear those at the top who wield power over them. Those at the top fear rebellion and retaliation from those at the bottom.
There is also a deep reservoir of guilt in those who dominate and oppress others. Deep down they know they are destroying the lives of others. This guilt is covered over by justifications. "They asked for it. They aren't really human anyway, so they deserve to be kept down, limited, punished, controlled, dominated, killed." Fear on both sides escalates into violence. So, Empire Consciousness always results in suffering, oppression, fear, guilt, shame, rage, and violence.
A consciousness shift from Empire Consciousness to Oneness Consciousness is the ONLY way we can move out of the hell that human beings have created over and over again. Oneness Consciousness is seeing the oneness, connection and sameness in each person. We are equal and we are ONE.
Peace and blessings,