When reflecting on the difference between Human Rights and Civil rights it can be resolved that in order to be entitled to civil rights, one has to first be recognized as human.
When you look through the lens of world history it seems the common stem is that one community does not regard another community as human. When we examine African slavery for instance, from 1435 to 1890, numerous bulls and encyclicals were written from several popes to many bishops condemning both slavery and the slave trade. In 1441 Portugal began importing slaves from Africa. As they settled West Africa, many of the rival tribes in Africa would sell the conquered tribes into slavery.
It seems that within the context of early slavery from a global perspective, it was the greed of people that contributed to their delusion of a dehumanized being. In other words, the best way they could rationalize the dehumanization of a person or people was by simply realizing the profit of free labor. As their greed grew, so did the mistreatment of slaves and the inhumane conditions they lived in. To be beaten and whipped where the flesh is removed with each stripe, burned, raped, having hot tar poured on the body, and other brutal treatment to either punish or intimidate others into submission, is incomprehensible to me. To know that when a West African was confronted by a Ship Captain that there was a papal bull prohibiting the “slavery of people,” I get a chill to think the reply may have been, “its okay ‘they’ are not human” troubles me.
Fast forward to the Jim Crow era and again there continue the thought that if a person was not considered human, they were not entitled to the basic human dignity a person deserved. Fast forward to the present and in the United States there are some that subscribe to the thought that if a person is not a citizen they are not entitled to any rights. Women are not fully respected as human beings. People who are gay are not accepted as fully human. In fact every group or sub-group of people that are not treated as equal are not considered human or if they are, the group or sub-group is considered “sub-human.”
Interestingly, in some ways civil rights are human rights. While civil rights are generally reserved for citizens, the denial of a same sex couple to enjoy the same rights as heterosexual couples denies that couple the freedom to express themselves and their sexuality. Expression and sexuality, while personal, is an attribute of a human being. To not respect that attribute in others and deny them of the right to be treated as equals, deprives them of their humanity.
It seems that while slavery began out of greed, it was maintained from greed. Today’s dehumanization’s seem to be more “power” driven. To not respect the fact that a woman is a human being and an individual who is entitled to the same rights as men, denies them their humanity. To not accept gay marriage as equal with traditional marriage is to deprive them their humanity. To not grant people of color the same rights as Caucasian people is to deny them their humanity. To get racism in America to be looked at as a legitimate evil, it had to first be defined by the world as evil. In short, until the world says that depriving someone of their humanity is evil, evil will continue…..