Civil Rights and Human Rights

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…..

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5 Responses to Civil Rights and Human Rights

  1. bewalke3 says:

    As an African American I completely agree with your beginning remarks. The dehumanization of people is unacceptable. What’s sad is that with such a progressive society as we believe we are, these types of things continue to happen. The SB1070 law was the most blatant attempt to dehumanize members of the latino community based on the way they look and suspicion. It deeply concerns me that such high officials in our state government and federal government can have think in these ways as if everything is ok.

  2. mfmyers says:

    I thought it was fitting you posted this on Columbus Day (the 12th). Come Monday we’ll be celebrating Columbus’ first trip to North America, and with it the birth of the transatlantic slave trade and the death of 90% of the Native American population due to small pox.

    I guess you have to cut Columbus some slack for the introduction of European disease–it would have happened even if they met peacefully as equals. The slavery and exploitation (i.e. the bread and butter of colonialism) though, are pretty terrible foundations for a holiday of national observance…

    The Oatmeal put up a comic recently that gave Columbus a good shakedown:

  3. anapuri11 says:

    I think your argument is just wonderful. Once the views of society changed to accept all of color as “human,” the thought of torturing them, physically or emotionally, became blasphemous. Until then though, many accepted performing atrocities on a subsect of society as normal. Today, these “subgroups of the community,” are not granted certain rights, whereas before these groups weren’t acknowledged at all may prove that this performance of evil, by depriving one of their humanity, is lessoning.

  4. dlopezra says:

    To specifically dehumanize a category of people is absolutely inhuman. The discrimination that has been embedded in the history of the United States is still deeply alive. Time has taught us that discrimination has no specific race. Discrimination targets those who are black, Asian, Latino, gay, disable, etc. As Bretton had previously stated, the way our state government conducts itself is very degrading.

    As educated citizens who feel and know there is a great deal of discrimination happening in our state, we ought to unite and fight for not only our rights put those who have no voice. Those who have the minority face, the minority name, and the minority description.

    We cannot wait for our government to do something about. We ought to fight deliberately. As students we ought to use our expertise and impact discriminatory laws with all we got. Our knowledge is a very precious weapon.

  5. jamietraxler says:

    I really like this post a lot because over this past weekend I was hanging out with some friends and we all piled in the car to go tot he party. I was the only hispanic and everyone else in the car was African American. We pulled into an apartment complex parking lot while we were navigating directions and a white man walked over to our car and told us we needed to leave because we were on private property. This made me so angry and sick to my stomach that the fact that racism is still going on today even at Americas largest university is astonishing and sickening. The mentality behind racism is so twisted, and it is not just Caucasians who are racist I think every person has their own prejudices and we need to figure out why and how we can be more accepting of those who are different from us.

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