Fact Sheet 2: Dehumanization


Dehumanization manifests in five dimensions. They are historical, cultural/spiritual, social, emotional, and physical. The two most germane to safety net policy are social dehumanization and emotional dehumanization. To nullify historic and present deprivations, leaders must denounce dehumanizing narratives and tell the truth about the conditions plaguing their communities. 

“The harsh realities of dehumanizing policies and practices can leave significant, long-lasting negative impacts on individual, family, and community health and well-being.”

“A touchstone of embedding equity in policy analysis is rightly assigning responsibility to the institutions, systems, and structural factors rather than victim blaming by touting ‘personal responsibility’.” 


  •  Dehumanization has real consequences because limiting access to safety net programs affects families’ ability to heal, grow, and thrive.
  • Communities that experience social and emotional dehumanization have higher risks of mental and physical illnesses; yet, they are denied resources from safety net programs like Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). 
  • Social dehumanization is evident in state and local budget processes that concentrate resources in primarily white, wealthy neighborhoods. Emotional dehumanization can manifest as disproportionate minority contact in the justice system and the disparate use of exclusionary discipline for youth of color in schools.