On Humanizing Others

On Humanizing Others

With the attack on Nice, France in July where upwards of eighty people were mowed down by a rogue truck during Bastille Day Celebrations, the world continues to spiral downward into an endless cycle of retaliation. In the wake of such attacks there are two common responses that come out. The first is a ‘scorched earth’ kind of response that gets at people’s innate need for revenge. The second is a more patient response where people advocate for understanding until all facts are known. Unfortunately, neither response is perfect.

As traveler’s we have a unique role to play in all of this: we are called to humanize.

I believe that those who are fortunate enough to explore the world, see new places, and meet new people, are called (if not required) to advocate for and bring about the humanization of others. Humanizing a single person can have astounding effects.


The answer is quite simple.

People are dehumanized when they are made to seem less then human, when they are seen as ‘the other’, and when judgments are made about them without any basis in fact or prior research. On a large scale, groups throughout history are dehumanized then systematically attacked, for example: the Jews during WWII, the LGBT during the AIDS epidemic, and present day Muslims in the US (obviously these are only a few out of hundreds of examples). On a small scale, imagine yourself back to when you were a teenager, who were you? Were you the person at the top of the social ladder? Or were you at the bottom or somewhere in the middle just trying to squeeze by relatively unscathed from the cruelty that can be teenage life? Dehumanization can take place on a grand scale, but most commonly it happens through our everyday actions.


Luckily, again, the answer is quite simple and involves empathy, compassion, and understanding.

To humanize others, we must be able to empathize with them, to share in and understand their feelings. Simple acts can be taken such as talking with them and allowing them to open up to you without judgment. Even in passing strangers, simple acts like a smile or a kind word can change that person’s day and make them feel noticed by others. All too often, people who are dehumanized feel invisible, unaccepted, or even worthless. All too often, these same people only need positive interaction with one person to change all of this.

The next time you walk by someone in turban and yell some racist slur aimed at Muslims, think about what you’re doing. What has this person ever done to you personally to warrant such a verbal attack? You don’t even know if this person is Muslim, they could be Sikh. I’m not asking you to ‘check yourself’ or your privilege. I’m telling you to be human and to realize that the person you just insulted has just as difficult a life as you do. So instead of forcing them on a lower rung than you, destroy the ladder and walk next to them.

Photo by author.

Article first published on Nomadical Adventures. Find the article here.

Jeromy Slaby is the founder and project manager of Sonderers Magazine. He is also a freelance writer and photographer who specializes in travel and politics. He is currently working on receiving a BA in adventure education from Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO. See more of his work here.