November 07, 2019
David Livingstone Smith, Ph.D., professor of philosophy, was recently quoted in a Washington Post article on the ongoing protests in Hong Kong.
As clashes between police and protesters have escalated, the use of derogatory language has increased. Protesters are describing officers as dogs and gangsters, while police have been calling demonstrators subhuman and cockroaches.
“This sort of derogatory language can lead to a deeper kind of genuine dehumanization,” Smith told the Washington Post. “You call people cockroaches a lot, you start thinking that they are subhuman.”
Smith and other experts say that type of language by police can be a precursor to more indiscriminate violence toward civilians.
According to the article, a police public relations branch told the Washington Post the department is “aware of such a term used by certain officers and are of the view that the language is not appropriate.”
The protests were triggered by the introduction of the Fugitive Offenders Amendment Bill by the Hong Kong government. The bill would let local authorities detain and extradite criminal fugitives who are wanted in territories with which Hong Kong does not currently have extradition agreements.
Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others. On Inhumanity: Dehumanization and How to Resist It