I took a break from writing on this blog for the month of June because I just couldn’t wrap my head around what I was seeing: young children taken away from their families and thrown in cages, all in the name of “border security” and “immigration policy”. If that wasn’t bad enough, somehow Health and Human Services has lost track of 1,500 of these children. Throughout this outrage, people have begun to throw around words like concentration camps, and genocide which I felt seemed a bit harsh when I first heard about these claims. However, through further research I stumbled across a list compiled by Dr. Gregory H. Stanton through an organization called Genocide Watch that was entitled, The Ten Stages of Genocide. The examples given for each step on the list mostly referenced the Holocaust and the Rwandan Genocide, but I couldn’t help but connect them with the events going on in our own country. I trailed further down the list thinking that I would reach a point that we simply haven’t crossed with this administration, but to my horror, we are actually on step seven or eight. I encourage you to take a look at the list for yourself, but in this post I wanted to exhibit my personal train of thought when comparing the events in the United States to an impending genocide.
Step One: Classification
Classification in simple terms would be defining two groups in terms of “us versus them”. This mentality creates a divide that makes it incredibly easy to demonize the minority group, which can in turn, lead the public to conspire against them. During Trump’s campaign when he was referring to Mexican immigrants, many of his direct quotes were broad, harsh, and not generally backed up by common truths. Instead of talking about immigration policy from the stance of political views and international relations, he chose to attack the Mexican people themselves. Here is a direct quote from Donald Trump’s speech at Trump Tower in Manhattan in 2015 in which he announced his nomination for president that fits the category of classification like a puzzle piece.
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”
Almost word for word he creates an “us versus them” mentality. He says twice, “They’re not sending you.” Those who listen to that speech with an open mind receive the message that Mexican immigrants are not like them, and therefore, bad people. He lists broad and makes general statements that people can interpret as all Mexicans selling drugs or being rapists. Which of course, couldn’t be further from the truth.
Step Two: Symbolization
Symbolization occurs after classification as lingo, or even identifying garb or insignia that is assigned to the oppressed minority group. In Nazi Germany, Jews were forced to wear the yellow star that would identify them as a Jew to any Nazi official and the public. Donald Trump’s suggestion of a Muslim registry is a prime example of physically labeling a minority group. Although it differs from past instances of symbolization, the “build the wall” campaign could also be considered a symbol assigned to the Mexican people as a way of saying, “you are not wanted here”. The wall itself won’t be effective in decreasing illegal immigration, because as we all know there are plenty of ways to scale a wall (hint: a ladder). However, the hatred and intent behind it definitely leans on the side of symbolism.
Step Three: Discrimination
In Dr. Stanton’s list, he explains discrimination as a situation in which the minority group is not granted, or stripped of their full citizenship, documentation, or human rights. This could be compared the the Trump administration’s attack on DACA recipients whose status has been jeopardized. Additionally, a more strict immigration policy that targets Mexican and Muslim immigrants as opposed to immigrants from countries considered more desirable is discriminatory.
Step Four: Dehumanization
Dehumanization is when the majority group begins to deny the humanity of the targeted minority population. This tactic is typically verbal and is an elevated instance of “us versus them” propaganda. The dehumanization step is critical to the overall ‘success’ of a genocide because it dissolves the natural human repulsion to murder of another human. By no longer viewing a minority group as human, the general public begins to look at them as pests. This sets up the path that eventually leads to what is extermination and genocide. Going back to Donald Trump’s hate speech against Mexican immigrants, he defines them as “rapists” and drug dealers. While that speech was extreme, it has created an emboldened, racist population of supporters in the United States whose hate speech has become more and more rash.
Step Five: Organization
By organization, we are referring to state sanctioned organization such as a militia or a special military branch designed to “control” the minority group. In our case, that would be ICE. ICE’s main job is to track down undocumented individuals and detain them for deportation. Although they claim to be a group that targets “dangerous” individuals who are here just to wreak havoc, they are known to target people who have lived in the United States peacefully for years. In some instances, American citizens are detained by ICE and forced to prove their legal status: surprise, but these individuals are typically from oppressed minority groups.
Step Six: Polarization
Now this is where things start to get political. While there may be some opposition leading up to this step in between the political parties, now extremist groups are separating the two groups, and destroying the moderates. In some cases, the moderates are the first to be murdered, but in other cases, the moderates simply gravitate to one side or the other in an attempt for political protection and alliance. The later is our case. As of late, its hard to come across moderate republican politicians or those who oppose the strict regulations and oppressive structures imposed by the Trump administration. This could be due to the fact that creating an opposition within their own party could jeopardize their entire political career, at least while the current administration is in office.
Step Seven: Preparation
Once you hit the preparation stage, it’s extremely hard to get things turned around quickly. One thing to keep in mind about preparation for a genocide, is that the state always masks their intentions behind claims like “counter-terrorism”, “border security”, or “purification”. All the steps leading up to preparation have demonized the minority group that is being victimized so badly that the public doesn’t tend to question the intentions of the government. In the United States’ case, counter-terrorism, crime reduction, and border security are the excuses. Those are three very level headed goals for a state, are they not? Just by looking at those three, its hard to label them as things we wouldn’t want. That’s exactly how the government gets around what they’re doing.
Step Eight: Persecution
Persecution is when the state’s organization and preparation come together to actually start going after the minority group in large quantities. Although, this is the final step before extermination and does not include the mass murder of the minority. However, sporadic instances of murder on the smaller scale do begin to occur. This step usually includes the establishment of concentration camps, the destruction of businesses, and the creation of famine-stricken ghettos. I really didn’t think that this country would be this far down the list, but with the current situation regarding the separation of the undocumented children from their families, it’s beginning to feel a lot like we have a concentration camp set up. Especially with the conditions that they are being put through.
Step Nine: Extermination
Extermination is not the final step of the genocide, but it is the most prominent and tragic. The mass murder of the minority group does not spare any individuals and happens so fast it’s hard to process before it’s too late. Although, any person with common sense would understand that what is happening is murder, those who are doing the killing believe that they are carrying out an “extermination” because of the dehumanization and classification that has occurred has reduced the victimized group to less than human. To my knowledge, we have not reached this step yet and hopefully never will.
Step Ten: Denial
Denial occurs when the oppressive state tries to cover up the evidence of a massacre ever happening in the first place. Mass graves are covered and burned, and no official documentation is preserved. This step increases the likelihood of another genocide occurring in the future because there is nothing left to warn the future population. Even to this day there are still people who deny the occurrence of the holocaust, one of the largest genocides in human history.
As the United States continues to advance down the list it’s critical to recognize state actions for what they are, and to call them out. We can’t afford to sit back and watch as a genocide rips up our country.
Until next post,
image source: The Milwaukee Independent