The fight for full Black citizenship has been in large measure a fight against the systematic dehumanization of African Americans. Dehumanization is the process of treating people as less than human, as subhuman. Denying Blacks full and equal citizenship has gone hand in hand with denying their full humanity. To effectively promote equal citizenship for African Americans, therefore, requires an explicit commitment to ending their dehumanization. This essay examines the concept of dehumanization and its connection to formal, political, civil, and social citizenship. It elaborates on the less familiar idea of social citizenship, entailing the right to have personal relationships based on mutual respect and equality with other members or citizens of the political community. The paper concludes that a constitutional doctrine of equal citizenship must address and eliminate practices and policies which systematically dehumanize African Americans, such as racial segregation in education or racist policing.
Reginald Oh, Black Citizenship, Dehumanization, and the Fourteenth Amendment, 12 ConLawNOW 157 (2021).