Is She Human?

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Gloria Burrell read the instructions on the packaging of the painkiller as she got into her car. She had just stopped by a mini mart to purchase them after suffering from a throbbing headache for the last twenty minutes. She was driving home from a job interview in a nearby town. Unable to ignore the pain any longer, she had decided to take Ibuprofen. She saw the caution message but ignored it. It explained that the drug could lead to drowsiness and that driving should be avoided so soon after wards; but what was the worst that could happen? Gloria had wondered. She popped the pill into her mouth and washed it down with the bottle of leftover coke on the front passenger seat. She frowned as she gulped, forcing the tablet down her throat. She hoped that she would feel better by the time she got home so she could help her mother sort out a few things in the house as she had promised that morning.

 Gloria started her car and resumed the drive home. It was still quite far away and she hoped to get back before sunset. The interview had been stressful and she hoped it was worth it. As she joined the highway and sped towards her route, her phone rang. Looking at the dashboard, she saw that it was her mother calling. She smiled and clicked on her hands free that was always in her ear every time she drove. She was what her mother called a ‘tech freak’. She couldn’t stay away from her mobile and was constantly with it; even in the toilet. That had worked to her boyfriend’s advantage in the past when had she refused to pick up his call after an argument. Her excuse had been that her phone wasn’t nearby at the time but he knew her well enough to realise that she had indeed ignored his calls on purpose.

 “Hello mum” She greeted as one click from the wireless device deposited her mother’s deep voice into her ears.

 “Are you almost here? Remember you promised that today was the day. We have to sort them out. It’s been too long” Her mother pleaded.

 Gloria understood that her mother was anxious because she had postponed their arrangement twice in the past. She reassured her mother that she was going to stick to her promise. As they bantered, she began to feel nauseous and wound the windows down to get fresh air; but whooshing sound of the wind drowned her voice which made it difficult for her mother to hear her.

 “Darling, you’re breaking off. What are you saying? You sound sleepy” her mother shouted into her ears.

 Gloria winced at the boom of her mother’s voice and told her that she had taken some pain killers she believed was responsible for making her drowsy. She omitted that the information on the medication had warned about that.

 “Well, you can’t go on driving then. You should look for a car park and take a nap until you feel better. You don’t want to get in an accident now” Her mother advised.

 Gloria agreed to her mother’s bidding and hung up the call. She took the next exit from the highway and drove into town. Guided by road signs, she drove into the nearest car park that she could find. The car park was well lit but she hated the thought of sleeping in her car in surroundings that were unfamiliar. ‘That’s what you get for not heeding expert advice’ she thought. However, there was not much time for contemplation, because soon enough, she had drifted off to sleep.

………………………

 The old man was in his favourite arm chair in his living room. He had a ham sandwich in one hand and a remote control in the other. He had just woken up from his afternoon nap and needed to occupy his time. He was known as an old and temperamental grump in the neighbourhood. His character preceded him. The children in the neighbourhood knew that his front lawn was the one not to tread upon. Newcomers soon realised that their football had better not grace his grass or front porch; or else there was hell to pay.

 He disliked the new people that had moved into his neighbourhood. If it were up to him, he would have moved away to a preserved community but his pension couldn’t afford him his ideal, so he had to remain in the house that he had lived with his now deceased wife and children who were now grown and living away. They had ended up shunning him because he had refused to change his ways. He had made their lives harder by going on the way he was. They had suggested that he move to an old people’s home but he had rejected with violent vehemence that they had decided to leave him to his own devices. They could no longer do anything for him. He had relentlessly reminded them that he was his own master.

 “Hell no, not Fresh Prince of Bel- Air again!” He screamed at the television.

 He kept on changing the channels and cursing, not quite getting a programme that he was happy to watch.

 “Don’t these folks have better programmes than all these Nigger shows?” He screamed as he  jammed a sandwich into his mouth, chomping it down like it would have otherwise develop legs and run away from him.

 He continued his assault on the remote control, pressing it down too hardly to sort through the channels that he was uninterested in. Finally, he found an animal documentary on the Discoveries channel and left it there. He wasn’t particularly interested in the apes or giraffes that sprawled across the screen in front of him. This time of day, there was usually nothing of interest to him anyway. He missed the good old days and often longed for the company of his dead wife. He felt that he should have joined her years ago, even wished for it but he never told anyone that. No one could know. He didn’t want anyone taking advantage of his moment of weakness by displaying any hint of emotion. He was strong and fierce -a true alpha male.

………………………

 Gloria stirred and opened her eyes. She was stunned by the glaring beam of an advancing car and raised her hands to shield her eyes. The driver parked on the far lane adjacent to hers and a couple strode out. She looked at the time and panicked. She had been asleep for two hours. She reached for her phone on the passenger seat and found that her battery was flat. ‘I have to call mum, she must be worried by now’ she thought and started the car.

 As she drove out of the car park, she looked out for the couple she had seen but it was like they had disappeared into thin air. It had started to go dark. This catalysed her sense of urgency that she had to get back home quickly. She didn’t want to disappoint her mother for the fourth time. She needed to call her to inform her about her whereabouts because she knew her mother was prone to worry.

 Gloria took the next left at the traffic lights and drove into a residential area. She wasn’t sure of where she was but wanted to get to a telephone as soon as she could. She kept on driving along the street until she approached a house just before the end of the road. She stopped and dragged her feet out of the car reluctantly. She was nervous about approaching a complete stranger for help but she believed that she was out of other options. She could only imagine what her mother was thinking at that very moment. Her mother was also prone to wild imaginations and she didn’t want her thinking that she had been involved in an accident or something worse.

 Gloria walked over to the house and pressed the doorbell. From the slightly drawn blinds, she could see that an old man was watching the television inside. She was pleased when she saw him turn around and get up to answer the door. She believed that he would be a nice old man who would be willing to help her with a phone or perhaps even let her charge hers while she waited in the car. She wondered how many notifications she would have received from her social sites by the time she turned her mobile back on.

……………………

 Three months earlier, the old man had been sitting on his favourite arm chair in his living room when he had heard a scratching on his door. At first he had been annoyed at whoever had dared to disturb his peaceful night, especially when he was having dinner. When he got up to see what was causing the nuisance, he had discovered that it was a cat scratching at his door.

 He had laughed; and with childish curiosity let him in. He bent over and carried the cat on his arms, stroking its fur and speaking to it like a new found companion. The cat had purred back with contentment.

 “Look at you lonely bugger. Come in now I’ll take good care of you and then help you find your owner” He had whispered as if the cat could understand him.

 The old man’s kindness and gentility to the animal had startled even him and served as a rude awakening to how lonely he was.

 He had fed the cat and offered it a comfy pillow to lie on at the foot of his bed that night.

………………………

 BREAKING NEWS!

 Twenty three year old African American female, known as Gloria Burrell was found dead last night after what seemed to have been a case of mistaken identity with an old widower.

 Both the community and the Burrell family are keeping a closed lid on the case for now but we can say that the defence’s lawyers maintain that the aging widower whose name cannot be mentioned for security reasons had believed that he was about to be attacked and robbed. His lawyers state that he was merely defending himself in what was considered to be a rough neighbourhood.

                                                   THE END.

Dehumanisation is a term used when out group members are seen as less human and less capable of experiencing uniquely human emotions than ingroup members. In extreme cases, such dehumanisation can legitimate racism or genocidal behaviour because the victim group members are not seen as deserving human treatment.

 A special example is the perception of African American people. There is evidence that they are seen as more ‘ape-like’, even at a subliminal level (Goff et al, 2008). In several studies using subliminal priming of Black faces, these researchers found that US citizens implicitly associated Blacks with apes. However, there was a white- ape inhibition. They revealed that a negative association led to increased endorsements of violence against Black people.

 In addition, Fiske proposed that only extreme out groups- groups stereotypically perceived as low in warmth and competence would be dehumanised.  Using fmri (fancy brain scanning machine), Harris & Fiske (2006) investigated what areas of the brain were activated when people looked at different social groups and objects. They found that the medial prefrontal cortex which is associated with social cognition was not stimulated when pictures of extreme outgroups were looked at (low warmth- low competence). However, the insula and amygdala which is consistent with disgust, was stimulated. They concluded that this supports the theory that extreme outgroups (people very different from you e.g. ethnically) may be perceived as less human, or dehumanised.

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10 Comments

  1. Bre Juliet

    April 5, 2014 at 7:16 am

    This was a great piece. Truly interesting and informative! 🙂

  2. Lize

    April 5, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    Thanks a lot Bre! I’m glad you found it so 🙂

  3. due date calculator

    May 15, 2014 at 2:56 am

    stop describing black women as ratchet !!! “ratchet” is not synonymous to black women !!!!!

  4. Lize

    May 21, 2014 at 10:12 pm

    Did you read this piece at all? I doubt that given that no where in the story is ‘ratchet’ ever mentioned. Please read and comprehend before you comment in the future. Thanks.

  5. Ireti Oluwagbemi

    June 15, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    Beautiful. Glad I clicked too. And I’m not just saying that. 🙂

    • Lize

      June 15, 2014 at 6:49 pm

      Thanks girl, I’m reading the other parts to your story too. Can’t wait to see how the story turns.

  6. skillmann YT

    July 18, 2014 at 10:17 am

    Interesting story,can’t wait 2 knw what happens next,perhaps Gloria was killed by d drugs effect or by d old widower,hmmmm,I’m anticipating.

    • Lize

      July 18, 2014 at 1:43 pm

      Hello, it’s a short story so no sequels to this. I believe my literary synopsis at the end answers your question.
      You probably have to think more and analyse the events. Thanks for reading, I hope you learned, and enjoyed it.

  7. Kelechi Jude

    February 21, 2015 at 5:09 am

    This is very interesting! I enjoyed it.

    KJ

    • Lize

      February 21, 2015 at 9:26 am

      I’m glad you did 😀
      Thanks for dropping a comment

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