According to Lily: Why The Word ‘Hero’ is Dehumanizing

Lily Ives, Features Editor

In the news recently, you may have seen articles talking about healthcare workers and essential workers, specifically talking about them using words such as “hero.” They are being labeled as martyrs, basically. This is an issue because calling workers “heroes” dehumanizes them.

To explain, I will first say that I definitely am appreciative of their work, and it is incredibly important what they are doing, such as caring for patients in hospitals or simply working to help provide things like food. We would not be able to function as a society right now if we didn’t have these healthcare workers and  essential workers. We wouldn’t have people working to make sure that the sick become better, and we wouldn’t have people who work so that we can have food on the table. They are the basis of our society, so of course, they should be celebrated. However, they are still humans and workers.

These workers are lacking the things that are crucial in this era, like PPE (personal protective equipment). Workers in groceries stores weren’t even provided masks early on in this pandemic. Besides these workers, we also rely on transportation workers, who are receiving even less protection. The Guardian reported mid-April that upwards of 100 transit workers in the US had died of COVID because of the lack of protection. 

Calling these people heroes makes it so that their lack of protection seems to be an okay thing that is happening. This is not true. Workers in America are supposed to have a certain level of protection. This is the bare minimum that they deserve and need. Our healthcare workers both deserve and need to be protected, and when we label them as heroes it makes them seem as though these are necessary risks that they are taking, not things that can be avoided.

  When someone is put into the category of hero, they lose a certain element of humanity. They become something that we consider to be above the average person, and they become a sort of almost religious figure, in that they aren’t on the same level as other workers. Labeling real-life people as “heroes” when they are  simply doing their jobs is just a way to dehumanize them in a falsely positive way. 

We can celebrate these workers, as we should, because they are working through horrible conditions and a horrible period in time so that all of us can stay safe and protected and can continue living, but that doesn’t mean we call them heroes who are beyond needing the most basic protections. The people who are in charge of these institutions and are in charge of protecting these workers should be doing more and should be giving these workers the protection that they need.