Who Stays, Who Goes, and Why It Matters
The essential dilemma of my life is between my deep desire to belong and my suspicion of belonging.
- Jhumpa Lahiri
Who belongs? Who doesn’t? Who gets to join? Who has to leave? Who has a voice? Who should shut up? These are age-old questions that humans have been asking for generations. And while the criteria have changed over time (shifting regularly between religious, ethnic, economic, and other cultural standards), the act of distinguishing – discriminating – remains ever constant.
In peace and social justice circles, the concept of “Othering” has taken hold in recent decades as a key part of discussions of race, class, disability/ableism, gender identity, and a full range of -isms which fragment the larger community.
By “Othering”, we mean any action by which an individual or group becomes mentally classified in somebody’s mind as “not one of us”. Rather than always remembering that every person is a complex bundle of emotions, ideas, motivations, reflexes, priorities, and many other subtle aspects, it’s sometimes easier to dismiss them as being in some way less human, and less worthy of respect and dignity, than we are.
- Othering 101: What Is “Othering”?