The Problem of Othering: Towards Inclusiveness and Belonging

Introduction

The introduction gives us the definition along with some examples of the word “Othering”, from the get-go I can say that I partially agree with what Barrack Obama said concerning the reasons of the Othering crisis, it being the deteriorating lifestyles and economic stands globally, however I would like to add something of my own which is the over sensitivity that drives people into aggressive defensive stances most of the times which can create some prejudice that might drive the racism further. An example of the Othering problem is a case that happened to me when I visited the US after Trump became president for a wedding, I was detained in an airport security backroom for almost five hours which felt like hell since I didn’t have my phone, they didn’t take it but my phone was dead. The security officers kept coming in and out and finally a guy came to ask me questions and after an interrogation I was told since I was a Muslim teenager and had a beard I was selected from the few random people they take in for intense security protocols, I don’t know if they even noticed that guys were growing beards and having man buns as a trend and I was one of those guys. This event made me understand the things minorities experience almost on a daily basis which broke my heart  a little and drove me into desensitization for the subject due to the constant feeling of being judged and fear from authorities because with a president like Trump who encourages something like racism, sexism and much more the less public authorities will be capable of much worse. If you don’t know what I am referring to by trump’s encouraging, see the link below which gathers some of his controversial and insulting speeches. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpyGDdYGaPc

I. Demagoguery and Power

After the glimpse we saw in the video of what Donald trump is we can continue to the next part of the article which is similar yet very different. Presidents and people in power over the decades have been using the idea of othering in their campaigns to gain the masses which is exactly what Hitler did without the genocide, blaming problems on minorities such as terrorism on Muslims and economic crisis on the Jewish. Throughout the written history it has been the same, people using demagoguery for personal gain, destroying cultures and trust within people along their paths which can be proven by the many civil wars that occur within the countries and yet those people when they travel abroad, they respect everyone even the people with the same beliefs like what I saw happen when my father met black people in Aswan vs black people in the US, completely different treatment. This behavior is pretty common in Egypt as we have what the people call “3o2dt el 5awaga”. Xenophobia, it’s a very strong term with strong meaning that can be interpreted many ways, the powerful, the top 1% of the top 1% know it by heart as they use it every day to move the crowds like cattle cause fear is one of the most powerful emotions if not the most. If we think about it, fear of death or fear of losing a loved one drives people to do things so why not implement some unrelated issues into a minority group and let the people boil the kettle themselves and reach the conclusion of fear of that minority. I believe that misusages like this from the people in control over the years driven us into discrimination further than people were already are.

II. The Mechanics of Othering

 “Race may be widely dismissed as a biological classification, [but] dark skin is an easily observed and salient trait that has become a marker in American society, one imbued with meanings about crime, disorder, and violence, stigmatising entire categories of people.” This line quoted directly from the article supports my previous idea I mentioned in part I which in today’s world is hidden under some racist jokes like be careful or he will steal your bike or something like that, which has an underlying truth to it as the person saying the joke believes in it even subconsciously. Biases as mentioned by the article can exist and the person might be unaware about them, which brings us to the point where it was mentioned that people have a higher rating of empathy when the situations occur to people within their own group which reminds me of Dr. Maha’s point when we were talking about the feelings we get when your national team wins a tournament or a team of a neighbouring country with the groups of people as you wins, the first made the person feel deep emotional responses while the later made the person long for any similarities to relate themselves to that group. This phenomenon might be able to describe the way othering operates as they said in the article that even black people feels a bit of prejudice towards poor African Americans and prefer whites over them. The biases we have can be understandable can also by useful, for example if a girl has a bias towards more powerful men in relationships cause otherwise, she can be physically overpowered or abuse if the relationship matures into a serious one, but, we should never forget that some people have biases towards stuff that should not simply be forgiven and it doesn’t have to be that they are bad people it can just be that their environment shaped them into the way they are like a person the Dr. mentioned who was openly sexist. Lets shift this conversation to a more personal area, I have biases I am aware of and I might have others that  I am not, I have a certain bias that concerns me sometimes which is that I don’t like people that are way too sensitive because I will have to think way more about what I say and I can’t be who I truly am with them. The article goes on mentioning the mechanics of othering and saying that we are programmed to distinct and belong which is somewhat true however when children reach the age of reason on their own they will not care who they hang with which was showed by me when I was in the US, as a kid I used to play with kids that look like me but the more I grew I didn’t care what the person looks like and started playing with the person who I have the most fun with, that being a different gender, race or religion.

III. Expanding the Circle of Human Concern

Segregation: The article mentions that educational segregation is a positive thing then later says all segregation is not okay. I disagree because people with special needs should have their own safe haven as kids might make fun of them or mock them for their disabilities either physically or mentally and that really annoys me because I have an autistic cousin who didn’t find a school that accepts him without prejudice in Egypt, there might be a few names but they are either overly expensive or the teachers are not well trained to handle such cases. I used to communicate with my cousin through video games by chatting our way into the game which makes me care about him like my brother. On the other hand, segregation for “achieving” peace is a lie because that’s how civil wars start, by people stewing in their own hatred and proclaiming the rights to go wherever they want and that stew seeps over the pot when it boils. What I mean is separation of groups gives a temporary solution and creates a bigger problem later. Another incident I witnessed secondhand with friends is in the US, I noticed that black people get higher interest rates on their loans or any other reasons which is not written but more like felt from the bank clerics. This video I am linking below is a comical history about this idea. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETR9qrVS17g

Secessionism: this part completely blew my mind as it was supporting of a previous discussion I had with a friend of mine about how when people detach themselves from a majority for being a minority they become a new majority with someone else being a minority in their demographic and it’s not farfetched to think that the treatment people despise when they are a minority won’t be the same treatment they give others a form of resentment, revenge directed at the wrong people or even subconscious actions.

Assimilation: assimilation is a very disgusting “solution” in my point view as it requires people to erase other people to make them more like themselves, call this whatever you want it to call it but I see it as narcissistic and more of a terrorist behavior. Think about it, converting people into your religion or forcing them to speak your language is a terrible act. This can be seen happening all around the world with people abusing hijabis to talk their languages or take off their scarf. Reading this part made me go back to a part in my life when I was making fun of my sister for loving romantic books and maybe that’s why I tried giving her other books I liked which is the same concept on a very insignificant level.

Belongingness: the article mentions this as the top-notch solution which in my opinion is okay, the people should belong together no matter their differences however in order to do that the majority should welcome the minority then the minority should start belonging to the whole. A quick example is the case of the Saudi girl Rafah who escaped her home country due to almost all the disgusting things mentioned above and went to Canada where she found people welcoming her and then she started belonging and I think she is much happier. Another small personal thing is it doesn’t have to be nations prospering due to its people belonging into one accepting and nation loving group, it can be small things like something as small as accepting the lonely guy into your group of friends which later you found out he was a nice and funny guy and also you changed his life because loneliness was eating him up due to the feeling that he doesn’t belong to anyone due to his abnormal and brutally honest personality. That lonely guy is me, I got accepted into a group of friends and it completely changed my outtake on this year, it brightened my day, made me smoke less and also feel a lot better, physically.

Conclusion

The article really clarified many things I had confused and gave me a glimpse of what some people go through. I thought everything was the same, but it isn’t all the different false solutions and all the cases of devastating results from the forceful implementations. The only solution to this worldwide problem is really belonging and other similar ways and that will happen further as we progress in time because it can be seen as generations pass we become more sensitive and open to our differences, we embrace them rather than getting rid of them to fit in. We use our differences to strengthen relationships. People are different every group, every race and even every person from the other so why should we let some biological features decide that that person is different from who you are, is it his beliefs? Our beliefs don’t define who we are, nor our skins, nor our geographic location. Its us, only us define who we are along with our family and our environment but even those are not permanent and although are essential in shaping who you are, we are still malleable but it needs some force to reshape ourselves to the new us we desire to be, don’t be settled with who you are because you were raised like that, settle with who you are because you love it and when you do that, you can belong to yourself and then you can finally belong to the world. We are all one big cloud of differences I hope that someday the whole world understand that we belong to the same species and act on it, then and only then will we experience true peace.

2 thoughts on “The Problem of Othering: Towards Inclusiveness and Belonging

  1. Thank you for this thoughtful post, Akram, and for sharing so much from your personal experience to enrich the post. I learned so much reading it, thought a lot, and felt many emotions as well.
    I was only slightly confused by your point about Aswan vs African Americans (I assume you mean treatment for African Americans was better because they are khawaga) but then the following point was about Xenophobia.. which is not about that. So I was curious how you linked them?
    But otherwise, everything was clear, and really thought-provoking and deepened my own understanding of the topic with rich Egyptian examples. Thank you

    Like

  2. P.S. the video about redlining is AWESOME. We will talk about digital redlining in future and I will try to remember to show it to explain the term redlining in a historical perspective. You can count that video as your “contribution” to the class for this and future semesters.

    Like

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