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The Issue of “Othering” in Society

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Part A According to Pearson’s “Survey of Literature”, the basic meaning of othering “concerns the act of making another group or individual appear as different, an other” (Pearson) The act of othering isolates and discriminates someone or group simply for being disparate. This discrimination is acted out by an individual or group that feels superior towards others based on race, gender, culture, lifestyle choice, political views, or even personality traits like being sensitive or vulnerable.

By making the other feel inferior, the person or group doing the othering gains a false sense of power.

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Othering involves both isolation and victimization. Anyone can execute “othering”. Examples are; coworkers, excluding someone from an office luncheon, classmates, through teasing or not including a child in games or group projects, neighbors, by insulting other neighbors because they have an overgrown yard or too many cars in the driveway, or even society as a whole, such as the large portion of Americans who invalidly condemned all Muslims after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

In addition to discrimination, authors often use othering to describe manners that result in “inequality, oppression, and genocide. ” (Pearson) Part C Othering is a common theme in the captivating short story “This is What It Means To Say Pheonix, Arizona” by Sherman Alexie. It is the story of an Indian man, named Victor, who deals with the death of his father. While trying to muster up the funds to make a trip to Phoenix to recover his father’s remains, Victor reunites with an old childhood friend. It is this first encounter with Thomas Builds-the-Fire, that Otherness is displayed.

While Thomas proudly tells Victor a memory he has of Victor’s father, “all the other Indians stared surprised that Victor was even talking to Thomas. Nobody talked to Thomas because he told the same damn stories over and over again. ” (Alexie, 1994) Stating that no one speaks to Thomas, is a clear indication of Othering. Obviously, the Other in this work is Thomas, whom the author describes as “a storyteller that nobody wanted to listen to. ” (Alexie, 1994) Thomas Builds-the-Fire is treated as an Other by Victor, the people of the Tribal Reservation where they live, and even American Society.

He is described as a man who frequently talks to himself. Because talking to oneself, and excessive storytelling isn’t “normal” he is treated as an outcast. Thomas is also an “other” to Americans because he is Indian. When the men encounter a white woman on the flight to Arizona, she describes being oppressed by the government. It is then that Thomas replied “sounds like you all got a lot in common with the Indians. ” This implies his feeling of being treated as inferior by the government, and American society. Alexie, 1994) Otherness is represented greatly by the fight between Victor and Thomas when they were fifteen. “Victor was really drunk and beat Thomas up for no reason at all. All the other Indian boys stood around and watched it happen. ” (Alexie 1994) This is a very obvious “us versus him” situation. In addition, as stated earlier, Othering is presented based on Thomas not feeling accepted as an Indian by mainstream America. Before an Independence day celebration, Thomas said “Isn’t it strange how us Indians celebrate the Fourth of July.

It ain’t like it was our independence everybody was fighting for. ” (Alexie, 1994) Another instance of Othering is given after Victor and Thomas return to the reservation and “Victor knew that couldn’t really be friends with Thomas, even after all that had happened. ” Thomas acknowledges this by saying, “I know how it is, I know you ain’t going to treat me any better than you did before. I know your friends would give you too much shit about it. ” (Alexie, 1994) This statement blatantly portrays the fact that Thomas is treated as inferior, no matter his good doings.

Alexie’s perspective on Otherness seems to be that it is something to be expected in life, but can be overcome through courage and determination. The author appears to feel disappointed by Othering, while also unearthing a “be yourself” attitude. An intriguing part of the story was when Alexie described Thomas’s courage as a boy. After jumping off a roof and flapping his arms, Thomas “flew” to the ground before breaking his arm. The Indian boys then chanted and flapped their wings, “they hated Thomas for his courage, his brief moment as a bird. (Alexie, 1994) After briefly summarizing Thomas’s childhood, Alexie displays his admiration for the character’s resolve with the following statement; “Thomas Builds-the-Fire told his stories to all those who would stop and listen. He kept telling them long after people had stopped listening. ” (Alexis, 1994) Part D Sadly, it seems that Othering is a popular trend in America’s school system. It is not uncommon to hear of children, from elementary age students to high school seniors who have been ridiculed, teased, and treated as outcasts.

Handling the presence of Otherness as a crisis and executing a no tolerance policy in the classroom is essential to keeping a happy, healthy, and nurturing learning environment. Identifying Otherness and bullying, can sometimes be effortless. For example, witnessing a child have food thrown on him or her in the cafeteria, or seeing the Other be physically harmed. As an elementary school teacher, I would imagine Othering being more in the form of psychological and verbal abuse, such as name calling, being laughed at, and how a child looks or smells.

Although there is undoubtedly lots of teasing and “he/she is not my friend” that occurs, a child who is repeatedly singled out is most likely experiencing Othering. I would also try my best to notice a child who is left out of social activities during recess or free time. There may be instances in which I would not see the Othering occur first hand, but can look for signs and symptoms, such as isolation, recklessness, or a decrease in interest. If I witness a student being Othered and/or bullied I will let them know that I’m there for them. I will be sure to emphasize that what happened to them was not right.

I would help them feel safe. Within the classroom, I would keep the two kids separated when asked to participate in group or partner activities until the situation was fully resolved, or the Other made it known that they felt safe enough to interact with the person who Othered them. In order to prevent Othering, I would frequently discuss the issue with my class. My students will know that bullying and teasing is not acceptable and there are consequences for their actions. I will create a friendly environment in my classroom and have the students participate in team building activities, where they have plenty of opportunities to work ogether and learn to care for every member in the class. This can be done by asking each other questions about their background, and taking turns giving compliments. I hope to have classroom “meetings” where the children will sit in a circle and participate in discussing important topics. If I encounter a specific child who is Othering someone, I’ll address the issue by talking to them one on one to get their perspective on the matter and then remind them how they might feel if it happened to them.

Consequences would include phone calls home, referrals to the office, and eventually meeting with administration. References Alexie, S. (1994). “This Is What It Means To Say Phoenix, Arizona”. Retrieved April 21, 2013, from http://courses. csusm. edu/ltwr325bc/phoenix. html Pearson Survey of Literature “Othering”. (n. d. ). Retrieved April 20, 2013, from http://media. pearsoncmg. com/pcp/pls_1256381160/ereaders/unit3_subtopic2/main. html

Cite this The Issue of “Othering” in Society

The Issue of “Othering” in Society. (2016, Oct 26). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/othering/

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