Taking the concepts of self and other, think about your community (your home, your college or university, some other community in which you are involved) and consider who belongs and who is an outsider. What group or groups do you experience primarily as plural others, rather than as individuals? How does that affect your perceptions of them? What are the social and practical effects of othering?
In every single community, if observed carefully, othering can be found. As stated in the question, in all communities there is a perception that individuals group up and some of those certain groups are considered to be others if your are looking in from an outside perspective. I am going to elaborate on how othering affects my home town community.
I grew up in Weirton, West Virginia. It is a very small town outside of Pittsburgh, PA. I went to a Catholic School that is not very diverse. The Weirton community does not have much diversity either. For this reason, “othering” is very present. In Weirton, the majority of the population is white and Christian. But I am going to specifically focus on how my Catholic Church/school community would cause “othering” without even realizing it. Unfortunately, there was little to no ethnic/racial/ cultural variation at Weirton Madonna High School. About 3% of the population was Black, 2% was Asian, 2% was Hispanic, and the rest of the population was white. A foreign exchange student and I were the only two students who were bilingual. I was seen as an “other” in my school communities because I was different being that I spoke a language other than English. In my Catholic school, the people who “belonged” were Catholic kids who went to the Catholic Churches of my hometown. The other examples of the group that were outsiders were the public school kids, boarding school students, and the home schooled students. Those who went to Madonna High School were seen as “others.” Anyone who didn’t fit the “perfect picture catholic school kid” description was even an outsider in their own community. The people viewed as “plurals” were the professors, soccer team, track team, the rest of the sports teams, theater kids, and the people in specific organizations such as the National Honor Society. This affected my perception of these groups to the point that when I thought of an individual in a specific group, the first thing that came to mind was the group they were a part of.
The social and practical effects of others are not always positive. At times they can be; for example, if you are associated with and grouped into a prestigious organization, that is a wonderful accomplishment. But unfortunately, factors such as racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination, such as discrimination due to religion can come to fruition. The problem is, there are many close minded and uneducated people without life experiences outside of Weirton. As I stated above, one will find that there is a social stigmatism that comes with a non-diverse community. Sometimes, I would see “othering” when our school would play against public school kids at sporting events. Some of my peers would unjustly look down at them just because they went to a public school. This was a horrible, and inexcusable thing to do.
This is a picture of Weirton
“Weirton – Weirton Chamber.” Weirton Area Chamber of Commerce, 24 June 2022, https://www.weirtonchamber.com/weirton/.