Why No-Othering ZONES?
The idea of a “No-Othering ZONE™” came up a few months ago when a friend and I were talking about #BlackLivesMatter and racism and the growing polarization around many social issues which are, finally, coming to the surface for all to see. As straight, white women living in North Carolina, we see and care deeply about systemic oppression and racist, bigoted behavior shown toward all people of color, the LGBTQ community (especially here in NC), and Hispanic and Muslim communities to name a few obvious marginalized groups. People usually know your beliefs and intentions when attending a protest, but we wanted people to be able to know where we stand — to know we’re safe — as we go about our daily lives.
I have always loved t-shirts and “message wear,” and wanted to think of a message which spoke to all of the people who, often silently, suffer through death by 1000 knife cuts each day. I want them to see a shirt or tote or something and know they can breathe a little easier knowing we’re not harboring racist, bigoted views or judgments, nor are we claiming to be colorblind. I want a message which radiates some level of safety, though I fully realize for anyone to truly feel safe and even begin to trust takes a lot of time and work. I also try to keep in mind that no group is a monolith in how members think and feel and perceive the world and who/what makes them feel safe. That certainly includes people of color, the LGBTQ community and others. Each person is different.
Wearing separate t-shirts with supportive messages for each group is one option, and there are many wonderful organizations in support of each group with such merchandise. But I feel we also need something more universal, not fragmented; the fragmentation of so many critically important issues and organizations bothers me. A lot — hence the creation of the Coalition for Good. Plus, there really are a lot of marginalized groups in society, more than most people realize, and we’re not seeing as much progress as many of us expected in the realm of intersectionality.
I’ve used the term “othering” for years to describe the various ways we create us-vs.-them scenarios and the long-entrenched hierarchy of human value in our society. In pondering this “safe” message a week or so later, this popped into my head: We should strive to be No-Othering ZONEs.
The hope is that wearing a t-shirt (or displaying the message in any number of ways) that says No-Othering ZONE will speak to those who feel slighted and marginalized – or flat-out unsafe – in our society and be an unspoken gesture of goodwill. For people who don’t know what “othering” is, it’s a great conversation starter.
(I also thought about Othering-Free ZONE, as at the time more positive verbiage – versus what can be perceived as the more authoritarian “No Othering!” – felt right. Lately, as all hell has been breaking loose in the realm of race relations and other social issues — in part catalyzed by the Trump Train of Othering, the more commanding No-Othering ZONE is what we’ve decided upon.)
Speaking of Mr. Trump, his rhetoric and behavior, especially over the last year, is an excellent example of Othering. He’s the Otherer-In-Chief.
Regardless of his alleged intentions or how he has walked things back after repeatedly making bigoted comments, he and his supporters have a very clear impression of The Other, and really always have:
- Hispanics are The Other (anyone with an Hispanic sounding name or appearance is assumed to be here illegally)
- Muslims are The Other
- People of color (i.e., non-white people) are The Other — (“Look at my African-American over here!“)
- People with disabilities are The Other
- Non-Americans are The Other
- Even women as a whole are The Other; yes, the dominant group against which all others are compared in our society continues to be straight, white men.
At the RNC convention Mr. Trump’s speech rather amazingly included outreach to the LGBTQ community, but it was in the form of protecting them from ISIS, not acknowledging the violence and oppression within our own borders. Even though he hasn’t yet overtly insulted the gay community (though I think billionaire Peter Thiel’s support may prevent this), his choice of VP is an insult. To Gov. Mike Pence, gay people are unquestionably The Other.
Those are the most obvious manifestations of Othering that are now getting attention. We humans also create The Other based on age, economic status, regionalism, occupation, physical appearance, political affiliation – so many ways.
We have an astounding empathy deficit in this rugged individualist, bootstrap-oriented, celebrity/reality-show/money-obsessed society. Many people do seem to feel safer on some surface level when there is an Other to fight against or feel superior to (“those people” are the cause of my struggle and everything wrong with the world); us vs. them is a familiar position to take. Unity? Not so much. Too many still believe being truly inclusive unity is weak, as are compassion and respectful dialogue and trying to imagine what it’s like to walk in another person’s shoes. Coalition for Good members recognize that unity — diverse, inclusive unity — is our strength and our only way forward that isn’t a path of violence, death and destruction.
Unfortunately, it’s not only a matter of people being divided and staying in segregated groups. We are also a violent society; we have been at war literally 93-94% of the time of our existence. We’re continually engaged in violence abroad; our own society is largely steeped in violence. We have a longstanding philosophy that it’s strong and the American Way to strike out against enemies in a violent, very visible way; that’s not only true of us as a nation, many citizens exhibit the same behavior and tendencies toward The Other. Given that this country is awash in guns and aggressive rhetoric, violence is visited upon us as a citizenry daily in horrific ways; the marginalized among us are at much higher risk of violence.
We have a societal sickness. Our priorities are not in alignment with a caring world that works for all. But I believe with every fiber of my being that we can do better; millions and millions of people believe this to be truth as well. We have faith in humanity, and faith in the United States. The United States could lead the way toward a more unified, inclusive, caring world. We MUST do better. We desperately need to flex our compassion and empathy muscles, see ourselves in one another, and embrace our common humanity.
Promoting an awareness of our oneness – our interconnectedness and interdependence – is a primary goal of the Coalition for Good and projects under the Our Good Media umbrella. We can’t begin any healing process until we acknowledge that the problems exist, face them, and commit to doing the work, individually and collectively.
The No-Othering ZONE Campaign aims to elevate this awareness and support the work, leading us toward the transformative vision of a society which collectively values care, connection, inclusion, justice and peace.
It began with a desire to convey some level of safety via wearable and other No-Othering ZONE merchandise, but then the idea of places (homes, businesses, cities and even countries), organizations and institutions being No-Othering ZONES came to mind.
This has evolved into a full-fledged campaign, with various messages making use of the ZONE message based on the acronym “Zero Othering, Nurture Empathy”.
The Coalition for Good and The Community Good Network (Wishadoo!) are the first No-Othering ZONES, and we shall soon begin to invite aligned organizations to join the Coalition for Good and the No-Othering ZONE™ Campaign.
#NoOthering #UnionInInclusion #UnityInDiversity