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Boston, US
Posts: 205


Sheena Iyenger, professor at Columbia Business School “TED talk: On the Art of Choosing” (2014) (24:08)

Reading: John A. Powell, “Us vs. them: The Sinister Techniques of ‘Othering’—and How to Avoid Them,” The Guardian, 8 November 2017.

Reading OR Listening:

Alicia Garza on “Identity Politics and 2020 US Presidential Election” (Alicia Garza is one of the founders of the BlackLivesMatter movement), either via this podcast (that is episode 17 of the “Who Belongs?” podcast series) or reading the transcript of the podcast, produced for the Othering and Belonging Institute at UC Berkeley, December 2, 2019. A heads up: the full podcast is 48:48 in length; reading the transcript is much faster!

Today in class, we evaluated, judged and chose a preferred pepper. (NB: yes, this is a history class. We just go about it in a slightly unconventional manner.) An interesting (and often hilarious) exercise, don’t you think?

In reality, we choose all the time. In order to choose, we discriminate (that’s the evaluation piece). First we decide if one thing(s) is different—and then better than another; then we decide which is our preference—and in this case, which was “the best.” To “choose,” we judge one another, we judge fruits and veggies in a supermarket, trying to determine (the verdict) which one to purchase. We judge people by what they wear and how they smell; we judge what looks "good" when we try on clothes, we judge whether one school is better than another.

And then we choose.

We too are judged. Others judge us. They size us up—that’s the discrimination part. They assess who we are and then they draw conclusions (that’s the judgment or the verdict part). Institutions judge us, law enforcement judges us, teachers judge us, our supervisors judge us, some believe that a God judges us. Many factors feed those judgments. Stereotypes play a role. So do preconceptions. So does compassion. So does objectivity. And if someone demands that we make a choice, based on these judgments, well, we usually do!

Judgment and choice imply a sense of ranking. Something is better than something else. Generally, judgment and choice involve a kind of opposition: this is good (or better), while this is bad (or not as good). Inevitably this is a kind of “othering”: the recognition that there is an “us” (usually good) and “them” (usually not-so-good….or bad).

Think about discrimination, judgment, and choice-making for a moment. Must we discriminate among things/people? Must we judge? What’s the point of judgment? Must we choose? Are these good or bad things or somewhere in between? Are there roles for choices in society? Are they essential to making society function?

Is it possible for a world to exist without discrimination? Without judgment?

Using Sheena Iyenger’s TED talk, the reading from John Powell, and Alicia Garza’s seemingly clairvoyant sense of what would happen 11 months later during the 2020 election, as well as what you have learned (so far…) in class (including today’s exercise on the “practically perfect peppers,” please weigh in on the nature of discrimination, judgement, and othering, whether there is anything we can do about it, and whether it is possible to build a post-othering society (and how)? Be certain to support what you say with some concrete examples and/or anecdotes.

At the end of your post, please pose a lingering question on this topic that you might have. This will be addressed by the person who posts after you. (If you post first in the thread, go back and answer someone else’s question! And if the person who precedes you fails to pose a question, find a question prior to his/her in the thread to address.)

West Roxbury, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 19


Overall, as bad as it sounds, I think that in order for society to function, society must require discrimination/judgement. Well what is the purpose of discriminating or judging? Typically, we discriminate/judge in order to make necessary choices when we are making decisions that could potentially alter our future. As for discriminating against people and things, we as a society absolutely need to have some sort of discrimination to make the right decisions on things such as voting for a new president that could likely fix our nation's divide, or we could make another judgement call and keep the current president and get nothing done. As for things, it is definitely important and we make judgements or discriminate without even realizing sometimes. For example, at an ice cream parlor you choose your favorite flavor instead of getting say mocha which could be your least favorite flavor. That is discriminating objects.

As for results, usually there is no in between when discriminating as results tend to be either good or bad. As for the roles of choices in society, typically these choices help shape our society. For example, if a professional sports team is drafting new players, they must judge a person badly or praise them to make decisions that will pay off. Lastly, if the point wasn't made clear enough, discrimination is very essential to contributing to a functioning society as if there was a world without discrimination or judgements, that world would be impossible to imagine how it functions. On that note, if this type of world were actually possible, what would take the place of discrimination/judgements?

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 21

Differences Unite Us

I think that in societies it is not possible to have no discrimination or judgment. I do believe that we must discriminate among things and people, however not discriminate against them. It is one thing to make a judgement and differentiate between two things, and a whole nother thing to use that against someone or something. I think that humans naturally just judge everything in their world. We judge which shirt will look best with which pants, we judge who will make a better life companion, etc. Judgements are necessary for making choices.

I don’t think that it would be possible to live without choices. We must make so many choices every single day, such as what to eat, what to wear, what to do, what to say. It is nearly impossible to not make any choices no matter how small. In the ted talk given by Sheena Lyengar, she points out three different rules of decision making, and I think that rather than to try to eliminate choices all together, we should follow those rules which will help better our choices.

Although discriminating and judging things and people is not inherently wrong, it does lead to discrimination against others. In my opinion I do not think it is possible for a world to exist without discrimination or judgment, even though it can result in horrible consequences.

Something I found really interesting that came from John Powell was that the media and politicians drive “othering”. I had never thought of it in that manner, and I wonder if the media and politicians didn’t have such a big influence on our thinking, would this discrimination and “othering” be such a problem? Another great point is that most people don’t even realize that they are doing it. This could suggest that either bias and prejudice is buried so deep in our minds that we fail to notice, or that it is natural and not a bad thing. But which is it?

Of course, if one walks around and sees people one makes automatic thoughts in one's head. Whether it be based off of their skin color, noticeable religious aspects, etc. This in itself is not an issue, however, just like Powell says, when there are powerful people saying certain things and fear mongering it creates an issue. If a white man is walking around and he sees a muslim woman with a hijab, he most likely makes a note of it in his mind. However, especially now after four years of the Trump administration, he may make certain assumptions and discriminations in his head. The man would not have been naturally “scared” or biased to the woman, but because of the words coming from the media and politicians, his thoughts are skewed. That is what I think makes othering so dangerous, the fact that certain people use it to manipulate and change others opinions and thoughts.

As for a post-othering society, I believe that it could maybe be possible. In the podcast, Alicia Garza points out that talking about differences and inequities divides people and makes them unwilling to discuss. This is one of the first problems that we would need to address to have such a society. It is not possible to live in a world without discrimination if we can’t even talk about what discriminates us and why. I think that talking about our differences, to quote Garza, “can unify us even further”. People tend to forget that differences do not mean we must stay divided, instead it could bring people together.

A question that I have is, is it really possible to have a so-called “colorblind” society? Is there any possible way for race to not matter in a society?

Boston, Massachusettes, US
Posts: 16

Human Nature

I think judgement and discrimination is completely necessary for our society to function. It is just human nature. To make choices in general, everyone needs to be able to pass judgement onto what we see and perceive. Of course, judgement isn't a bad thing. It shows the personal freedom of human to make choices. Without the ability to judge, we wouldn't have free will, an that is extremely important. However, this is where I see a difference between judgement and discrimination. I see judgement as the evaluation of something or someone, while discrimination is the choice you make based on that judgement. Even though our judgements and discriminations can hurt people's feelings, it is impossible to keep yourself from judging. While you can come up with a decision based on that judgement, it is up to you weather or not you make a choice based on that. And that is where the idea of are choices good or bad come in.

Obviously, Everything depends on what you're deciding on. There is no good or bad when deciding what you want for lunch. It's just a normal decision based on your perceptions and judgement passed on each food item. But obviously, there is a bad side. It is impossible to look at someone without making judgements or conclusions about them because that's just human nature. However, these conclusions we come to can easily cause us to make future decisions based on our perception of people. In the end, when these choices lead to discrimination and hatred, that is when people can be hurt. It is impossible to not pass judgement and not discriminate, however, it is everyone's choice on what to do with the judgement you have come to. And that, is what makes a person inherently good or inherently bad.

Although othering is a dangerous topic and can lead to many problems in our society, it is impossible to reach a post-othering society. Humans could see each other as the same, but the truth is, everyone is different. When you meet someone new, it is impossible not to see them as an other. Maybe you can build a connection with them, but there will always be people who are not your friends and are not your family. Maybe we as humans can work to not act negatively on our perception of others or hurt others because we can't relate to them, but judgement will always be a part of our society. It is up to us about how we act on it. My question is: When meeting someone new, do you look for aspects of them to relate to or are you inclined to make a snap decision about them?

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 17

Discrimination, Judgement, and Choosing Are Essential

I think that a society cannot function without judgement and discrimination. As humans, it’s natural for all of us to judge whether it’s a good or bad judgement. Although discrimination is necessary in order for society to function, discrimination against people and causing a negative impact of others should be avoided. When we choose what food we would get at the supermarket, like the “practically perfect peppers” exercise, that is judging food based on its appearance and what we inherently believe to taste better. Our judgements guide us in our preferences in turn our choice making.

Humans must choose. Like Sheena Iyenger said, the perception of choice is shaped by our surroundings and upbringings. Even when there is a limited amount of choices, we are still choosing between things. We make choices all the time that affect society. When electing a government official, we must make judgements on their character and agendas to see who will better us, as individuals and as a society. Those with power must choose how to use their power—will they use power to help the community or will they abuse their power for their personal gain?

Since we all naturally discriminate and judge everything, it is common for us to make assumptions of others. There can be assumptions about others without seeing them as a threat and the need to eradicate them for a specific society, like the act of othering. Like John Powell said, othering is empathized by leaders that choose to vocalize their bias about a group of people. As John Powell pointed out, people now, after Trump’s administration, are more aware about the others’ differences and see more of it as a threat. As individuals, we should realize that othering is a problem and understand that we discriminate all the time. We should learn to accept our differences and also challenge the views of others in order to improve our society.

I think that it will be very hard to build a post-othering society. There will always be people that use others’ differences in order to exclude them. There’s also a group mentality that exists within societies, such that if one person speaks out against a certain group of people, others would likely follow. Another point is that people normally do not hold leaders accountable for their actions, even if it is against their own views. Like Alicia Garza said, after Obama was elected, most people did not hold him accountable, partly because they were afraid of what could happen if they condemn the actions of the first Black president. Although it would be hard for a post-othering society to exist, it’s still possible, through the corroboration of everyone; people need to be open to have conversations about discrimination, our differences, and how to hold leaders accountable for their actions.

To answer @Odinous’s question, I truly do not know what I normally do. I feel like it depends on the occasion that I am meeting the person. Even if I make a snap judgement of the person, I tend to not let that affect me being open to learning more about the person. As I get to know the person better, I would form a more definite opinion on the person. Most of the time, the person is completely different from what I originally assumed.

My question is to what extent is implicit bias similar to othering and what effects does it have on our daily lives?

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 17

Choice and Judgement in Today's Society

After looking at Sheena Iyenger’s TED talk, John Powell’s reading, and Alicia Garza’s podcast, I do believe that discrimination and judgement among things and people are necessary in a society. Now, discrimination is unacceptable when it contributes to the process of “Othering”, in which one group is seen as a threat to the favored majority. Judgement of that means only divides society, pitting one group versus another. However, humans are bound to judge things and other people. Judging someone may have negative connotations but it is something we cannot avoid. We can’t just simply eliminate it. Judgement is needed to create a preconceived notion about something so that we are able to make a choice or merely to have something we can base our opinions off of.

As for choosing, I believe that it is fundamental in a society as well. In Sheena Iyenger’s TED talk, she discussed the importance that humans place over having a choice. When presented with the decision of either letting their baby live in a vegetative state with life support or taking away the life support that sustained their premature baby, the Mitchells chose the latter. Now, they were more greatly affected by negative emotions as a result of their choice but glad that the decision was theirs and not the doctors. Thus, the ability to choose things for ourselves, no matter the severity of the situation, should be available to a society as we have to make decisions everyday. We need the control of being able to decide the outcome as individuals, not letting someone else dictate our future.

Interestingly enough, looking at the importance of choice, many people of varying cultures don’t abide by the same assumptions. For instance, Sheena Iyenger conducted a study where she had Anglo-American and Asian American children solve anagrams. The Asian-American kids performed better when they knew that the anagrams were chosen by their mothers, thus going against the assumption that we always make our own choices. The first generation chose to rather look up to key figures in their life to decide what they should do, prioritizing harmony with their loved ones above all else. The American sense of choice is quite different, where people often choose to make individual choices at the expense of others. Therefore, I’d say choice is somewhere in between good and bad. It holds a significant role in determining who you are as a person but not everyone can succeed under the pressure of choosing alone, as shown in Iyenger’s study.

Having accounted for all of this, there are roles for choices in a society. People choose their path of career, what car they want, housing, and many other things. It is the way in which they exercise free will, making it essential for a society to function. Without choice, how are people supposed to differentiate themselves from each other? People are judged by the decisions they make and we have already determined judgement as a natural part of society. As shown in our pepper experiment, the peppers were judged based on their appearance and appeal. Many chose a certain pepper for its attractiveness and others were judged for choosing a less “captivating” pepper, thus dividing our class into our choices. Not only did this experiment show the standards of which we use to judge, it showed how varying judgements can pit people against each other.

Now looking back on everything, I don’t think it is possible to live in a post-othering society. I doubt our country will ever come to a point in time where everyone accepts everyone, as pessimistic as that sounds. Othering holds such a prominent position in today’s world, exemplified by its normalization from Trump and other politicians. For example, John Powell’s reading shows that Trump and many others have learned to manipulate and create fear of the “Others”, saying that “Mexicans can be called ‘rapists and drug dealers’. By feeding on the American anxiety of change, certain groups are dehumanized, making it easier for our country to be divided. The attachment to the very people that live around us is severely decreased and it is only by gradually learning to celebrate our differences that we can possibly dream of a post-othering society.

In response to @anonymouse’s question, I’d say that implicit bias and othering are very similar. They are both socially and culturally constructed. Also, since implicit bias refers to the stereotypes that affect our decisions/behavior, it plays a big role in outcasting/othering various groups. Many of the reasons for othering groups today are based off of mindless stereotypes that feed our fear of change. Because of this, it can have a pretty great effect on our daily lives. We see the use of stereotypes from the media and many political figures today in order to grow suspicion of the “Others” and it will continue to be used.

Lingering Question: What can we do to combat the normalization of Othering in the media? How does that help in fixing the gap between Americans today, avoiding an “us v.s. them” situation?

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 19

Drawing the Line Between Positive and Negative Differentiating

Judgement and discrimination is something that cannot be completely avoided. Everyday we are presented with choices and we need to make decisions. To make decisions, we have to look at the differences in the choices. Similarly to what @Madagascar said, differentiating is one thing, but using or pointing out those differences in a negative manner is another.

Differentiating in a negative manner- such as dehumanizing, racial discrimination, “othering”, etc.- is unacceptable. “Othering”, according to John A. Powell, is “ the conscious or unconscious assumption that a certain identified group poses a threat to the favoured group.” This is the type of differentiating that should not happen and is completely unnecessary to have a functional society. In fact, this type of differentiating helps lead to dysfunctional societies.

Judgement should be a tool that helps us choose the most beneficial option. It is important to have the freedom to make your own decisions, but when we are presented with too many decisions, we often choose the wrong one. In Sheena Iyenger’s TED talk, she discussed how we feel overwhelmed by options or information. Choices are generally good to have, assuming that we always can make the right ones. Unfortunately, this is not the case many times. They end up being at some point between good and bad.

In response to @goob’s questions, “What can we do to combat the normalization of Othering in the media? How does that help in fixing the gap between Americans today, avoiding an “us v.s. them” situation?”, I would say that in an ideal world, only the positive forms of discrimination and judgement would exist. We would live in a post-othering society. This could be done if influential figures stopped using differences as a divider and differences were embraced, not discriminated against. However, we are not living in a society where change is readily accepted and differences unite, not divide. There is no immediate solution to combat the normalization of Othering. There will always be people that choose to discriminate in a negative manner. The gap between Americans today, avoiding an “us vs. them” situation would be helped by combating the normalization of Othering. This is because many different cultures, ethnic groups, religions, beliefs, and races are common in America. Some people use these different parts of people’s identity to split them apart. This had led to social and political tension in America increasing drastically. Violence and crime have become more common. There is a constant feeling of unrest. We need to stop using these differences to divide, and instead embrace them for making our society a more culturally diverse one that can flourish.

Would having a “colorblind” society”, as @Madagascar said, be more harmful than our current society?

Boston , MA, US
Posts: 17

Our differences should enhance society rather than divide and harm it

I think it is natural that humans find differences between people and things, as well as similarities and commonalities. Similar to what Sheena Iyenger was saying about multiple choices having minute differences, when provided with 5 choices of pepper, which were obviously all very similar in that they were all red bell peppers, we immediately picked apart their differences from stem shape to how many bumps there were on the bottom, and the differences seemed so extreme that it polarized the chat, leading to “bullying” of certain peppers. But our differences don’t have to divide us, like John A Powell says about “othering”, where as society changes and diversifies rapidly, people emphasize differences as a way to decide who “qualifies as a full member of society”, and who they should fear because of these differences. Powell says that “pulling away from other groups” makes it “easier to tell and believe false stories of ‘us vs them’” which can lead to “supporting practices that dehumanise the ‘them’”. This shows that using differences to create divisions is harmful to society. I think humans inherently judge people based on impressions. Everyone does it but it shouldn’t be a way to divide people. This ties into what Alicia Garza was saying about how the 2016 presidential election turned out the way it did, because white identity was weaponized against all other identities to uphold white power. This would be an example of othering as the changing makeup of America led to divisions, which in turn made it easier to enforce the idea of white supremacy and the dehumanization of “others”.

I agree with him that we should take our differences and use them in “belonging and bridging” rather than “othering”. This means we should celebrate differences as a positive thing that can enhance society because it brings different views to the table and can contribute different cultures to a larger collective culture and societal melting pot. Powell says that we should create a “‘bridge’, reaching across to other groups and towards our inherent, shared humanity and connection, while recognising that we have differences...belonging does not insist that we are all the same. It means we recognise and celebrate our differences, in a society where ‘we the people’ includes all the people.” I want to think positively and optimistically and believe that we can build a post-othering society, but in order for that to happen, humanity needs to come together as Powell mentions, and recognize our differences as well as the privileges some have compared to others. We have to work together for the common good and help those who are struggling.

I think some choices are good because it wouldn’t be beneficial to society to all be the same (same not equal, we should all be equal!), but like Sheena Iyenger said, I believe this has been exaggerated by consumer culture that there are now so many choices, which sometimes have negative consequences. In AP Enviro class we were talking about America’s consumer culture, and the teacher showed us a picture from 1989 when Russian president Boris Yeltsin visited an American grocery store and was amazed at the wide selection available to Americans. I think some choices are good but there comes a point when there are too many. This ties into the environment as well, where because mass consumerism, especially in America, promotes the ideal that we all have to have things, things, things, and use our possessions to show something or prove something, then the production of all these different things has a negative impact on the environment.

@20469154661 ‘s question was: Would having a “colorblind” society”, as @Madagascar said, be more harmful than our current society?. I think having a “colorblind” society would be harmful, because the inequities pertaining to race would not be recognized, which would make it harder to fix them and therefore achieve further racial equality. I believe such a society would be more harmful than our current one because right now, we can identify issues and their connection to race, whether or not society is doing enough to fix them. If we were living in a colorblind society, inequities would still exist but their very important connection to race would not be recognized, so racial inequities across all categories like education, housing, healthcare, etc., could even deepen. My lingering question that I would like to know other opinions on is: Is it beneficial to society to have more choices or fewer choices, and are there specific examples where one is better than the other?

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 17

The Necessity and Danger of Choice

In my opinion, judgement and discrimination are both natural and necessary because so much of the way that we make sense of the world is based on the differences we observe. The result of these judgments is determined by the choices we make, whether consciously or subconsciously. These judgments can either be good or bad, depending on how and when we use them to inform our decisions.

While many of these judgments start out as innocent choices that we have to make to get through our lives, they tend to become harmful once we (as @madagascar said) use these judgments to discriminate against others. Instead of a judgment being based on a like or dislike, judgments become based on stereotypes and prejudices used to divide, which leads to many outcomes such as “Othering” as John Powell brought up. Othering plays on stereotypes and our fear of making the active choice to change by labeling entire demographics as threats, which is an example of when judgment is most definitely a bad thing. I am not sure if it is possible to build a post-othering society, and if it is it is far away in the future. Much of our society is built on othering to some extent, and it is rooted in the belief that situations are often “us vs. them”. Othering also preys on biases that we may not even know we have, so I feel that it will always find a way to creep back in. However, I agree with John Powell that instead of Othering we should focus on connecting with others because of our differences to undo the harm of Othering. As Alicia Garza said in the podcast, acknowledging differences can help us to form goals and strategies together, instead of using differences to divide.

Responding to @muumihalit ‘s question, “Is it beneficial to society to have more choices or fewer choices, and are there specific examples where one is better than the other?”, I think that more choices are better. I think that we can sometimes tend to be happier when we only have a few choices because it is easier to choose without feeling like we missed out. However, more choices bring about more opportunities and in my opinion it is better to make a choice out of many options, even if you risk missing out on more. We all make different judgments and therefore make different choices, so having only a few choices can be really limiting.

My lingering question is: Which is more dangerous, consciously “othering” or subconsciously “othering”?

Earl Grey Tea
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 22

Discrimination, Judgement, and Othering: Why?

I think we do need to discriminate among things or people. We evaluate the person and figure out what it is about them that is different and potentially favorable to someone/something else. Judgement is equally as important. A pros and cons list is based on discrimination and judgement. We need to make an informed judgement in order to make an informed choice. The point of judgement is to look at our choices after discriminating among them and then figure out which one is best for us, hopefully considering which one is best for everyone if your choice affects a country. I feel like discrimination is a tough word to work with because it sounds harsh when making a choice between two people rather than when making a choice between five peppers. It can be applied differently. Either way, discrimination is necessary when choosing between two people even if we are discriminating based on appearance. For example, we might elect someone because they are black, next to many other reasons, hoping they will be able to uplift black voices.

I do think we must choose, especially when it comes to voting. Americans are complicated when it comes to voting. We don’t want to mandate it because being forced into a choice would deny us the choice of opting out of that choice. And nothing says freedom and representation like half of America choosing our leaders. I thought the Ted Talk was really interesting. After listening, it seems like Americans are the least capable of making choices, but will do whatever it takes to be able to make their own choices. Iyengar said at one point, “Americans are discovering that unlimited choice seems more attractive in theory than in practice,” which I also thought was funny.

I think without a doubt both good and bad things can result from our collective discrimination and judgements. We elected Trump in 2016 and Biden in 2020. I don’t think othering is a good solution to anything. There is no reason to always have a group in opposition to your own. I do believe that we can become a more united society where people don’t point fingers at a certain group of people just to place the blame somewhere; nothing good comes out of that. I think Trump sort of heightened the whole idea of othering. The Guardian article said, “President Trump, however, has opened a space where people are emboldened to be more explicit.” That means explicitly referring to Others as “those Mexicans” or “those Mulsims.” I happened to be watching Van Jones on CNN on Saturday and this reminded me of something he said, through tears. Describing the Trump presidency, he said something like, “People who have been afraid to show their racism are getting nastier and nastier to you.” I think with a new inclusive leader with better character, we may be able to start heading towards a post-othering society.

I think it’s theoretically possible for a world to exist without discrimination or judgment but is not something we’ll see in our lifetimes. It would mean rooting out a whole chain of systems. For now, I think everyone needs to do their part in making choices for society in order for the society to function.

@penguinsintherain Both have the same effect so I think both are equally as dangerous. Subconsciously “othering” is at least forgivable, since we are all victims of this system. Consciously “othering” has no excuse on the other hand.

My lingering question: Obviously some problems would still exist even in a unified society free of othering. Would we be less inclined to address such problems without the divisions we have today?

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 16

Judgement, Choice, and Discrimination

I think that judgement and choice making are necessary in our society, but I don’t think discrimination is. Not that I think it is possible to ever completely get rid of discrimination, I just think it is not necessary is our society. Without judgement, we wouldn’t be able to make choices and without choices, nothing would ever get done. Certainly I think that some could stand to lose so much of a choice where they might not know what is best for themselves, for example in the TED Talk when they compare the parents choices about their children's lives. I think a choice like that might cause more hurt than it’s worth for the parents. Although not having the choice about your own child's life seems so absurd, in this case the parents who didn’t choose didn’t have themselves to blame and suffered less. But even in that case, the experts are still making a choice, so in that sense choice is necessary.

I think another point is that there are different levels to judgement and choice making. I think it is a bit obvious but we were able to do the pepper activity in class because we are talking about peppers, and my pepper preference doesn’t hurt anyone. But if Ms. Freeman was to put pictures of different people and tell us to pick our favorite, that is obviously not appropriate at all and those judgements would be unfair because with people, there is too much depth to just say things about someone based on a picture.

I do think that discrimination is not necessary though because consciously making a choice to, by definition, treat someone unjustly is just wrong and is never a necessity. Sometimes it may be necessary to make a decision that negatively affects someone else, for example picking a candidate for a job. I think that a choice can be made that isn’t discrimination, because one can just simply be a better fit for the job, but once that decision is made off of something that has nothing to do with the job, it becomes discrimination. But, I think that it isn’t possible to get rid of discrimination because as Alicia Garza said in the podcast, it is all about power. And there are always going to be people who want the power and out of fear of losing it, push the people below them even further down so they can stay in power. Just as it says in the “Us vs them” article “It is based on the conscious or unconscious assumption that a certain identified group poses a threat to the favoured group.” I think that a post-othering society is theoretically possible, but to me it feels not so realistic because where America is now, there will always be someone in power and those people are most likely going to do things to stay in power.

To respond to @penguinsintherain ‘s question, “Which is more dangerous, consciously “othering” or subconsciously “othering”?” I would say that subconsciously Othering is more dangerous because those who Other subconsciously, aren’t fully aware they are doing it and harming people. But if it is conscious, it is easier for the people doing the othering to explain why they might be doing that and for other people to come up with arguments and things to combat what they are doing and why.

A lingering question of mine is: Would we as a society benefit from having less choices to make for ourselves?

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 21

More Choices More Freedom

Originally posted by muumihalit on November 11, 2020 17:11

My lingering question that I would like to know other opinions on is: Is it beneficial to society to have more choices or fewer choices, and are there specific examples where one is better than the other?

Post your response here.

To answer @muumihalit question, I think that in a society it is beneficial to have more choices. I think that the more choices there are, the more likely one is to make a choice that is either "right" to them or more "comfortable". I can think of many examples, but one is, with this election many people struggled to vote because we were limited to voting between two people, who many have said both are equally as bad. People have to chose "the lesser of two evils". Of course this is nothing compared to a dictatorship where there is no choice at all for voting. Having more choices makes people feel more freedom I believe, and it also helps to ease the anxiety of having to make a choice.

Boston , MA, US
Posts: 23

Differences without Connotations

I truly don’t believe that there can be a world without discrimination and judgment. During class, while looking at the peppers, I did not understand the point of the exercise. When I voted for pepper 1, I had no strong feelings for choosing it, I just did. I found it funny when people were die-hard fans of pepper 2. I know their intentions and feelings towards pepper 2 weren’t serious and more for jokes, because this exercise was harmless. Whatever pepper we voted for there were no consequences in the end. When we shift and parallel this activity into real life, this when consequences can arise. When people have such strong feelings and views about a certain group of people or a person, it can lead to harsh discrimination and a sense of extreme difference.

After reading “Us vs them: the sinister techniques of ‘Othering’ – and how to avoid them” by John a Powell, I found the term and process of “othering” helpful in describing my thought of judgment in the real world. In this article, I learned about how in a situation where we are different, we have two choices. The first is to acknowledge our differences yet still understand and be connected by our humanity and mutual respect. The second choice and I think the more harmful one is to “break the bridge” between the other group and pull away leading to false stories and accusations being made about the other group to belittle and dehumanize them. This is where the term “othering” comes in, we break the connection we have instead we try to make a false narrative and stereotypes about the other group so we aren’t challenged by the other’s views. For example, when two groups disagree, it is much easier to act like group 1 is completely different so in the end group, 2 doesn’t have the opportunity to understand and be influenced by the views of group 1.

I think the world we want to live in is the world of the first choice. A world where we can acknowledge our differences, yet still be connected by our humanity and have mutual respect. When I think of this, I think of the people who say, “I don’t see color”. This is such a silly notion to me. No matter how “unbiased” or “politically correct” you are, you are going to acknowledge the differences. Similar to what Sheena Iyengar said in her TedTalk, “The art of choosing”, “Americans train their whole lives to spot the difference”. As we grow up, we just naturally learn to tell the difference between things, and especially when you’re a kid, these differences have no connotation, it is when you are taught and influenced to see the differences as a bad thing. So when people say “I don’t see color”, it is so obvious that they do. We know that they can see that “oh this person is Asian” or “this person is Black”, but this doesn’t have to be seen as a bad thing. It is the connotations and stereotypes that are connected to these differences that lead to a world of judgment and discrimination. If we live in a world without differences, there is no world, we are more like robots. We need to flip the narrative that differences are bad to good. We are progressing nowhere if we still want to think that differences are bad or want to think that there is no middle ground, that all groups are extremely different and have nothing in common. Like Goldilocks, we need that just right, a world where we acknowledge differences without the connotations, yet still be able to understand each other and see other perspectives because of our connection as humans.

My lingering question would be how would the world function without negative connotations and stereotypes against certain groups of people? And would it even be possible since everyday we learn and are influenced by different things and create our own opinions?

Boston , MA, US
Posts: 23

Reply to Earl Grey Tea

Originally posted by Earl Grey Tea on November 11, 2020 21:07

My lingering question: Obviously some problems would still exist even in a unified society free of othering. Would we be less inclined to address such problems without the divisions we have today?

I think this is such an interesting question you bring up. In world of consumerism and never having enough and always wanting more, I feel like people would want to solve all the problems in the world. Obviously that sounds like I put that in a negative light, but it is just so hard for me to actually believe this could happen. I think the continuous addressing problems would also separate people. I feel like some people will say something along the lines of, "remember how it was back then, how can we complain about our lives now if it was so much worse back then". On the other hand I can see people wanting to solve issues and problems to create a better world. I think just by the nature of our society, we to solve problems we try to find the root of the problems and then go to the people in power to help solve the problems. If there is no division, I think there is "no one to blame" or hard to like expose the problem without seeming like they are trying to create a division. I still don't have a clear answer or even clear thoughts about your question but it helped me think about the problems that might arise even if we get our "perfect society".

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 24

Othering is Natural (in some cases)

In our society, it is nearly impossible to go a moment without making choices, however the gravity and importance of those choices greatly differ. As Sheena Iyenger talked about in her TedTalk, sugar in tea is a choice, just as much as choosing between fifteen different options of gum but, these choices have little to no impact on anyone other than yourself. A choice to see differences in skin color and make an implicit bias against that person is also a choice, but contributes to the “othering” we see so prevalently in our society. It is human nature to see differences among yourself and the greater population and that ability to see difference can’t be something that can be taken away, as it's our free will to do so (as @ Odinous said). Everyone can have natural standards and preferences when it comes to things like peppers, that have no larger meaning beyond that one pepper. My preference to pepper #2 does not contribute to systems that oppress, belittle or other groups and individuals.

Alicia Garza spoke about the idea of “oppression olympics” and how historically marginalized groups other themselves in order to prove that they have been more oppressed than their peers. This othering does not allow us to see how we can work together as groups of people that are oppressed to make fundamental changes in the laws and ideas that govern our society. Intersectionality is absolutely essential to get anything done in the grand scheme because no significant change can be made by just one group, we have to work together and see what ties us as people in order for us all to be benefited. We can build this post-othering society by educating our peers and attempting to bridge the gap between different groups. However, this doesn’t mean we put our individual identity’s aside to work together, we can stay true to ourselves while also finding similarities with people of different cultural, religious, ethnic,and religious identities (and many more). Spotting the difference, as much as we may want to, as Sheena pointed out, tends to lead to worse decision making. Why “other” yourself to the point where you can’t make bonds with others because you believe yourself to be sooo different? If more people are taught to seek out differences and make active choices based on those differences, we are going to fall into a society where no bridge can be built among different communities.

In the 21st century we have somehow regressed to early 20th century racist rhetoric due to a rise in white supremacy under the Trump administration. The othering of poc through Trumps presidency has somehow found itself with real world consequences where racism is translated into cruel immigration laws, rise in hate crimes, misinformation and targeting of Asian-americans during a pandemic and so many lasting issues. My proposed question is: Its a choice to be racist, is that the human nature of choice or a side-effect of a larger issue within our society?

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