posts 1 - 15 of 29
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.)

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 19

discrimination is a habit

Through reading through the articles and watching Sheena Lyengar's very informational and eye opening TED talk, I was opened up and brought to facts that I wouldn't of assumed were true. One example of this was the example Sheena used with the class of young kids, the anagrams, and the markers. In this she altered whether the students could pick what they would want to use, or if it was picked by there teacher or mother. The result of this I found were so interesting, as I would never think of that being reality, and shows a major different between Americans and those of other heritages, such as Chinese and Japanese. Discrimination is a habit for people, especially Americans. It is an unconscious effect that automatically goes on without us noticing, from judging fruit and vegetables to other people. Of course people don't need to discriminate, there is no purpose in most cases, but it isn't something that can simply be undone.

Everyone is obviously entitled to ones opinion on subjects and matters, but that doesn't mean the alternative is necessary inferior to the other. I think that is a major problem in American, especially with the election. There are several democrats and republicans that lean very far to the left or right to the point where they develop a hatred for the other side, which should never occur. Judging can always be good to an extent, obviously you want a red apple compared to a moldy brown one, obviously a nascar driver will preform better than a 18 year old driver around a course, those are simple judgments. But judgements go to far in everyday society, to the extent of disliking or even hating the other side, or creating violence and disruption on account of a simple disagreement.

I don't think a world will ever be created without discrimination and judgement, it is too imbedded into everyday society that it is impossible to dispose of, but the rate and extents of judgement and discrimination can be drastically decreased. The way America is going in regards to these matters is nothing but down, to the point where violence breaks out and places become unsafe, that is not what we need here.

A question becomes, what can people do in order to decrease this rapidly unorthodox response to disagreements, judgement, and discrimination?

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 24

Odd One Out

I think that everyone can agree that it is wrong to judge. Judgement however, can be argumentative, because if you go throughout life never judging a single person or thing, how will you know whats right from wrong. And of course, right from wrong is different for everyone, but there are certain things we can all agree are morally wrong or morally right. I personally think that it is wrong to ever discriminate or judge, especially if it is a person or a group of people. To judge someone based on the color of their skin is wrong. To judge someone based on their weight is wrong. To judge someone based on their abilities is wrong. To judge someone based on how they talk is wrong. And I don't think there is solely one reason why we as humans judge. And from a young age we are taught to judge or discriminate against something that doesn’t belong. When you're 5 years old and look at a collage of 4 fruits and 1 vegetable and your teacher asks you “which doesn’t belong” we are being taught to discriminate. Even though they are just food groups, that doesn’t teach the right message. Because if a child who didn’t know better, looked at a crowd of white people and saw 1 black person they would say that black person doesn’t belong. As unintentional it may seem, it implants that cognitive response to judge, to discriminate. But there are other underlying reasons why a person may judge other than human nature, your surroundings, media, environment, family, friends, etc teach you to judge from a young age. I don't think it is right to choose from a group of people, places, or things to determine whether or not it fits in or not. High expectations are made for our future and how we should act. When you don’t fit that mold of the perfect student or the perfect child you are immediately judged. The reputation of America is that it is the land of opportunity, while it is true in more ways than not there are so many flaws to this. When you look at the Eastern European countries in Sheena Iyenger’s TED talk, she says that they felt that the sodas they were chosen to pick from were pointless, because they were all soda. When an American is to pick between these sodas they see a lot more opportunity because there is a variety in these choices. The Eastern Europeans believed that there is no reason to have an abundance of the same thing. Personally, I would say that more options is better because if one fails you can resort to another and it also creates a sense of individuality. I think that choices are essential to making society function because without it how does one become their own. To exist in a world without discrimination or judgement would be an utopian society. The question is, would it be possible? No, or at least not in the forseeable future. I don't think that humans are capable of living life without judgement, as sad as it is. I think that judgement is something that has always been around since the dawn of time. With decision making comes judgement, so, the frontal lobe of our brain will always be around for that decision making therefore, there will always be judgement. However I think that there is definitely something we can do to make it better. We can teach children from a young age to not choose the odd one out. We can have leaders who do not promote language of dehumanization and exclusivity as stated in the Us vs. Them article. Someone who doesn’t “create villains” out of those who oppose their ideals. And to answer the question by @slothman It is about acceptance and an open mind, that welcomes any living thing with embrace and love. And with that, to live with experience and teach others the most important messages they’ve learned. It's a ripple effect of life. To experience things, make mistakes, learn from them, and teach what you learn that truly makes a positive impact on societies and individuals. And to get rid of those “Otherings” through representation and social upliftment.

My question is, How do we keep the decrease of judgement and discrimination consistent and improvable?

Boston, Ma, US
Posts: 18

Does more choice lead to more discrimination

I think that while it’s not always good, the inclination to judge things and others is wired into our heads. Sometimes judging can be beneficial, but oftentimes assumptions are wrong and can get in the way of good things. For example one of the things that annoys me the most about my brother is his views on pesto. He likes pesto as long as he doesn’t realize it’s there, but the moment he sees pesto on his food he refuses to eat it because it’s green (it’s not even a vegetable I don’t understand). Also he will only eat some shapes of pasta, because he doesn’t like how long pasta tastes even though they are the same thing. While everyone isn’t as illogical as my brother, we all make decisions based one small things that don’t matter that can harm us or others. After years of arguing with my brother I definitely think it’s hard to change these illogical judgements, but I think we should all take time to think about whether the assumptions we make are based off of anything concrete.

One thing I found really interesting in Sheena Lyenger’s ted talk was how she talked about 2 nail polishes, which were essentially the same, being described differently because of their names. After she said that I reflected on how I had recently bought a nail polish that looks identical to one I already owned because it was from a brand I liked more. As a American, I think we’re wired to make choices based on trivial things, like brands, names and packaging, because we are always being shown the same thing with different names and descriptors. I believe that having to make these choices based on trivial differences primes us to see trivial differences between different groups of people as being bigger than they are which leads to othering. I agree with both John Powell and Alicia Garza, who believe that we need to work on bringing people together regardless of race, gender and nationality. They both talk about how separation is fueled by people not understanding others and buying into their preconceptions rather than interacting with others, which comes back to having to check your assumptions.

In response to SwedishFish I think that to decrease judgement and discrimination we need to spend more time reflecting on why we think the things we think, and if they are based off of assumptions we need to correct our thinking.

My question is would less choice lead to less judgement?

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 18

Recognition is the First Step

I think that discrimination is a natural thing for people to do. It is built in to our instincts and has aided our survival for as long as we have been alive. Looking back, humans had to choose where to settle, where to plant crops, what sticks to use to make tools, all of these things that require judgement and analysis, or higher order thinking. Higher order thinking is what got us to where we are. That does not make it the right thing for us to do. I think that humans will always discriminate, at least in our heads. The choice to act on it is different. The key is recognizing when you have a bias or are actively descriminating and saying to yourself: "Stop. Why am I doing this? Am I being fair?" Discrimination is instinctual, and therefore we cannot remove it without first changing ourselves.

The action of making a choice, I feel, is not a sin. It isn't inherently horrible, and there are many times that making judgements has helped me. Choosing to discriminate based on something superficial, is wrong. This also applies to inherent biases and structural racism that exists in our society, and while it is hard to remove from the system, it definately is doable, and is a cause that is worth persuing. I think that there will always be judgement in our world, the key is getting to a world where the judgement isn't harmful to anybody, but rather as innocent as choosing between a brown pear and a nice green one.

In responce to @SwedisFish's question:

I think we decrease the amount of judgement in our world by recognizing when it is happening and addressing it as such. If you just ask why you are making that descision, you will soon recognize when you are being discriminatory and knowing there is an issue is the first step to solving it.

My question is: When was the last time that you recognized you were only acting on instinct and were being discriminatory in some way? How did you address it? Did you address it?

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 19

Being self-aware

Watching the TedTalk by Sheena Lyneger and reading the two articles has taught me new things about discrimation and the way people judge things or people. For example, in the transcript of Alicia Garza’s podcast, I never thought about how differences can unify us. If we stop believing in the idea that we’re all equal and the same and start having discussions about how we’re not, we can work on ways to fix that. Having discussions that opens people’s eyes to the idea that we all start on different playing fields. There is information that I already knew from reading the articles. For example, in the Guardian article they talk about how powerful leaders use judgement and assumptions to dehumanize and separate groups of people. We have seen examples of this made by our former president, Donald Trump. The point is we all make assumptions consciously or unconsciously that are either positive or negative. It’s a habit that happens everyday. We don’t have to judge, but we do. For some it can be playful, guessing what someone does for a living based on what they look like or what they’re wearing. For others, it’s to boost their ego and fulfill themselves with the thought that they’re more successful in life than the person they’re judging. But our assumptions shouldn’t be dividing us as a country. We need to work on living in a world where we are free to have different opinions that don’t harm or offend certain people. I don’t think we will never live in a world where there is no discrimination or judgement. I think that being self-aware about what kind of judgments you're making and whether you should be making them could help decrease the severity of discrimination. We all just need to be mindful of our own thoughts, and remember that we’re all human and should be treated with respect and kindness. To answer plaidplatypus‘s question, I think that there isn’t a way to limit the amount of our judgements because there isn’t a way to control how we think about others. Even if there were less choices, we would all keep making judgements and assumptions. The beauty of our minds is that no one knows what we’re thinking unless we say it out loud. There’s no way to minimize our thoughts, but there are ways that we can actively change the way we think about ourselves and others.

My question is, how do we change the way we think about others in a more positive way?

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 16

Choice and Judgement

Choice and judgement play an important role in varying societies all around the world, whether that be to the benefit or deficit of different groups. To answer the question “must we discriminate,” it depends on the way that it is defined. It is natural for humans to discriminate in the sense that we acknowledge the differences between people or things. This is because as mentioned in the Ted Talk, we are trained from a very young age to notice the differences between things. However, it is not necessary for us to discriminate in a prejudicial manner. It is entirely possible for someone to see the differences between things, and not judge which one is better. For example, when comparing the peppers, people notice that they might have different shades of red or orange, and some of them might have different shapes, but in the end, it is simply a bunch of peppers, which all serve the same purpose. When someone observes two things, they subconsciously judge those two things, and in some cases, come up with a notion of which one is better. I think that it is very difficult in our society to not judge, mainly due to the societal norms that rely so heavily on judgement.

Choice on the other hand, is considerably different than judgement. As shown in the Ted Talk, the levels of choice in regions around the world varies drastically, and the definition of choice is perceived differently. For example, the people who lived in areas that have been more recently introduced to capitalism and democracy said that they do not have the same desire for choice in every matter unlike in countries such as the United States. In Russia, when presented with seven different types of soda, it was perceived as a single choice of either soda or no soda. This is because they do not feel the need for choice in such trivial matters. To be able to have a choice about every little detail in life is overwhelming, and can result in anxiety, while having little to no choice can be seen as restricting one’s freedom. Choices are essential to making a functional society because they are what allow systems such as democracy and capitalism to exist. If people could not choose who was put in power, or which items they buy, society as we know it in the United States would not exist.

For a world to exist without discrimination, there first needs to be no judgement. If people judge everything, they are faced with the choice of “bridging” or “breaking.” Since judgement is so natural in most humans, it is inevitable that there will be those who make the choice to break, and reject “others” that they have deemed to be worse than themselves. Discrimination and judgement are so entwined together, and with the structure of society, that it is highly unlikely that there could be a situation in which they do not exist in the world.

To answer the question posed by Berry “how do we change the way we think about others and see them in a more positive way?” I would say that in order to change the way that we think about others, and view them in a more positive way, we have to be able to make judgments without forming prejudicial opinions based on them.

My question is: Do you think that the frequency and harshness of judgement varies among different groups and what factors do you think contribute to that?

Boston, MA
Posts: 20

Finding the Balance Between Necessary Choice and Discrimination

As human beings, it is impossible to avoid choice. Sticking to the vegetable theme, when you go to the supermarket, you can only take home so many vegetables. You must choose which ones best suit your needs and leave the rest. Small, insignificant judgements like this are necessary. Even in more serious, life-altering situations, choices must be made. For example, seniors every year are faced with the choice of which college they want to go to. They start with an overwhelming list of options, but come May 1, the list has been narrowed down to one. These choices are made as a result of judgements and a list of criteria that we, as humans, think will benefit us the most. We must make necessary choices in life, big and small, in order to advance our days and lives forward. We make these judgments and choices to more effectively live our lives and maximize benefit from our actions. I do not think choice and judgment are necessarily bad things, but when they are used to discriminate against groups of people it becomes harmful.

As I said earlier, we often make choices with the intention of maximizing the benefits of our actions. Some people believe that the best way to achieve success and maximize their benefits is by belittling other people. This is where the idea of “othering” comes into play. People look for a person or group of people to tear down in order to look better themself. Historically, humans have looked for groups of people different from themselves to discriminate, whether based on religion, race, nationality. As John Powell said, It is not these attributes themselves that are the problem, of course, but how they are made salient, and how they are manipulated.” It is not that any one identity is a problem, but that it is easier for people to alienate and discriminate against people with different identities than their own. John Powell’s idea connects to Alicia Garza’s that people use “identity for identity’s sake in politics.” People discriminate and make judgments (both good and bad) based on identity as a way of separating people. It is not that one identity is innately better or worse than another, but that identity is a way to divide and differentiate. While our identities form our life experiences, no single identity gives any politician every single tool they need to govern effectively. Unfortunately, people use the power of choice to belittle other people to make themselves look better. Groups of people have often been used by politicians as scapegoats for one’s faults. This discrimination, this choice that one group of people is inferior to another, stems from people’s effort to maximize their personal gains. Some people will go to great lengths, at the expense of other people, to maximize their success.

I think choice and judgment are necessary, but we must strike some sort of balance. When it comes to picking peppers at a grocery store, we must make a choice. However, when it comes to making choices as a way of discriminating against groups of people, this will never be necessary. We must make choices, but never at the expense of other people. As Iyengar said we must “see choice in all its strangeness, complexity and compelling beauty.” We must find the balance between our own benefit and harming others with our choices.

I honestly don’t know if a world can exist without discrimination. A naive part of me wants to say it can, but after seeing how large of a following a politician that thrived off discriminating others amassed, it’s hard to think that these followers will get rid of the discriminatory ideals that are ingrained in their beliefs. I think it will take competent leadership that shows that credible, respectable sources do not discriminate and generations of effort to ever reverse the discrimination that has become such a large part of our society. I think this relates to @berry’s question. Thinking about others in a more positive way requires good role models and competent leadership. We must also commit to being educated and educating others on the discrimination that has become so ingrained in our society, and commit ourselves to combat this. The question is, though, how do we appeal to those who embrace Trump’s America?

Posts: 21

The Inevitability of Judgement

While discrimination and judgement may be inevitable for humans living in society, I certainly believe that it does not need to play as large of a role as it does today. I truly believe that judgement and discrimination, even though they may be unconscious, are still unavoidable as humans living in a society. It's simply not possible for us to not make assumptions or judgements about other people based on what they look like, how they act, or what they wear. And this in itself may not be the actual problem; it's how we allow this to affect our perception of other people as human beings that becomes problematic in society. If we can address these assumptions and judgements, recognize that it is inevitable we make them, and then face them head-on, we can greatly decrease how these judgements affect how we see other people. In other words, we cannot begin to combat discrimination and judgements in society unless we first acknowledge that it is universal and present in all humans. So ultimately, I do not believe it is possible or realiistic to cut out all judgement and discrimination from society, but rather that it must be recognized and confronted by each of us within ourselves.

For many people, judgements are simply a way to quickly and easily characterize people into discreet groups, where they can then infer the other 95% of people's personalities. In reality, unsurprisingly, one part of a person's personality does not in any way, shape or form define them as a person, or mean that any other aspects are connected to this one. However, there are a lot of people in the world! So, many people find this an easy way to define people quickly and easily, instead of taking time to get to know the person. However, this poses an interesting dilemma, because we cannot get to know each person that we meet in the world, thus we can never know what they are truly like. As stated above, I believe that it is truly inevitable for humans to make assumptions, it is simply the way that we use and recognize them that becomes a problem. So, at what point do we "use" these observations and assumptions about a person that we cannot get to know further? This is what makes assumptions and judgements so common in society. Unless we tasted all five of these peppers, we can never make a truly informed choice about which we liked the best, it's simply using our assumptions that we make from seeing the pictures of them. In this sense, assumptions and judgements, while somewhat detrimental to human society, are also essential for the way that humans function and perceive things. One doens't have time to go down the aisle and try all the kinds of peanut butter, thus we must make assumptions about which ones we would like based on the brand, saltiness, crunchy vs smooth, and other factors. In this manner, while it poses a philosophical dilemma to many people, judgements and assumptions are actually essential to human society.

In response to the question above me, I believe that the frequency and harshness of judgements absolutely varies from person to person and in each situation. In many cases, the frequency of judgements is determined by how aware a person is of their own assumptions and judgements. Many people who are aware of this tend to make less judgements in general, because they are aware of the human nature to form these judgements. The people who are least aware of the judgements that they make tend to make the most judgements, I believe, because they don't recognize them as judgements, but simply their own observations or thoughts. The harshness of judgements is a more difficult matter to address, because I don't think that there is a concrete thing that sets people who make harsher judgements apart from people who make "ordinary" ones. However, I know that fear plays a large role in this discussion. Many people are still afraid of people who don't look, act, speak or even dress like themselves. They are not only afraid of difference but of change, which tends to lead people to make harsher judgements about those who are not similar to themselves.

My final question is this: I truly believe that it is inevitable for human beings to make judgements, and that the way we can combat this is not by attempting to stop them, but by recognizing them, and working to not let them affect our perception of the world. Do you agree? Do you think that you make assumptions? How do you think that people's judgements affect their day-to-day lives and perceptions of other human beings?

boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 18

If you didnt want us to judge books by the cover there wouldnt be a cover to judge it by - doesnt have to do with my post but its true. dumb saying.

Discrimination and judgement are essential to reality. If we couldn't tell the difference between two objects, then there would be no difference between them in our eyes. Discrimination at its core is just finding differences between two things and treating them differently because of that difference. Same thing goes for people. If someone was really mean to you yesterday but you couldn't tell who it was the next day then that would be a problem. As we grow older we start to make these connections between this rude/kind/mean/outgoing attitudes and how to react to them quicker.

Judgement is also a spiral that happens instantly and seamlessly, for example: Person A chooses to introduce themselves to person B at a park as opposed to person C based on subconscious judgement, which then leave it up to person B to judge person A, and how person B reacts to their judgements of person A will cause person A to judge person B and so on.

Discriminating, differentiating, judging and choosing are all built into our brains at birth in order for us to learn about the world.

The issue comes when people are taught by society nonsensical facts about things or groups that lead them to make miss-informed judgements, whether noticeable or not. This leads to discrimination on things like race, color, ethnicity and occurs when our brain creates generalizations on how to react to situations or people. Our brain will discriminate on its own, causing subconscious "us" and "them" groups in every human's brain, but in order to keep yourself from storing these ideas in your head you must think about the origins of these thoughts and recognize them for what they are. The only way we can lower discrimination in America is to teach people about it and encourage them to think their way through it.

Answer to the question "Do you think that the frequency and harshness of judgement varies among different groups and what factors do you think contribute to that?": I think that this is a very interesting question because you are asking me to discriminate and judge different groups of people based on how much they discriminate and judge. I do think that some groups of people judge harsher than others, for example I feel that the white population in America would be inclined to judge other racial groups even slightly harsher because many economic, social, and legal traps for minority groups are set down but the fact that white people don't have to deal with them or see them directly affect their lives it gives them the ability to overlook it.

My question is: are there certain forms of government or religions in the world that promote discrimination and judgement more so than others?

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 20

Victims of Society

In an ideal world, we would obviously wish that there is no discrimination, judgement, and othering that happens, but that is simply not the case especially in our society today. We all have our own biases that we can not ignore, and it heavily influences the decisions that we make on a day-to-day basis, even if we do not want to admit it. However, the biases that we have are not our faults. We are the “victims” of society where we are taught to think a certain way. This was really shown through Sheena Iyenger’s TED talk where she mentions several experiments that made it clear that this idea of choice is really based on the environment we were raised in. I found one of her points to be particularly interesting, that Americans were taught to believe that we must “stay true to ourselves”, and therefore, we tend to leave no room to consider other people’s opinions because only our choice is the best possible choice. This is in stark contrast to Asian culture where they choose based on what others chose, so that it was more of a collective choice. I am an Asian American, and I grew up learning both the idea of staying true to oneself and trusting the choice of the respected adults in my life. However, for me, many of my choices lay in the hands of my parents because of this idea of filial piety in our culture. Often, my choices are impacted by how I think my parents would feel or think if I choose one choice over the other (for example, where I go to college). Yet, I am also impacted by American ideas of believing in myself, and doing what I want to do, even if other people are not happy with that choice. But if there was one thing that was similar in both cultures, it is the fact that once someone has made a choice, whether it be collective or individual, they stick to it and are not open to other opinions, thus creating biases.

While I do not think it is bad to have judgements about things when it comes to choices we have to make like picking out fruits or vegetables, it does become an issue when it comes to choosing to do things based on things we heard. I think that is where “othering” comes in. In the Guardian article, Powell talked about the role of leaders in othering, and how their words can really affect the opinions people have about others. He mentioned many instances of Trump targeting and labeling a particular group of people, like calling Mexicans rapists or drug dealers, which caused people throughout the country to truly believe these people are a danger to society and wanting them out. When Trump called COVID-19 the “Kung Flu” or “Chinese virus”, there were many instances of racist attacks on Asian Americans across the country. Ultimately, his words enabled people to think a certain way about Asians whether consciously or unconsciously. Although I did not experience racism directly during the beginning of the pandemic, I definitely experienced a shift in the environment when I was on the train. No one dared to sit next to me, the only Asian and person wearing a mask on the train, despite there being many seats near me. Though it may sound a little silly, I couldn’t help but feel like an outsider when people chose to stand far away from me instead of sitting near me. I saw one woman about to sit in the seats next to me, but immediately walked to another section of the train when she saw me, audibly saying to her friend that she was just scared. So like Powell said, it all comes down to fear, and those ideas were given by social media and our leaders.

So the question is, how can we eliminate this fear, judgement, and othering? Can we build a post-othering society? To this, I feel like realistically, we can not. The biases and beliefs that we hold today have been built and learned over centuries, and I do not think we can completely get rid of it. I do not think we can have a society where we have no judgements whatsoever, but I do hope that we can at least get rid of this idea of othering. In the podcast, Alicia Garza talks about how difference can unify us, and I feel like she makes a good point that a good starting point would be to acknowledge these differences. Saying that we are all equal is the issue, because the reality is: we are not. Certainly, we hope that one day everyone will be treated equally, but by saying we are all equal is the same as ignoring the issues that lay in our society today. One way we can build this post-othering society is by realizing this simple fact, and then looking into our own biases. Instead of only learning about the basic facts of the issues in our society, we should take a deeper dive and find personal accounts. I feel like by listening to other people’s personal narratives, we are able to not only build a better understanding of the issues but also build a stronger connection so that we know better than to think that we know someone based on stereotypes.

In response to @SleezMoth’s question about if there are certain forms of government or religions in the world that promote discrimination and judgement more than others, I do think there are certain forms of government or religions in the world that promote this more than others. From the TED talk, we heard about the people who grew up in a communist country and were now living in a capitalist society. They thought that the 7 brands of soda were all just 1 choice: soda. But for Americans, we would think that the 7 sodas were 7 different choices, based on the brands, even if they weren’t all that different. In this sense, I think that other governments that’s not communist would definitely have more judgements because a communist society eliminates this idea of choice among the people.

After presenting my story, I wanted to ask: Do you have any experiences where you found yourself biased towards someone based on stereotypes you were taught or any experiences where someone was biased towards you based on stereotypes they heard?

Posts: 21

Us versus Them, Race, and How Colonialism and Capitalism Totally Suck

Othering is inevitable. We as humans, and, in this case, Americans, are taught to identify differences from a very young age, which Sheena Iyengar explains in her TEDTalk. This isn’t necessarily always negative, I think, since we do have to make decisions based on some qualitative analysis, but in the case of othering it can be and often is harmful. While I do agree with SleezMoth on the idea that discrimination and judgement are inherent to reality and that there are many contexts in which they are necessary for us to learn about the world and how to interact with people and things around us, it becomes an issue when practiced on a large (think national) scale as othering. And while, yes, I did state at the beginning of this paragraph that othering is inevitable, I think that there are solutions to the largely harmful systemic and social othering that occur.

Othering is taught by our schools, by our interactions, by our households, and by the media. I truly believe that there is no way to build a post-othering society unless we collectively rejected the concept of race. Race has been studied time and time again and qualified in different ways, primarily based on a generalization of physical features and skin color, but lately has been realized as a social construct. The idea of race somehow meaning inherent physiological differences did not exist until we, or rather, European colonizers, gave it that meaning to validate their ability to brutalize and displace native populations. As race has become such an integral part of our identities today, however, I don’t think that it’s possible to abolish it. I do believe that we can lessen the degree of othering by teaching the history of the United States that has resulted in the othering that occurs here. Education accessibility, however, varies greatly from state-to-state and even city-to-city so even teaching people to lessen their degree of othering would take immense amounts of time and money to address education inequality before we can ensure that everyone receives quality explanations and analyses of othering.

Iyengar’s description of the American narrative as being “you can have anything and everything” is also worth considering, since the freedom of choice is often weaponized against low-income and immigrant populations. The bootstrap theory, that every individual can be successful if they try, is incredibly divisive and makes “unsuccessful” (read: not wealthy) populations (primarily low-income and/or black and brown communities) out to be inherently lazier or less motivated, and therefore inferior. Again, this perpetuates othering which in turn validates the mindset of “us” versus “them”. It’s a vicious never ending cycle and is so severe here in the United States that I don’t believe we’ll ever be entirely rid of it.

To answer SleezMoth’s question: there absolutely are certain institutions, whether government, religion, or otherwise, that promote discrimination and judgement more than others. I think, however, this only occurs as a result of specific individuals popularizing ideals within their institutions. One particular example is Christianity and its many subgroups. Christianity has been weaponized and used to discriminate against both people of color and LGBTQ folks but that is antithetical to its teachings of love and acceptance. Hence, maybe it isn’t the religion that promotes discrimination and judgement but rather select people who have decided to twist the religion to fit their agenda.

My question is: While race is a social construct that will take ages to dismantle, if we do even manage to deconstruct it, are there any other labels used to “other” that we might be able to remove from our consciousness any time soon? If so, which one(s)?

withered wojak
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 16

In-groups, Out-groups, and everyone in-between

So I'm just going to start this post out with my take, judgement is neutral. While I've seen previous posts that condemn it, and thinking back on my own childhood where my mom told me to never judge, I think that judgement can be good or bad. Humans have been doing this type of thing since the beginning of our existence, from choosing which berries to eat or choosing who we allow to be citizens in our civilizations, humans always judge. Really, judgement is our key to our survival and is the origin of the reason why we are where we are. Since humans can create hypotheticals based on the initial judgements they make, they are on top of the world. This can be used for good or bad things and I've experienced both ends of this double-edged spear throughout my life. One of the most horrible judgements made about me was when I was about seven years old and I was going to play monopoly with one of my former good friends, [redacted]. I really love math, so I wanted to be the banker, but then he said what was probably one of the worst things anyone has ever said to me: "No you can't be banker, you'll cheat! I know how you Jews lie". Of course, I was upset by what he said and he got a small slap on the wrist for it, but he did what many on this board have discussed before me, he made a judgement about the nature of which I play monopoly and drove a wedge between us with his "us vs them" rhetoric. Reflecting back upon John Powell's article, I think that Trump's rhetoric and the neo-republican's overall approach to immigration and those "others" within our borders is deplorable. Not only does the president and his party choose to ignore the numerous benefits of immigration in order to fear monger about the brown people trying to come in, but he does it in such a gross way that it turns people against people. That is indefensibly us vs them.

The point I really want to emphasize in this post is that judging people based on their immutable characteristics is almost always abhorrent. Everyone has a choice to make, and ultimately, if you choose to divide or elevate/bring down people based on categories such as gender, race, ethnicity, disabilities, nationality, or whatever else, you're a bad person.

In response to plaidplatypus: I do think that less choice would lead to less judgement, but that is bad and could lead to a hivemind imo. Judgement is fine, its just that judgements based on the aforementioned classes is not based.

My question: Should we seek to get rid of people's inclination towards creating ingroups and outgroups? If so, how would we go about doing so? If not, why not?

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 16

Judgement and discrimination

I think that othering is an inevitable experience that happens and its something that us as humans will never be able to get ride of. From a young age we begin to notice differences. In society were taught by influences around us on how we should judge and act upon things and all of our decisions are a by product of that as explained in the Ted Talk with the experiment of the children making decisions and being told what to do. Which most of the time isn’t a bad thing and people are objectified to have their own opinions it can be harmful as well. You essentially need judgement in order to make decisions in your day to day life.

This becomes toxic however when we use what we hear from somebody use to impact the way we make decisions. As in the article it explained how Trump would single out a particular group, with derogatory terms that is very damaging as he is supposed to be the leader of the United States causing specific groups of people to face discrimination as they believe what the president is saying. As well as some people think that the benefit of themselves if to belittle other people as explained by Powell, as this is happened all throughout history. People find ways to discriminate and belittle people whether it be through religion, class, race gender etc. He explained how judgements are truly just based on separating people. That identifying differences isn’t the problem but how people have manipulated it, which is what Alicia Graza’s point was making.

No, I do not think it is possible to built a post-othering society as it has been an issue since the beginning of time. As much as it is needed, judgement is tied with discrimination and there will never not be any judgement in the world. It is so deep rooted in our systems it can never be erased but it will continue to take different forms as history continues. The only thing us humans is be self aware of yourself and the actions that you do and how you can better inform yourself and the people around you.

To answer graphic mango: I am not completely sure if any time soon we would be able to remove “others” from our consciousness too. I think that if there were one it would be the gender inequality that is faced in America’s wage. As more men and women pursue careers that aren’t as typical to pick from and women get more involved in politics it should improve. The idea of everyone getting the same pay for the same work will begin to form, not any time soon though. I’m not sure if this makes a ton of sense but basically women will begin to get true equality if it keeps improving.

My question: Has there been instances where you have used stereotypes that you’ve heard influence the decision that you’ve made? Do you think you tend to think for yourself or base your knowledge off of what other people say/think around you?

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 15

The Unavoidable Reality of Judgement and Discrimination

Many people would agree that judging, choosing, and discriminating are impossible to avoid in life. You can’t have everything so you have to choose. While sometimes judging or choosing can be bad, it can also be good. If something is better than the other, then you obviously would choose the one that would benefit you the most in whatever your goal was. But judging can also create division between one another and create groups against each other. That division can cause some major problems. In Sheena Iyengar’s TED Talk about the art of choosing, I found it very interesting that people in different parts of the world saw different amounts of choices even though they were presented with the same items and the same amount of items. If you were to do the pepper exercise with someone from maybe across the globe, they could say that there is only 2 choices as they’re all peppers while maybe someone in our class would say that there are 6 choices because all the peppers look different. I think the ability to choose and judge creates the problem that we discriminate and judge things and people when it is unnecessary to do so. It really depends on the situation whether we need to choose or judge or not. The world would not work if we did not choose or we did not judge, but there are many cases where judging, choosing, and discrimination did not need to happen, especially in our country. And I believe it’s a problem in our country because Americans have too many options to choose from. I do not believe that there is a world that can exist without discrimination and judgement. Every human is just born with the ability to do so. But I believe we can control when to discriminate or judge. I believe everyone should educate themselves on this topic, especially Americans. My question is, how do you think we can control when to judge and choose in order to see less discrimination and judging in this country?

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