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Inclusion Is for Everyone but THEM: The Process of Othering

by Aleasa Word, FAACT’s Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

May 2023

A lot of people can probably say they have felt the impact of being “othered” at least once. Whether you were “othered” at school by a kid who created some justification for excluding you, “othered” socially because of your race or gender, or even “othered” by an ineffective leader at work, it’s no fun being the “other” – nor is it right.

Just like many of you, I know all too well about the impact of being “othered.” Facing racism and the negative impact of colorism has not been easy to swallow. And quite honestly, who could swallow being mistreated in this way?! Simply said, “othering” is exclusion justified by narrow-minded thinking.

In the food allergy community, we fight to ensure our children and loved ones are not excluded from school, extracurricular activities, workplaces, and communities. We rally together to sign petitions, write letters, contact legislators, and reach out to national advocacy organizations to help protect us and those we love. We must not forget that the same level of inclusion should be afforded to those not like us. Whether someone is from a different country/culture or someone down the street looks or loves differently than you, we cannot afford to exclude anyone.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in their purest form should include the importance of intersectionality. Every person has different dimensions. If they navigate their race/culture, orientation, or social class differently than you or I, does this mean they are less deserving of respect? Or course not! The point here is that the dimensions of diversity run deep. We cannot exclude one dimension without the potential for the eventual exclusion of all. When we check our biases, are we checking to see why a particular group or person bothers us? Are we asking why we question one group over another? Are we examining how our mind goes to a negative thought vs seeing a person for their individual merits? Or are we so stuck in the habit of “othering” we can’t see the reality of our own biases?

As I ask myself about the legacy I want to leave for my children, I am reminded that my own ancestry from an ethnic stance is quite diverse. Because of this, it is both my role and my responsibility to leave people better than I found them and, at a minimum, to do no harm to anyone – whether they look like me or not. I have taken personal responsibility as a diversity professional to do the work to support those who are ready to see the benefit of taking on these same responsibilities. It is, however, in our homes and daily living where we can have the most impact on changing the way the world sees and treats people. So, I ask you today: What responsibility are you willing to take to stop “othering” in places where you have influence?