The “other” – discussing an outsider thru a Multicultural Lens

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In order to discuss “the other”, I am thinking of times when folks felt different, not included, or outside from a core group. Unfortunately, it seems that it is part of the natural human psyche for people to pick out differences from other people. We all are more same or unique than we are different. However, this class has made me see more instances when I have been with someone as an “other”, or if I have been an “other” myself.

As a military veteran, when I put the uniform on I am used to blending in (usually around other people in uniform). It is part of the core tenets that we are all uniform together. However, on Memorial Day, I was the only veteran in three classes at Southwestern College. When I’m used to blending in; suddenly I am standing out. Suddenly, I became “the other.” It felt awkward for me after a while even though I kept the uniform on until the end of the duty day. After all, I myself felt like an “other” in uniform as it no longer ‘fits’ me in this point in my life.

In my afternoon class of Research Methods, there was a black female student that asked about quantitative methods. In majority of studies it is much more efficient to take a sample of the population. However, is there a way to test if the sample is actually represented of the demographics of the population? It is my understanding that there isn’t a way and especially at Southwestern College, minority students make up 5% of the total population. In that room of two combined classes, she was the only black student. While I can take my uniform off and be me again, she can not take her skin off.

For me as an introvert, we have such an outspoken society. I tend to feel like an “other” when I’m around other talkative extroverts. I have spent several months working on not only active listening; but more importantly I have been honing in on observant intuitive listening. Many times I feel like I may be not included in a conversation but I remind myself that my two cents may not be necessary. At what point is it okay to reframe “the other” to being ‘unique’?

In my book report, I presented on the lives of monoracial moms with the rewards and challenges of raising biracial kids. For example, one young girl named Jenny was called “popcorn head” and she chased that boy all the way home. While her peer assumed her to be black, nonetheless she was still treated as different; treated as both picked out and picked on. Also, in the book Is that your child? one author Florence tells her son that he has a certain privilege since he has access to both races. I found this to be a significant conversation and important for the kids (but it depends on that specific child too).

While I was home with family, I saw my maternal grandfather for the first time in over 5-6 years. He did not make it to my wedding since he does not approve of my interracial marriage. When I saw him at the funeral home, I immediately cringed and overall tensed up. I mentioned to one of my aunts and she said “Well that’s something that he’ll have to answer for.” While that may be true for his soul, in the meantime, he made me feel like “the other.” Maybe since I’m in an interracial marriage then I’m not good enough for his presence? Sad. My mom mentioned something that Grandpa said, asking if my husband wears his pants down to his knees. This is a micro-aggression and I’m protecting my boundary from it.

Speaking of microagressions, I learned a great deal from the article that we read. The authors talked about how they were on a plane and they were suddenly asked to move to the back. It was unfortunate that the flight attendant couldn’t recognize what she did and that her own unconscious bias was at work. During that week, I had announced to my parents that I was pregnant. They smiled and seemed excited. A few days later, my mom mentioned that my Dad made a crass sarcastic comment that my husband will probably want “some black name” for the baby. I could’ve gone without hearing that comment. I mentioned to my mom that it was a microaggression and she said, “oh stop he was just teasing.” Well that just reinforced it that it was a microaggression.

In a story that rocked New Mexico and it made national headlines; two Native American teens were on a college campus tour in Colorado when they were singled out (“othered”). A mom called for campus police since they “looked like they don’t belong here.” This is definitely a microaggression as well but I feel she didn’t recognize her privilege either. I’m going to go out on a limb and say she was a white woman. Most minority folks would not call out their own like that. I also am not a fan of how the campus police asked if they were looking at UNM. In that wording and in that tone of voice, he was implying for them to stay where they are and not go to the Colorado school.

I posted a video clip of a graduation at the University of Florida. While students walked across the stage, the graduation marshal took it upon himself to physically grab students to get them to move faster. However, I have listened to candid conversations from black students who felt like they were singled out and “manhandled” off of the stage. To me, an educator should never touch a student for any reason. Further, the marshal who is a white man, probably acted innocently and acted like he was doing his duty. There is no excuse for that behavior!

Finally, I need to discuss a few of the readings and their impact on me. In the article called “Must be an American Citizen” by Astorga, I learned of one woman’s story in the immigration process. I found this to be a very candid account of how it wasn’t her fault that she is in her situation but it is based on circumstances. The immigration process to become a citizen is unnecessarily cumbersome as I discovered when we had guest speakers Allegra and her teammate – their presentation left me gobsmacked.

Next, the concept that was new to me and made the most impact was historical trauma. In my naïveté, I admit that I thought historical trauma only applied to native Americans since the U.S. government wiped out several generations of indigenous people. Unfortunately historical trauma applies to many different races who have had a trauma; who have had a major trauma and now continue to have cycles of stress and anguish. In one YouTube video titled “Historical Trauma: Context & Effects”, a therapist explains a black woman who lost her baby to the foster system and she wrote a letter to the court requesting them to back off. The client had not seen the letter and it caused issues with her own family. The therapist admits that she might have had more courtesy to white clients and admits her own implicit bias. I like to think if I was in that situation that I would check with the client to make sure we’re on the same page.

Also, I found a few quotes on Twitter (posted on Populi) regarding historical trauma. One person said, “We need to find out how we can help our clients deal with historical trauma, how did it influence them, but most importantly how does it go from generation to generation.” Another person said, “Some kids are raised to be happy, and other kids are raised to survive.” These quotes left me with more wondering and eagerness to know how to help clients who may be affected by generations and cycles of trauma and stress. I believe there is a great lacking on what therapists can learn and do.

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