In order to step away from the in-group and out-group bias, there has to be an understanding that difference does not always create enemies. The truth is there is no “Us versus Them” and there is no reason to “Other” someone. There is a word for this. Ever hear of it? It’s called “Othering.”
There are interesting phenomena that can be seen all around us. Take a sports team. Take the hometown favorite. Take the best player on the team and see them get hurt. See them fouled or mistreated in any way possible. The fans would feel empathy for the player. If the injury was severe enough to end the player’s career, the fans would mourn the player. The fans would hurt as if the player’s loss belonged to the fan’s themselves, which in reality, this isn’t so.
On the other side, take the away team or pick a hated team. Pick one of the most hated players from this team and have him face the same injury or injustice and suddenly, the fans on the opposing team would feel somewhat joyous and perhaps celebrate the opposing team’s pain and loss.
Ideas like I am me, they are them, we are us and they are them are constant in our society. The ideas of inclusion and diversity are talked about in corporate atmospheres to create a more diverse setting. As a sign of good faith towards a good working structure of cultural competency, groups and movements push for “Stigma-Free” models. However, do we ever consider where this comes from?
Where does our sense of favoritism come from? Is this trained? Does this come from the need to fit or belong? Or does this stem from the fear of being outed or rejected?
There are workers in uniform that connect with others that wear the same uniform. There are law enforcement and emergency workers that view others as “Civilians”.
There is an interesting lesson I learned while holding a Sunday morning empowerment class in a county jail. I heard some of my class talk about their opinions about the system. I heard them talk about the guards. I heard them talk about the law and it was “Us against them”.
On the opposite end, I recall speaking with different members of law enforcement. I remember listening to them talk about some of the people they arrested. I heard them talk about the way they lived and the crimes they’ve committed.
Same as there was a line for the criminal, as a means of protection, there was a line on the legal side. It was “Us against Them”.
I have seen actors and singers who’ve unfortunately passed due to a sickness that has plagued the rest of the world for centuries. I have watched people with popularity die from an overdose or suicide and listened to the mobs that see them with nothing else but heartfelt adoration, and yet, when the news came out about their untimely death, the outpour of emotion and the loving sentiment was overwhelming. No one walked around calling them a junkie. No one called them a bum or a loser or said, “What did you expect?” The loss was sad.
Meanwhile, take the average or the unknown. Take the basic, everyday person or take someone that went on pain management and could never get away from the pain pills. Take them and their pressures to live and to succeed and achieve and add the pressures of maintaining their sickness and medication.
No different from the pressures of anyone else, regardless to fame or fortune, and let this person pass away. Make them homeless and have them die in the street. Where is the outpour of emotion now? Where are the candlelight vigils? Where are the ceremonies and televised memorials?
Where are the people’s heartfelt adoration? And more aptly, what are the common statements?
Are the comments the same as they were when someone famous died? Or is the person “Othered,” and someone comes along and say, “What did you expect? This is what happens when you’re a junkie!”
Or wait, let’s take this idea in a different direction. In the cases of rape, there is no forgiveness for such an act. There are laws in place; however, take a famous script writer and director who raped a 13 year-old, and yet, there are people that somehow deem what he did as forgivable. Meanwhile, take someone else who made the same mistake. Remove the means to leave the country and live comfortably someplace else. Put decades on the crime and still, people would scream for the rapist’s head. But why?
Somehow, the opinion is swayed when the rapist is famous because although the crime was committed, the person is seen as “Good”. So does this mean being famous or wealthy can forgive crime?
Meanwhile, terms like I, you, them, they, are all words socially constructed to differentiate us between each other. To stop this would mean there needs to be an end to social snobbery. We would need to end educational snobbery and economical snobbery as well. We would have to strip our upbringing and learn to change our programming
Since youth, we are taught about the different groups and versions of popularity. And since youth, we are taught about bias. We are programmed and taught about our differences in the playground. We are taught what is appropriate for us to do, say and act. We are taught about differences. We’re taught who is good looking and who isn’t.
We learn more about the levels of social government in the cafeteria than we do in classrooms. We somehow elect the “Cool” kids by the level of social desire for them to delegate their authority by picking trends and defining what is cool and who isn’t.
There are people that might disagree with this. There are people that say they don’t believe this is true.
As someone on the cusp between white collar management and blue collar work, I can say that I have seen proof of this. I can say that I have seen bias in the workplace. I have seen instances of “Othering”.
I’ve listened to people call for inclusion and preach to put an end to stigma. Could this be? Could this happen? The root of the problem is the in-group and out-group bias. Stop this and we might just have a chance.
At least, I hope so.