Waking up

Otherizing.

Yeah, it was a new word for me too.  At least it was until last semester when I took a Mass Media and Society class at Towson University.  As I was sitting among a sea of students half my age, I was being introduced to concepts that were completely new to me.

Well sort of new.

I certainly understood words like stereotyping and judging.  It’s not like I was living under a rock.  But I was unfamiliar with the term “the other” and “otherizing.”  On the fan-favorite show LOST, weren’t “the Others” those threatening natives on the island that followed mysterious Jacob?  Weren’t they bad?  Or were they really good?

We’ll get to that.

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Boneyard Beach: A desolate place, full of contrasts.  (Photo taken by Tracy E. Smith/TU Student)

How does the media portray African Americans?  What about people in different social classes?  How is body image depicted?  What about homosexuality?  Each week we explored questions like these by looking at various forms of media and discussing what we observed.  Something was happening to me in this class.  It was as if someone was waking me up.

And I didn’t like it.

I’m not a morning person and I don’t particularly enjoy the whole waking up process in general.  And I really don’t like it when someone else wakes me up.

That’s how I felt in this class.  At least initially.

This experience of waking up to my own inclination to otherize individuals is part of the reason why I am beginning this new series.  If you’re asleep like I was (and am still prone to be), don’t worry.  I have no intention of sneaking up on you and shaking you out of your deep slumber.  That’s not my job.  But I do hope to nudge you a bit; to get you thinking.

The best way I know how to do that is through storytelling.  Over the next month, you’ll hear from several individuals who have felt otherized.  I hope you’ll come along for the ride and listen and learn.

One thing I know for sure is this:

Posturing yourself to learn about others and to love others cannot be accomplished without listening to others.

And just so you know, I will be listening too.

Only listening.

That means you won’t be hearing my personal beliefs or opinions about anything.  As a journalism student, my job is to tell the story of another as truthfully and accurately as possible.

But before the stories unfold, we first need to understand who “the other” is and what it means to otherize.

To be continued…

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