Subtle “Othering”: Terms of Discrimination

2014-09-04 11.36.25

(Bautista, Personal Photograph, Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia, September 4, 2014)


“Where are you from?”

“You’re Canadian?  You don’t look Canadian.”

“You’ve got big eyes.”

I just read an article about a new subtle racism proliferating society called microaggression.  The piece written by John McWhorter can be found by clicking the author’s name – it’s not a long article but just an interesting take on the new sublteties of “othering”.

From the article, the term “microaggression” was coined in the 1970s by a psychiatrist named Chester Pierce.  Basically, the intent of one’s discriminatory comments is not visceral or malicious but rather believed to be complimentary or inquisitive and yet, once analyzed/reflected upon, can be construed as prejudice – there is a sense of “othering” taking place.

As someone whose studied “othering” via theories, texts and most notably via experiences – I am well aware of the variances in intent – from curiousity to discriminatory, I’ve had my fair share of feeling and being told that I am different.  Sometimes people are insincere, at other times, obviously nosy – at all times, the behaviour is unwarranted – it’s increasingly becoming challenging to decipher someone’s intent because so many of us are passive aggressive and indirect when we communicate – take a look at most social network posts.

And having travelled the world, I’ve experienced much discrimination for multiple reasons – my height, my age, my status, my skin, my language proficiency, my gait, my diction, my ambition, my solitude, my confidence, my, my, my…

I used to be interested in seeking out why people behave this way and then it all changed once I read the words of Eckhart Tolle:

“As long as the ego runs your life, most of your thoughts, emotions, and actions arise from desire and fear. In relationships you then either want or fear something from the other person. What you want from them may be pleasure or material gain, recognition, praise or attention, or a strengthening of your sense of self through comparison and through establishing that you are, have, or know more than they. What you fear is that the opposite may be the case, and they may diminish your sense of self in some way.”

So, whether old terms persist or new terms exist, discrimination is as it will always be – elusive.

I’d rather spend my energies looking out at the sea trusting and knowing my sense of self.

Fear no one.