Understanding the ‘Other’

Danya Wellmon shared a brief history of WTB’s founding after 9/11 and introduced the theme “Understanding the Other.” A one-to-one connection, sharing of who we are, breaks down barriers and fear between us.

Danya and Sue Savion invited the women to share personal stories and thoughts around three key questions.

#1) WHO DO YOU PERCEIVE TO BE “THE OTHER”? Some responses included:

  • “Everybody is the other and I am the other”; diversity is good, we are all special
  • People who are too quick to make judgments seem “the other” to me
  • Homosexual individuals are seen to be “the other” in some churches
  • Priests who have abused children in Catholicism and other faiths
  • In the 1950s, “the other” was men: whatever they did was seen as “permissible”
  • Intolerance for “what I perceive to be intolerance”

#2) WHEN HAVE YOU PERCEIVED YOURSELF TO BE “THE OTHER”? This led to some very interesting stories:

  • Going back to graduate school as a 40-year-old female student
  • Celebrating Jewish holidays not automatically acknowledged in this country’s workplaces
  • Switching between Catholic and public schools
  • Moving to a community that is close knit
  • Moving to a different geographical section of the county – especially moving to the South
  • Discovering segregation – separate black/white facilities – in 1952, in Washington DC
  • Being a White teacher in a Black school in Alabama, during integration
  • Wearing distinctive religious dress such as hijab, burka
  • Practicing an unfamiliar or misunderstood religion, such as being a witch (Pagan)

3) WHAT COULD YOU SEE YOURSELF DOING SO THAT “THE OTHER” IS NO LONGER “THE OTHER”?

  • Reach out even to strangers – ask people about themselves
  • Break down barriers so “the other” seems more like a friend – Bene Brown talks a lot about this in her books/TED talks
  • Mothers Against Gun Violence – Helen Hudson’s organization; working with them could be a way to form relationships with African American women
  • Photo Walks (Joy Pople’s suggestion) – last one was on the South side, but different areas of the city; a chance to connect with people around taking their pictures, new environment
  • Get the Lead Out Initiative – on the South side; diverse community members coming together to confront a real health problem
  • Homelessness: Sandwich Saturdays at the corner of Oak and Lodi Streets; many faith traditions participate
  • Art Rage has a current exhibit entitled “The Invisibles” with panel discussions scheduled
  • Go to the festivals of different faith and cultural traditions; Terra Harmatuk would be willing to introduce us to Wiccan rituals
  • Reaching out to people around grief/dying: parents who have lost children to violence or illness; making blankets, perhaps; the best way to reach out to people experiencing illness or loss is to treat them normally and just be present; a lot of interest was expressed in doing a WTB meeting on this topic
  • Witness to Injustice – history of Native Americans; interest was expressed in doing this for November meeting; participating with Native Americans in a Thanksgiving Circle on Thanksgiving Day at Onondaga Lake