Othering is an expression used to describe the stereotyping of a group within society, who are often depicted in a way that isolates their social group. The use of othering enables the dominant group to secure and protect their power whilst rationalising their individual opinions. These groups described as ‘they’ and ‘others’ tend to be degraded to an extent that the dominant group begin to dehumanise them, constructing a discourse which then allows them to maintain their authority over the group and in turn reinforce their control in society. “This psychological tactic may have had great uses in our tribal past as group cohesion was a crucial part of life in early human civilisation” (Alexander, 2015) because we required clear separation between who were our allies and enemies. To survive and to thrive we needed to be a part of a close working tribe where each individual was respected and protected by outside threats, this concept has worked its way into modern cultures as we have a powerful evolutionary drive to align ourselves with a tribe or community of people who are like us.
Political partisanship is a frequent area for othering, especially in the American political system where citizens talk in ridicule and disrespect of both the Democrats and Republicans. Immigrants have been recently strongly hit by othering in America and it became a prominent point of debate in the 2016 presidential election. A key recent example of this in the American presidential election was shown in Donald Trump’s campaign for the Republican Party. Through the media Trump has created further discourse concerning immigrants within the US mainly over his plans to build a wall on the border with Mexico. Throughout his campaign Trump used “racialised scapegoating to appeal to white voters while othering other people” (Edwards, 2016), trumps use of scapegoating here shows how he was able to use the media to appeal to the white voters of America who “As of 2012, 89 percent of Republicans were non-Hispanic whites, compared to 60 percent of Democrats” (Ehrenfreund, 2015). This example shows how Trumps use of othering through the media was able to strengthen his support from voters so as to win the presidential election and in doing so gained power over the ‘others’. A further example of Trumps othering is during his inauguration speech where he makes a clear separation between American citizens and other nations, “we must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs” (Blake, 2017). Trumps use of “ravages” and the repeated use of “our” creates an immediate sense of division as Trump here demonises these countries denoting the idea that they are not civilised nations. This dehumanisation of these people links back to the European colonisation of 1690 whereby natives were positioned as the ‘other’ therefore being perceived to be simple, worthy of being killed or enslaved with no developed social organisation, therefore splitting the two and depicting the ‘other’ as dangerous. These ideas although not directly insinuated by Trump are all still present in this example and there’s no doubt that grouping people into certain stereotyped classes, who we then treat differently based on the classes we’ve sorted them into, is a deeply rooted aspect of human nature which can have detrimental impacts on these groups of ‘others’.
Alexander, S.A, (2015) Othering 101: what is othering? [online]. Available: https://therearenoothers.wordpress.com/2011/12/28/othering-101-what-is-othering/ [accessed on 27/02/2017].
Blake, A.B, (2017) Trump’s full inauguration speech, transcript, annotated [online]. Available: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/01/20/dnald-trumps-full-inauguration-speech-transcript-annotated/?utm term=.1879e47f6140 [accessed on 27/02/2017].
Ehrenfreund, M.E, (2015) What social science tells us about racism in the Republican party [online]. Available: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk.wp/2015/12/11/what-social-science-tell-us-about-racism-in-the-republican-party/?utm-term=.5b9894a0289b [accessed on 28/02/2017].
Edwards, D.E, (2016) Anti-racism expert explains Trump’s scapegoating appeal to whites- and it will give you chills [online]. Available: http://www.rawstory.com/2016/05/anti-racism-expert-explains-trumps-scapegoating-appeal-to-whites-and-it-will-give-you-chills/ [accessed on 28/02/2017].