We Need to Address The “Othering Crisis”

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Every community has its own history.  My community, northeastern Pennsylvania (NEPA), isn’t much different.  NEPA has its destinations for skiing, hiking, and fishing.  We have top schools as well as business incubators to start your business.  You would think NEPA is the ideal place to live, raise a family, and retire.  Unfortunately, my community poorly treated BIPOC throughout the years.  I always felt we treated BIPOC as the “Other” person.  This impacted the lives of BIPOC residing in NEPA.  NEPA is a caring community, but we’ve had our challenges.

The Agnes Flood of 1972 devastated my community.  Growing up, my community suffered a severe economic downturn.  This downturn has also been apparent for certain groups, such as BIPOC today.  Still, one of the biggest scandals was the Kids for Cash scandal.  Judges were harshly sentencing kids and teens for minor offenses in exchange for kickbacks.  I feel certain events and regional experiences hardened some people toward one another.  This is especially true with our race relations with BIPOC in my community.

My career began in a nonprofit healthcare system.  My unit decided to create a care package for a needy family in the area.  It was for a mother and daughter.  I thought this was a kind gesture, especially going into the Holiday season.  After my shift, I went to Family Dollar and purchased a doll for the child.  The next day, I proudly presented the doll to my two coworkers.  They were livid at me because the doll was black.  They asked me how “stupid” I can be to purchase a doll of this complexion.  They told me to return the doll.  I didn’t return the doll to Family Dollar, but I took it to the Salvation Army for a deserving child.

Another situation occurred when I’m overhearing my boss state it’s wrong for white women to date black men and vice versa.  She called it the Graying of America. It’s not only a racist comment, but it’s also a hurtful and ignorant comment as well.  Besides, the “Graying of America” has nothing to do with “mixing” the races.  Lack of understanding and ignorance lead to hatred.  I’m begging not just my community, but I’m also pleading with our nation.  We need to stop this racist behavior toward BIPOC.  

BIPOC history:  I believe the first step in improving racial relationships is to understand BIPOC history.  Some people may state this has nothing to do with them.  These same people need to understand that several BIPOC died during the voyage to America in the name of the transatlantic slave trade.  It’s estimated that more than one million people died on their journey to the Americas, while survivors lived a harsh life in an unfamiliar land.  Segregation through the racist Jim Crow laws made life worse for BIPOC.  How can we forget about the tragic ending of Rodney King, Freddie Gray, Tyre Nichols, and so many other BIPOC victimized by those people which vowed to “Serve and Protect” us?  I was a sophomore at Elmer L. Meyers High School in Wilkes-Barre, PA when the judge acquitted those four police officers in the brutal death of Rodney King. This began the LA riots of 1992.  America, it’s been long overdue that we need to wake up!

Advocate for the BIPOC community:  We can be part of the solution as opposed to being part of the problem.  There are many ways you can become more involved in “Un-Othering” and support BIPOC living in America today.  For starters, you can possibly join your local NAACP Chapter.  These NAACP Chapters will provide you with not just an opportunity for advocacy.  You can also obtain the highest quality of resources to increase your understanding about systemic racism as well as racial equity for everyone.  When you surround yourself with good,

like-minded people, your heart will be filled with love.  If you don’t want to be part of a civil rights organization, that’s okay.  There are other ways to support the BIPOC community, such as volunteering your talents and skills to a human rights nonprofit.  Three-Fifths Magazine is always looking for assistance to spread awareness about dismantling systemic racism.

What’s Inclusion?  Inclusion is accepting other people no matter their differences, origin, or cultural heritage. This is how I look at diversity and inclusion.  Diversity is going to the dance.  Inclusion is not only going to the dance, but you’re also being asked to dance.  Inclusion, in my view, takes things a positive step further to dismantle systemic racism and improve relationships with one another.  Still, we can’t have diversity and inclusion only on special occasions or when it’s just convenient.  Importantly, inclusion must be engaging with BIPOC daily.  Everyone has a responsibility in “Un-Othering” BIPOC, this includes me as well.  

“Othering” can lead to systemic racism and long-term hatred. I’m sad how white people treated BIPOC throughout history.  We have a long journey to dismantle systemic racism in our country. I feel this is an opportunity to continue educating people, especially white people, about loving and accepting BIPOC. More white people need to support in BIPOC advocacy and accepting one another regardless of race or ethnicity. Some white people might say this isn’t their problem.  Systemic racism isn’t just a problem limited to BIPOC. It’s everyone’s problem. We need to address the “Othering Crisis” not only plaguing my community in NEPA, but throughout our nation.  This is going to take effort and a dramatic change in our mindset.  Let’s start today.

By Matthew Philistine

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