Otherizing and Futilizing

Are you stuck “otherizing” and “futilizing?” Don’t know those words? They are words I’ve invented to mean the act of holding others distant and different resulting in a lack of empathy or concern (otherizing) and continuing to take no action believing one’s individual action cannot make a difference (futilizing).

I was attending an MLK day event on Monday. While listening to the speaker I was conducting some impressive futilizing in my head. What have I done to make a difference? What can I do? After all there will never be a TEG day fifty years from now like there’s an MLK day. King was 39 when assassinated, and look what his short life stood for and accomplished. I’m pushing 52 (pretty hard), and what can I possibly do that will matter? Oh, woe is me, right? Plus TEG day just sounds stupid.

When I stopped gazing at my own navel and looked around this room full of individuals, I saw some influential (or at least vocal in the local community) individuals, but mostly other anonymous (to me and and me to them) regular community members. If we all otherwize and futilize, then we are certainly doomed to render all but those holding the wealth and power in a perpetual state of marginalization. Most of us will have little if any impact on “the world” but we can certainly impact those immediately around us. I think a realistic starting point is to work on our individual and collective empathy. If we can all individually work to build empathy and teach that empathy to others by doing such things as:
– noticing and rejecting stereotypes
– respecting and valuing differences
– widening our circle of concern
– listening closely to others (and “others”)
– managing difficult feelings like sickness, anger, and frustration
– navigating social situations ethically and fairly
(adapted from Making Caring Common Project: https://mcc.gse.harvard.edu/resources-for-educators/how-build-empathy-strengthen-school-community)

These all sound nice, but remain abstract ideals until used as a metric to measure one’s daily actions. So maybe pick on and learn more to then prompt action so that you can have an impact on at least one other, and then another, and another…

Maybe learn more about implicit bias. These are links to information and an implicit bias self-assessment from a Harvard project.

Seek other news sources, making yourself aware of potential bias in various news sources. Here’s a couple of media bias charts to get you thinking. Of course, they come from media sources and in and of themselves may include bias.

Learn, practice, and model active listening and how to engage the “other side” productively and with civility.
https://libguides.lmu.edu/fakenews/LeftCenterRight (includes links to some interesting TED talks about how to have civil conversations)

Act purposefully. Take the time to pause and ask yourself, “What then?” If I do this, purchase that, throw away this, say that, what then will happen?

Today, I’m going to dig into the Reunir Project. This is a project initiated by the First Presbyterian Church in Marshfield Wisconsin. They state that “[t]he REUNIR project was developed by the Immigration Action Team, part of the Outreach program at First Presbyterian Church in Marshfield, WI. Our concern is for those children and parents separated at the U.S.-Mexico border. REUNIR means to ‘bring together,’ which is both a Christian and humanitarian aim.” They have created this bracelet to increase awareness and provide a vetted list of agencies assisting children separated from parents and detained at the border. No matter one’s feelings about immigration, if we all had empathy and looked at these children as if they were one our own children, we wouldn’t allow this to occur.

Enough otherizing and futilizing.

One thought on “Otherizing and Futilizing

  1. Dorothea Hrossowyc says:

    Wow!! Tim I am so excited to receive your post from Amy Hasslet Maroquin. Thank you SO much for honoring this project that the youth groups from First UCC agreed to take on after I was given a bracelet by a friend, and decided to bring it to my church to do also. If you want to do it where you are it’s easy!!

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