This recent opinion written by Timothy Shriver, a disability rights activist and former educator, which is titled “To Heal Our Divisions, Listen to People with Intellectual Disabilities,” sheds light into the historical repercussions of the use of dehumanizing labels and misguided generalizations. Shriver identifies the inhumane acts and atrocities committed to people with intellectual disabilities, he says “…Identify people as too different to belong to the communities the rest of us share, and the next step can be an almost blind determination to demonize and harm them.”
The author also offers four lessons from the Special Olympics, which one may find a correlation with the work we do in our classrooms and generally at the college. These may be also be a source of inspiration for your new year’s resolution:
- “Choose to believe that everyone has something valuable and beautiful to offer.” Shriver explains that refusing to accept the belief that “others” don’t have something valuable to offer led to healing the prejudices against people with intellectual disabilities.
- “Meet the person you have excluded. Look for common ground.” Although one may not intentionally exclude people, especially based on their identity, values or abilities, consider the identity of the people you often socialize with, or the students who don’t generally receive your attention, and choose to meet those who are often not part of your circle.
- “Rather than emphasizing a contrast between strengths and weaknesses, our medal stands are places where we showcase the wide variety of human gifts.” In the work you do, how can effort and growth be emphasized as well as achievement?
- “Fourth and last, with hearts opened and relationships begun, start the work of trying to live with the inevitable pain and tension of life from a place of truth and love. There is no “them” and “us.” There is just “us.” Everyone belongs. We are each vulnerable, starving for connection and searching for a way to be of service to each other. We solve problems best when we solve them together.”
Finally, this video from the Othering and Belonging Institute describes the concept of bridging, which is the opposite of othering and leads to creating a sense of belonging.
If you would like to know more about othering and how it has been used as a strategy for political gain throughout history, this article may interest you.
A Diversity Minute is posted on Chemeketa Connects on an ongoing basis and promotes short videos and other resources related to diversity, equity and inclusion. Do you want to recommend a video? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org.