Dropped the kids off at school this morning and turned on the radio midway into an NPR story. The reporter was talking about his hometown of Richmond. "Hey, I went to school in Richmond," I thought, paying closer attention.
The reporter spoke of typical innercity troubles, drugs, crime, and the like. Then, the story got a bit more hopeful, a glimmer of optimism wandered out of my speakers. With the upturn I thought, "I'll email this story to some of my old Richmond friends. Make sure they hear about their old stompin' grounds."
But then the story took a nose dive. The reporter started talking about a high school gang rape that went unreported, abject poverty that goes unnoticed. He interviewed a rape crisis center director who used a word in a new way: "Otherize." Horribly poor, hopeless people "otherize" those around them, she said. They are so poor they don't think of others as being like them, so victims may become "otherized."
I paid closer attention, and more critical. "This can't be the Richmond, I knew," I thought. "This reporter doesn't have a Tidewater lilt. And the people he's talking to don't sounds like they're from the South. Surely he's not talking about my Richmond."
I began to run through a geographical rolodex: "There's a Richmond, Texas, I know. But that's a little town near Houston. That's not it. There's a Richmond, Indiana, right? Near Gary, maybe? Things are tough there. Maybe there's a Richmond in Jersey or California. Richmond, Washington? No that's Redmond, but maybe it's in Oregon. But he's not talking about Richmond, Virginia. Not my Richmond."
Releived I heard the reporter sign off, saying he was in Richmond, California.
Whew, I thought. Not my Richmond.
And I realized, I had successfully "otherized" those people. I had "otherized" their problems, their poverty, their "othering." I had pushed them out of any place I knew, so I would not have to be bothered by them. They are "other."
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