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Austin Mineer
Professor Stephanie Maenhhardt
English 1050
July 6, 2016
Part One: Othering
People from a majority point of view in society can have a tendency to mentally classify
certain minority groups as different, or even lesser than themselves. This is called othering. I
believe that othering was a major issue in the past, and is still an ongoing issue today, whether it
be oppression against culture, race, or any other difference between the established majority and
minority. Its not okay to treat someone differently or negatively based off of something as silly
as a physical trait. It causes an imbalance in equality, and discourages diversity. Othering can
even reach the point where the majority doesnt even realize that theyre doing these practices to
the minority. In the history of mankind, othering has constantly shown up and stirred
unnecessary conflict that could otherwise be avoided.
Many of us are probably wondering that if othering breeds this kind of toxicity among
society, then why do we continue to exercise the process? Yiannis Gabriel, author of The Other
and Othering, provides another definition that may help us understand why. He states,
Othering is the process of casting a group, an individual, or an object into the role of the other
and establishing ones own identity through opposition to and, frequently, vilification of this
Other, (Gabriel). What hes saying here is that people practice othering to establish themselves
by means of oppression against the minority. He later provides an example of this, saying that

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The Greeks use of the word barbarian to describe non-Greeks is a typical example of
othering, (Gabriel).
Othering has been practiced such that the minority is those that are involved in different
cultures. An example this is immigration to America in the 19th and 20th centuries. In More
Than Just a Shrine: Paying Homage to the Ghosts of Ellis Island, Mary Gordon writes about her
thoughts and experiences when she visits Ellis Island and reflects what took place there in the
past. Her ancestors were processed at Ellis Island when they immigrated to America, and
Gordon writes about how they werent treated equally. She writes, The minute I set foot upon
the island I could feel all that it stood for: insecurity, obedience, anxiety, dehumanization, the
terrified and careful deference of the displaced (432). The U.S. was performing the act of
othering. They were the majority, the immigrants were the minority. They werent treating the
immigrants equally and rightfully, as they would treat their own, and only because of the
immigrants difference in culture. This othering resulted in the negative things that Gordon felt
as she stepped foot onto the island. In Gloria Anzalduas How to Tame a Wild Tongue, she also
talks about othering in terms of culture, and more specifically, language. She reflects on past
memories of times where she was the other, and was the one being oppressed because of her
languages. One memory is when she says, I remember being caught speaking Spanish at recess
that was good for three licks on the knuckles with a sharp ruler, (521) or when her teacher
says, If you want to be American, speak American. If you dont like it, go back to Mexico
where you belong, (521). This is a clear representation of othering due to cultural differences.
In addition, othering has also been an issue in terms of race. One of the most obvious
examples is the issue of slavery in Americas past. Frederick Douglass was an African American
leader in the 1800s. He experienced slavery first-hand, and later became a powerful abolitionist.

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In What to the Slave is the Fourth of July, Douglass highlights the brutal racial othering that
white people were performing. He also tries to show the point of view of the slaves, since they
were the minority, and their opinions were often not represented. He writes, What, to the
American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days
in the year, the gross injustice and cruelly to which he is the constant victim (467). Douglass
here shows how severely mistreated the slaves were in comparison to the slave owners of
America. This is racial othering. The slaves had a different skin color than the Americans, and
they were treated horribly, solely because of it. Later in the excerpt, Douglass states, In glaring
violation of justice, in shameless disregard of the forms of administering law, in cunning
arrangement to entrap the defenseless, and in diabolical intent, this Fugitive Slave Law stands
alone in the annals of tyrannical legislation (470). Othering is, as Douglass puts it, a glaring
violation of justice. Jared Strong, in our third weekly discussion, states, The Fourth of July
means nothing to the enslaved African Americans because the white men celebrate freedom
while the black men are still oppressed. Jared supports the idea that the othering that was being
performed by the white men on the African Americans, by means of oppressing them, and this
enforces the claims that were made by Douglass.
Although othering was much more of an issue in the past than it is today, its still an issue
in modern society. In Barack Obamas A More Perfect Union, he addresses an example of
othering during his 2008 presidential campaign. He says, At various stages in the campaign,
some commentators have deemed me either too black or not black enough. We saw racial
tensions bubble to the surface during the week before the South Carolina primary. The press has
scoured every exit poll for the latest evidence of racial polarization, (477). Here he shows that
race still plays a role in the way some people perceive others, even today. Viewing someone

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differently simply due to race is othering, and Obama experienced this heavily during his first
campaign. He later goes on to say, Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race,
and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways, (479). Othering is
definitely still prevalent today, as shown by Obamas words.
In conclusion, when othering occurs, it results in one group attaining a sense of
superiority, whereas the other group is dismissed as less human, and less important. This is not
okay, and changes should be implemented in society today to ensure the eradication of the
practice of othering. We should be able to look at our past and see our mistakes of othering and
notice the negative impacts that it caused.

Part Two: Rhetorical Analysis


The piece I have chosen to analyze is Barack Obamas A More Perfect Union, a speech
delivered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in his 2008 campaign for president. Quite frankly, I
found it inspiring. In this speech, Obama responds to some conflict caused by some statements
from his pastor at the Trinity United Church of Christ. He responds to this rhetorical situation by
not only addressing the statements made by his pastor, but also discusses the problems of race
and racism. His rhetorical stance is that he doesnt necessarily dismiss the things his pastor says
(he does disagree, however), but addresses his opinions in a more constructive way to the people
of America, with a sense that change will need to be implemented over the course of the next
generations. Through language, word choice, sentence structure, and rhetorical appeals, he
persuades the audience to support his views.

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Obama takes advantage of powerful language and word choice in his speech. He does
this to establish intelligence and professional skills. An example is when he says, On one end
of the spectrum, weve heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in
affirmative action; that its based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial
reconciliation on the cheap, (477). By using phrases like exercise in affirmative action, and
purchase racial reconciliation, he establishes a sense of power, and intellect. This also goes
hand-in-hand with his use of ethos. He proves himself credible by proving that he knows what
hes talking about, through the use of his language. He also utilizes his sentences to be in a
structure that addresses all sides of the story. An example is when he says, In fact, a similar
anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working and middle-class white
Americans dont feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience
is the immigrant experience-as far as theyre concerned, no ones handed them anything, theyve
built it from scratch, (480). However, I believe that Obamas most powerful tool was his use of
pathos. His speech is organized in a way such that it is inspiring and touching. He talks about
his trust in America and its capability to change. He says (in reference to Reverent Wright), Its
that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been madeBut what we know
what we have seen is that America can change. That is the true genius of this nation. What we
have already achieved gives us hope the audacity to hope for what we can and must achieve
tomorrow, (481). To me, that is extremely powerful. Obama also uses examples to strengthen
his speech. Towards the end, he talks about a woman named Ashley Baia, and her fight against
injustice, (482). He also talks about how Baia inspired an elderly black man, and examines that
moment in time, and how its the start of strengthening and improving America (483). Overall,
the story was really touching, and was a fantastic use of pathos.

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The point of this speech given by Barack Obama was to address the controversy that his
old pastor started, and to take it a step farther by examining the issues of race and racism in
America. He also suggested changes that needed to be implemented to do so. By using the
elements of language, word choice, sentence structure, examples, and rhetorical appeals, he was
able to succeed in getting his point across.

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Works Cited

Anzalda, Gloria. How to Tame a Wild Tongue. 521-527.


Douglass, Frederick. What to the Slave is the Fourth of July? 460-475.
Gabriel, Yiannis. The Other and Othering A Short Introduction. yiannisgabriel, 2012. Web. 9
September, 2012.
Gordon, Mary. More than just a Shrine: Paying Homage to the Ghosts of Ellis Island. 431-434.
Obama, Barack. A More Perfect Union. 476-483.