Many people have a hard time understanding the concept of “othering.” Perhaps it’s the way an adjective becomes a verb, or perhaps they’ve forgotten their Hegel. Either way, a nice refresher on the term is Forbes magazine’s latest cover story, “How He Thinks,” an utterly racist tirade penned by neocon Evangelical Christian Dinesh D’Souza.
First, the exact definition of “othering”:
Othering is a way of defining and securing one’s own positive identity through the stigmatization of an "other." Whatever the markers of social differentiation that shape the meaning of "us" and "them," whether they are racial, geographic, ethnic, economic or ideological, there is always the danger that they will become the basis for a self-affirmation that depends upon the denigration of the other group.
Now, a passage directly from D’Souza’s article:
It may seem incredible to suggest that the anticolonial ideology of Barack Obama Sr. is espoused by his son, the President of the United States. That is what I am saying. From a very young age and through his formative years, Obama learned to see America as a force for global domination and destruction. He came to view America's military as an instrument of neocolonial occupation. He adopted his father's position that capitalism and free markets are code words for economic plunder. Obama grew to perceive the rich as an oppressive class, a kind of neocolonial power within America. In his worldview, profits are a measure of how effectively you have ripped off the rest of society, and America's power in the world is a measure of how selfishly it consumes the globe's resources and how ruthlessly it bullies and dominates the rest of the planet.
For Obama, the solutions are simple. He must work to wring the neocolonialism out of America and the West. And here is where our anticolonial understanding of Obama really takes off, because it provides a vital key to explaining not only his major policy actions but also the little details that no other theory can adequately account for.
Despite this narrative’s palpable bigotry, its fearmongering, its alarmism, its absurdity—outside of infancy, Obama met his father only once. When did he learn to wholly espouse the old man’s “anticolonial ideology”? In the womb?—prospective presidential candidate Newt Gingrich picked it up and ran with it himself in an interview posted to National Review Online this weekend (emphasis mine):
“What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anticolonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]? That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior.”
“I think he worked very hard at being a person who is normal, reasonable, moderate, bipartisan, transparent, accommodating — none of which was true…”
Has anyone of Gingrich’s status ever said, simply, “Barack Obama is not normal”? I don’t think so, and it’s a scary indication of just how far conservatives are willing to go to divide the country for political gain.
Using ridiculous “birther” language like “Kenyan, anticolonial behavior,” Gingrich, D’Souza and their co-conspirators are out to further terrify Americans who already believe, against all proof to the contrary, that our president is an African Muslim who wants to destroy America’s very foundation. By othering Obama, by making him out to be an anti-American monster burdened with the perceived sins of his father, they are doing nothing but stoking the flames of hatred and divisiveness that already permeate your average Tea Party rally.
These liars—yes, they are liars—are smart enough to not outright say, “Barack Obama is a scary black man who hates our Western Civilization.” But there’s a thin line between slurs like that and calling the president an “abnormal, unreasonable” man who exhibits “Kenyan, anticolonial (read: anti-white) behavior.”
Scarier still is that these tactics, these outrageous smear campaigns, are working.
-Cord Jefferson is a staff writer at The Root. Follow him on Twitter.