Monday, October 25, 2010


Now readers, you might be thinking that otherize isn’t a “real” word according to Merriam Webster’s or the Oxford English Dictionary, but otherize is a very valid word when dealing with conflicts.

In history class we got a recap of the genocide in Rwanda to prepare for a guest speaker (Carl Wilkens, the only American witness of the genocide, for those curious people out there). The discussion mainly focused on the conflict between Hutu and Tutsi, two ethnic/racial groups in Rwanda. We got to talking about Belgians preferencing the Tutsi during the Rwandan colonial period. The Belgians provided education and jobs for the Tutsi while largely ignoring the needs of the Hutu, who actually made up the majority of the population. By placing the Tutsi in power, the Belgians divided a naturally integrated ethnic community. Long story short, Rwanda gained its independence in 1962 and the Hutu’s, making up the majority of the population, win the elections. The Hutus then worked to eliminate the Tutsi from Rwanda.

The word otherize first came up in the lecture when the Tutsi were given power from the Belgians. The Hutu were resentful of the Tutsi who had once been their equal. The Hutu claimed the Tutsi were not Rwandan but more Nilotic (from the Nile River Basin) and therefore didn’t deserve to rule. Otherize was a word that my teacher used to describe the attempt at alienating the Tutsi. The Hutu created an “us and them” situation.

Being a little hesitant since otherize isn’t in the dictionary, I was wondering what other words could be used to replace otherize but keep the same meaning. I was immediately drawn to words like segregation, classification, and distinguish. While these words share the same negative connotation as otherize, they don’t encompass a meaning of taking something familiar and making it foreign or turning something into an enemy. These three words embody division, but not the process of alienation. For me, the best synonym from “otherize” is dissociate. The only issue with dissociate is that it doesn’t imply one group is estranging another group.

Some questions to think about: Is otherization present in all genocides? Can otherize ever have a positive connotation? How does the media use the word otherize (see this article about otherizing Obama based on religion and race during the 2008 election)?


  1. I'm 43 years old and had never heard this word before today!

    As far as pitting one group against another, I don't think a word has ever been so right on when it comes to the truth in what is happening. Usually an otherization is so subtle that no-one really sees it happening till it's done. In American history, it's blatant in the government, in hindsight.
    A group of rich Americans decide that someone needs to run the country. Not just anyone, mind you, but a well educated gentleman, white of course. Otherization.

    Only non-black men can vote.

    It seems, throughout history, it has been the way of things. People have always done things that are harmful to others but none have been as blatant as Rowanda. We have to make sure that never happens again!

  2. It sounds like otherizing is not much different than hate mongering. Spreading rumors about people you don't really know. How shallow and pathetic is that, really? Judging people maybe not from your perception of how they look or appear. That's based on your own ability ( or inability) to process what you see with your, usually limited knowledge you may have amassed? in your internal library.
    Those that make it a point to bad mouth or spread baseless rumors or blow things falsely out of proportion, have a problem within themselves. They need to get a life, so to speak and learn how to be happy with themselves. They need to learn to engage themselves, learn arts and crafts, music etc. to keep them active, both mentally and physically.
    Otherizers are cowardly,generally lacking social skills and obviously ignorant hateful fear mongerers. Oh, they're also envious or burning with jealously and it'll slowly make them more and more sick to the point of no return.
    I see it in some areas like sports for example. They fall into a select group of borderline beginner mentality who cannot for the life of them understand how that other group can be so superior in performance.
    Normally there is not just a serious lack of understanding but a painful inability to get it right. One can't but help feel sorry w/o of course being condescending. So you try to help those in the frustrated and confused group individually and then as a whole. Sometimes it takes and sometimes it.....!

  3. I've actually heard the word but only in passing. Turns out it basically is no different than mongering or better known as fear mongering.
    I guess it's kind of akin to fear of the unknown especially if you're talking about a person and not a place or thing.
    In my opinion, at its core lies, insecurity, cowardice, jealousy (like burning up with), envy and results in hatred. There is a compelling need to spread rumors in order to get consensus, justification and in the end turn it into a kind of half truth. Something that becomes an acceptable truth among the gullible hate mongerers. Those people should never be on a jury in a court of law.
    It cries out for support to somewhat legitimize it's sick premise, which is simply to otherize somebody so they think they can beat them, up even though they can't beat them in a sport e.g. It is at its core, truly and hopelessly pathetic.
    A clearer understanding of the facts about a person is completely missing when you don't process things with the mind but only by what you see with your eyes.