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“Finding Hope- Belonging over Otherness” | Reflections by Ed France

I’m not about to be eloquent here. Maybe like you, I was still trying to process the Buffalo killings when the news broke about the elementary school shooting in Texas. My mind is a swirl of guns, mental illness, and racism. My heart is alternatively breaking and going numb. Fortunately, I find solace in the work of this community. Of you all, the healers. I just wish our cultural, policy, and community healing could be faster, and maybe go back in time.

I’d like to share an article on belonging, it’s not anything more than my musing on how I hold hope. It’s in part inspired by the work of Norbert Tan and the Asian and Pacific Islander Equity Alliance- read a story on him here. But If you are like me you might need to process. I could use your help. I’d like to host a dialogue next week- no agenda, just a conversation on this dark topic and how we might hold hope, and maintain determination to heal the rifts and trauma in our communities. Consider joining me, June 9th at 4pm for a conversation holding up hope and healing.

The tragedies in Buffalo and Uvalde can be too much to bear, causing a collective ‘shell shock’. Nevertheless, we step up into our roles as healers. On the heels of Mental Health Awareness AND Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage month, let us contend with the pernicious force of ‘otherness’. This phenomenon, especially when combined with physical violence, continues to render devastating results. But together, we contend with these impacts and show that another world is possible. Let us hold up the power of belonging.

One of the key elements of meaning (from personal to existential) is the concept of belonging. It’s about connection, mutual support, trust, psychological safety, loyalty, kinship, intimacy. The opposite could be said to be ‘otherness’ which manifests as loneliness, dejection, fear and exclusion. Having a sense of belonging is important to our personal well being, and the wellbeing of our society too. While otherness erodes belonging, we can weave community, culture, and policy to foster healing, belonging, personal and societal well-being.

Let’s talk about how belonging has been weaponized. For too long, and in so many ways that are hard to realize, U.S. culture has used ‘otherness’ to pair with policies of exclusion. In a recent interview poet Claudia Rankine lifted up the profound concept of ‘ethical isolation’, where a dominant society isolates or abandons individuals or groups and compounds the impact through refusing to acknowledge those actions.

As we celebrate the close of Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage month, this concept comes into a deep relevance. The history of our state is rich with Chinese, Japanese, Filipino peoples and culture, though not widely known. Just as policies of the Chinese exclusion act, Japanese internment, and anti-fillipino ‘repatriation’ were pursued, their histories and those of discrimination against them were largely silenced. The door to individual violent acts, especially against Filipinos, was opened through these policies and racist justifications. Between ongoing discrimination, and a largely erased history, we have a deep reckoning to pursue to heal the traumatic impact of ‘otherness’ inflicted on so many Asian and Pacific Islanders.

I’m so heartened by the work of the Asian and Pacific Islander Equity Alliance and proud that two of their executive leadership not only participated in, but met through our Courage to Lead Program. Read more about Norbert Tan and their shared work here. They are contending with racialized violence, heightened through the pandemic, in a caring and systematic way that demonstrates belonging over otherness.

We in the social sector know through our work and collaborations that structural and personal otherness and violence are intertwined. We are called to work together to uproot the underlying causes and contributors to otherness, to mental illness, and violence. Together we hold up hope of dignity, meaning, and belonging.

Ed France

LFW Executive Director

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