From the Director – September 2019

By Janet Byrd

At Neighborhood Partnerships, we hold a vision of an Oregon in which we can all prosper and achieve our dreams. We know that we, working together, have the tools to create a better future and to open doors for all Oregonians.

It is disheartening that our news is full of messages that seek to dehumanize people for political reasons, that aim to further polarize and divide us, and stoke unfounded fears.

Our news is also full of messages that dehumanize people in a less obvious though still dangerous way. These messages reinforce the sense that people facing certain life situations – being without a place to live, experiencing mental illness, escaping a dangerous living situation whether in the US or elsewhere, people living in poverty – are somehow “the others”, different in some fundamental ways than me or my family or my neighbors.

Otherizing is dangerous. It allows us to normalize what we should never accept, and be comfortable with the unacceptable. That children and their grandparents have no home other than the streets, their cars, or crowded and noisy shelters. That some of us live in neighborhoods with lovely trees and safe streets and uncrowded public schools, and yes, lots of “character”, and others of us are pushed further out into higher density neighborhoods with dangerous streets and overcrowded schools. That children are wrenched from the arms of their parents and living in cages at our borders. That our institutions and systems normalize and perpetuate disparity by race and ethnicity.

The good news is that we, as advocates, can do better to recognize and to push back against otherizing language. We can create messages that lay a path to visionary policy solutions and stronger coalitions.

We’re excited at this year’s RE:Conference to have one of the country’s leading researchers, thinkers, and teachers on strategic messaging join us to help us hone our words for impact and for building united movements. Anat Shenker-Osorio will join us on Tuesday morning, October 29th to share recent research and years of wisdom. We hope you’ll join us too. In the meantime, you can check out Anat’s podcast beginning September 9th, and her research reports.