Other

Photo of Naomi Bethune's front yard. By Naomi Bethune.

Often, I feel like a stranger in welcoming places. I know that I’m surrounded by people that accept me, but there's a disconnect. It’s like I’m floating between land and space. Neither side is really pulling me in, and I don’t feel attraction to either one. So, I opt to stay to the side, reserved. Maybe sometimes I’ll step out into the open only to be seen as Other. The little boxes need to be checked, and I can’t just pick one.

Undeniable fact: People will see you how they want to. A human’s perception of another is often biased and judgmental. This is completely normal, but it does impact the person that you see. As Other, I am not seen as average or conventional: not Black enough, but certainly not white enough; Jewish, but not “Jewish” enough for some. Me, a shade of brown, a voice of reason, with a lack of support. Who am I to turn to? If someone released me, like a bird from my cage, who would take care of me? I’d fly, between space and land, never seeking a moment to rest.

I wouldn’t ask to be born any other way, as anyone else. I have no desire to change my skin, my hair, or my body. However, I wish for one thing: the truth. Where is my space? In this world, where is a place for me? Humans are separated into boxes, each expected to check one, sealing their identity with a black pen. “Other” is thrown at the end of the list, a general category, supposedly encompassing all of my identity. I still check that box, therefore validating this world’s perceptions of me.

If I were given the chance to introduce myself to someone without them passing their judgement on me, it would go something like this:

“Hi. My name is Naomi Bethune. I am a 16-year-old, biracial Jewish woman. The brown of my skin is Caribbean soil mixed with stormy grey skies. My hair is a halo, attracting light, elevating me and my voice. This body bears the burden of my brownness, and my voice carries the struggle of my people. My people have been persecuted, for being Jewish and for being Black. They were Other then, as I am Other now.”

This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.

Topics: Activism
2 Comments
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And “Other” is often the most beautiful inside and out. Being the Other is how we learn to move beyond our presumed limitations and find out who we really are.

Thank you, Naomi, for your candid and sincere words. Very meaningful for so many people from all different places in the world. More people need to read this so they can feel empowered to stand up for what they believe in. There IS power in numbers.
B’shalom, Martha

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How to cite this page

Bethune, Naomi. "Other." 17 July 2019. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on April 13, 2024) <http://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices/other>.