114: How to stop ‘Othering’ and instead ‘Build Belonging’

john powell othering and belonging

I had originally approached today’s topic of Othering through a financial lens, as part of the series of episodes on the intersection of parenting and money (previous episodes have been on NYT Money colunist Ron Lieberman’s book The Opposite of Spoiled, How to Pass on Mental Wealth to your Child, The Impact of Consumerism on Parenting, and How to Set Up A Play Room.  The series will conclude in the coming weeks with episodes on advertising and materialism).

I kept seeing questions in parenting groups: How can I teach my child about volunteering?  How can I donate the stuff we don’t need without making the recipient feel less than us?

And, of course, after the Black Lives Matter movement began its recent up-swing of activity, the topic took on a new life that’s more closely related to my guest’s work: viewing othering through the lens of race.

My guest, Dr. john a. powell, is an internationally recognized expert in the areas of civil rights and civil liberties and a wide range of issues including race, structural racism, ethnicity, housing, poverty, and democracy. He is the Director of the Othering & Belonging Institute (formerly Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society), which supports research to generate specific prescriptions for changes in policy and practice that address disparities related to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and socioeconomics in California and nationwide. In addition to being a Professor of Law and Professor of African American Studies and Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, Professor powell holds the Robert D. Haas Chancellor’s Chair in Equity and Inclusion.


Our conversation was wide-ranging and touched on a host of topics and thinkers, which I promised to track down if I could.  These include:

Martha Minow’s book Making All The Difference

Aristotle’s theory of Arithmetic and Geometric Equality

Judith Butler’s book Gender Trouble 

Amartya Sen’s idea that poverty is not a lack of stuff, but a lack of belonging

Dr. Susan Fiske’s work on the connection between liking and competence

Lisa Delpit’s book Other People’s Children

Dr. Gordon Allport’s book The Nature of Prejudice

Max Weber’s idea of methodological individualism

The movie Trading Places (I still haven’t seen it!)

This blog post touches on Dr. powell’s idea of the danger of allyship

John Rawls’ idea that citizens are reasonable and rational

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Richard Bernstein’s concept of the regulative ideal



About the author, Jen

Jen Lumanlan (M.S., M.Ed.) hosts the Your Parenting Mojo podcast (www.YourParentingMojo.com), which examines scientific research related to child development through the lens of respectful parenting.

Her Finding Your Parenting Mojo membership group supports parents in putting the research into action in their real lives, with their real families. Find more info at www.YourParentingMojo.com/Membership

She also launched the most comprehensive course available to help parents decide whether homeschooling could be right for their family. Find out more about it – and take a free seven-question quiz to get a personalized assessment of your own homeschooling readiness at www.YourHomeschoolingMojo.com

And for parents who are committed to public school but recognize the limitations in that system, she has a course to help support children's learning in school at https://jenlumanlan.teachable.com/p/school

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