Who am I ? Well, I don’t know exactly. There are words we use to attempt to create a category or space we fit neatly in to but what good comes from this exercise? Their are many different ways to assign meaning to the qualities we believe we have and the way we all wish to be viewed. This meaning becomes convoluted and trite at the same time because using this practice gives little detail and boring labels that fit into a limited world view.
The use of labels begins with your gender. While this seems normal to me, some take issue later on in life when they identify as something that differs from their assigned gender. Imagine that you have a group of friends that have always been there for you and hang out all the time. Now, imagine that one day they all begin trying to date you and looking at you differently. This would definitely be hard to deal with because platonic relationships are notorious for falling apart.
This is just one example of how labels can interfere with our lives but the problem runs deeper and has for a very long time. Labels are assigned for socio-economic status, color, religion, age and a list of other ways to divide populations. These labels isolate and divide creating a view of those who do not fit in with established and/or majority groups. Public schools are notorious for creating these divisions among the student body and the faculty to some degree. I may show my age here but some of the names given to social groups at my school were freaks, jocks, stoners, preps, rednecks, skanks and a host of others all the way down to loners who had a hard time fitting in to even the outcast groups.This type of labeling goes on in every school. The terms may change but the practice is inextricably linked with public and many private schools.
These labels stick for a while after we leave for college or enter the workforce and gradually become a self fulfilling prophecy or simply blend into categories like religion or economic status. Some of you may remember “Uncle Rico” from the movie Napoleon Dynamite. Uncle Rico cannot seem to get over what he believed to be his chance at fame and fortune during his senior year of high school. He knew that if his coach would have put him in the big game they would have won and he would have been “sitting in a hot tub with his soul-mate” rather than staying at his sisters, selling Tupperware. Many of us know people who live through the glory of their high school days because popularity is harder to achieve in the big world of adulthood.
Applying labels to groups on a local, national or global scale can cause problems. When we begin to view human beings only through the labels placed upon them there is an inherent danger of perceiving them as the “other” and not individuals. Grouping in large populations under labels does harm to the global sense of equality and unity. Seeing people as the “other” and not one of the whole can lead to bias and even hate. Try and remember that behind every religious or ethnic label, even those labels we applied so early during our time in school, there are real human beings. People with thoughts and dreams just like you trying to carve out a space to live freely and fairly.