In Honor of Martin Luther King Junior and what he stood for.
This has been on my mind a lot and thought it fitting to share it today.
Are they holding you back?
We love to label everything, don’t we? Labels on foods, cars, books, movies, people…
In Secrets Kept, Ayianna risks being labeled a whore for not wearing her head covering. Something that once meant respect has deteriorated into a heavy-handed rule to dominate the women of the plains. But that’s not the only name-calling.
And it’s all throughout literature, movies, and comics. Mudbloods. Peck. Skinjobs. Mutie.
Fiction stories are merely a reflection of the world around us.
Why do we do this?
To know what to expect from a box of cereal or a book? That makes sense. But what about a person? So we can feel safe? To find our crowd. Or maybe because we think we are better than them?
Goody two-shoes, goth, nerd, geek, jock, cheerleader, slut, crunchy, cowboy, redneck, preppie, gangster, emu, gay, straight, black, white, Christian, atheist…the list is endless.
I bet right now y’all have had some images flash through your mind connected to feelings. Maybe friend, maybe not. Maybe animosity toward those who are different than you. Maybe we think it gives us license to bully.
Growing up, I don’t know what group I belonged to. I’m sure I’ve worn some labels over the years. Nobody escapes childhood without a few. Maybe loser if that meant why I was bullied. A lot. Who knows. I never really fit under one single one. Maybe as a wearer of labels, we don’t really see ourselves in such distinct clarity? Maybe I’m wrong. Probably the only label I did fit under was goody two-shoes because I had and have such a prickly conscience. I mean, I couldn’t even jury-rig a scrabble game with a co-conspirator without confessing–as an adult! I had a hard time pushing the boundaries. And that’s a bad thing? Apparently in middle school it is.
I wasn’t geek enough to fit in with the geek crowd yet I was just weird enough to not fit in with other “normal” people. I LOVE costumes, but I’ve never done cosplay outside of Halloween. Yet! A friend guy told me those were my people…okay. But I’ve never played D&D nor have I read LOTR. I started to…I’ll finish eventually. But I did read the Hobbit. That’s got to count for something, right?
I LOVE horses. I’ve milked cows, picked rocks, bailed hay, and fixed things with twine and duct tape, but I didn’t fit in with the cowboy or redneck crowd. I loved school, but I wasn’t rich or smart enough to fit in with the preppies. I wasn’t athletic enough to fit the jock/cheerleader label, but I loved playing a good game of basketball, volleyball, broomball…name it, I’m there. Except maybe golf. Ha!
I’ve seen people embrace their labels. “I’m a redneck woman, I ain’t no high class broad…” Some people proudly flaunt their labels and refuse to move beyond them. School isn’t cool, so you choose not to apply yourself, because it’s a whole lot cooler to get bad grades and risk messing up the rest of your life. Some despise others or use their label as an excuse for poor behavior or choices. I have an African American friend who loves to read books, her peers called her a white girl. Ouch. As if reading books is bad for you…
So we limit ourselves in the name of acceptance?
This isn’t something that’s limited to childhood. No, labels don’t go away when we grow up. We’re just better at hiding it, sometimes. But we know who we click with and who we don’t. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not bashing the people behind the labels, but I am challenging us to look beyond the label to see the person we are judging. Labels hurt. It limits us, isolates us one from another, so why do we do it?
As an adult, sometimes not having a label bugs me. It means I don’t fit in with a certain crowd or any crowd for that matter. I don’t have that perceived affirmation of looking like others who look like me. Instead I stick out like a sore thumb. Ha! That might be because I’ve got multiple worlds and characters pulsing through my brain.
Yet I find it freeing. I have friends from all walks of life. Sure, I don’t “fit” in with their “crowd”. My identity is not in the clothes I wear, the music I listen to, or the people I hang with. Does this make me an outlier? An outcast? Or a human trying to see past the labels? Or maybe I’m a chameleon…bring on the costumes!
Don’t let labels define you. Or others.
So what say you? Do you agree, disagree? Do you wear your labels proudly? Or do you despise them?