By John Haltiwanger
Mar 9, 2016
Humans have an innate desire to place labels on everything. Labels give people a sense of order, and a way of distinguishing things.
Yet, people aren’t things; they are human beings first and foremost. Using labels to describe people ignores deeper reflections of their personhood.
A person’s race, sexuality, socioeconomic status or geographic origins does not define all that he or she is or will be.
When it comes down to it, people have a right to be called whatever they want. However, as a society, we should consider the fact that labels often warp our perceptions of people. In essence, they promote both blatant and unconscious prejudice.
Likewise, humans are too dynamic to be placed in boxes. The labels we place on people will never adequately capture the complexity of the human spirit.
This is precisely why actress Ravene-Symoné recently told Oprah that she didn’t want to be labeled for her race or sexuality anymore:
I don’t want to be labeled gay. I want to be labeled ‘a human who loves humans.’
I’m tired of being labeled… I’m not an African-American.
… I’m an American. And that’s a colorless person.
This is obviously a controversial subject, and not everyone is going to agree with Symoné’s stances.
Yet, she does have a point. Labels have been used as a means of discrimination for thousands of years. They only serve to further the dangerous distinctions society has imposed upon people. Labels separate people and push them apart.
Accordingly, these are labels we need to stop using to describe people:
1. Illegal Immigrant
No human being is illegal. Calling someone an illegal immigrant ignores the struggles that led him or her to risk life and limb to cross a border without documentation.
Acquiring a visa is expensive and difficult, and the United States has always been advertised as the land of opportunity. What would you do if you were placed in the same position?
Not to mention, Americans are the descendants of immigrants.
We need to stop calling women sluts, plain and simple. There is an apparent double-standard in our society through which men are celebrated for promiscuity, while women are made to feel ashamed.
If a person wants to explore his or her sexuality, that’s that person’s business. It’s not anyone’s place to judge.
“Retard” should never be used to describe someone with Down Syndrome, or any intellectual disability for that matter.
Moreover, we need to stop using this word colloquially amongst friends. It’s an ugly word that is used to make people feel inadequate, and we need to eradicate it from our vocabulary.
If you do not understand the distinction between fascism, communism and socialism, don’t use any of these words to describe people.
President Barack Obama is certainly worthy of criticism, but he is not a socialist, and the people who call him one reveal their own ignorance.
Furthermore, countries, such as Sweden and Norway, have experienced great socioeconomic success by adopting mixed economic models, which involve strong elements of socialism. So don’t assume it’s one of the world’s great evils.
Tranny is a derogatory term, and it’s disrespectful. Transgender people deserve the same amount of respect as anyone else.
Calling someone crazy implies that this person is mentally unstable, which is obviously related to mental illness. Mental illness is a very real thing, impactingmillions of people across the world.
It’s not a joke, and it’s certainly not something that should be trivialized.
7. Plus-Size Model
We don’t call smaller models “regular size models.” Who cares what a person’s body size is, why do we have to label it?
All people are beautiful in their own ways and shouldn’t be made to feel different because they are naturally smaller or larger than another person.
People are not defined by their sexuality, they are so much more than that. Likewise, when we use the word “homo” to insult people, even straight people, it suggests that homosexuality is something to be ashamed of. This is wrong, and so is the word.
An addiction is an illness, it’s not something that should be used to describe someone. If people want to identify with their addictions in order to overcome them, that’s their choice.
Yet, too often we define people as “addicts,” suggesting so much about their pasts before even getting to know them in the present.
The United States is exceptionally polarized when it comes to politics at the moment. When we vote, most of us identify as Republican or Democratic.
Yet, this does not describe everything about us or our values, despite the fact that people seem determined to define people by their political affiliations.
You can be traditionally Democratic on one issue while completely Republican on another. Some people are fiscally conservative, yet socially liberal, for example. Let’s stop despising one another for our political convictions.
We are more than just Republicans and Democrats, we are humans, we are Americans.
Photo Courtesy: We Heart It
John Haltiwanger is the Senior Politics Writer at Elite Daily. He was born and raised in DC. John earned an MSc in International Relations from the Univ. Of Glasgow and a BA in History from St. Mary's College of MD. He loves life, and burritos.