Written by: Joshua Carreon
To me, individuals are complex and multi-faceted; They cannot be reduced to simple traits, however, our culture appears to be labeling people and typifying them and thus forming false assumptions based on these reductions. We have become a society of groups, cliques, and labels. Today’s society has fragmented upon these artificial and shallow lines. This must end for both the good of the individual and society.
There are many labels today. There is black, brown, white, gay and straight. There is man and woman, faithful and atheist, Republican and Democrat, etc. While these labels have always existed, a renewed focus has been placed upon them. With this new focus comes a great deal of assumptions and stereotyping. Assumptions like "all men are pigs.", "all gay people are effeminate.", or "all white people are racist" - All of which are mistaken as fact.
Not only have these labels created stereotypes but also division. Today people pigeonhole themselves by identifying with these oversimplified traits which has created hostility. For example, homosexuals may feel uncomfortable around Christians and vice versa, or women around men. These labels cannot fully define a person. People are more than their race, creed, sex, or orientation.
Another mistake is allowing oneself to be defined by labels, and I speak from personal experience. When I first realized that I am gay, I questioned what that meant. I falsely assumed that my sexuality made me different than my peers, and this became a self-fulfilling prophecy. I found myself altering my personality to fit the stereotypical gay image. Eventually I realized that my sexuality does not determine who I am because I am an individual not just a gay man.
Today’s culture has become separated and fragmented by this shallow view of the individual which forms artificial hostility and distrust where there need not be, as seen in the 1992 LA riots which broke out due to racial tensions. Tensions exasperated by the acquittal of white police officers who had beaten Rodney King, an African American taxi driver, believing him to be under the influence of a powerful street drug. Furthermore, during the riot, Reginald Denny, a white man, was also beaten by four angered African Americans before he was rescued.
In the events preceding and during the LA riots we see how stereotypes and assumptions prevented us from respecting our fellow man and turned neighbor against neighbor, but this need not be the case. We do not need to give in to suspicion and disdain, we can fight back by refusing to blame the many for the sins of some. I encourage you to think of how you can personally defy labels and bridge the gaps they have made.
Feel free to share how we can push back against labels in the comments below.