Whether you read the labels on the products you buy, or just glance at them to be sure you are buying the item you want, we probably all agree that labels make our purchasing decisions easier.
Although sometimes there are very subtle distinctions on labels that are variations of the same product, and that can make it really easy to get the wrong thing.
My coffee maker uses whole beans. It grinds the beans as it makes each cup of coffee, so I need to look for whole bean coffee. It is really easy to miss the type that says ground coffee instead of whole bean because the bags are identical.
I’ve made that mistake more than once.
Confusion from not reading a product label correctly can be frustrating. But it’s not disastrous.
However, the growing trend of putting labels on people contributes in a big way to the increasing divisiveness and intolerance in our society. It’s easy to mis-read labels put on people and think they are something they’re not.
That is disastrous.
Why do so many feel the need to label people?
When I refer to a friend in a conversation I simply say “My friend”. Friend is a relationship, not a label.
I cringe, however, when talking with people who feel the need to label their friends. You know, they say “My gay friend”, or “My Puerto Rican friend”, or “My Jewish friend” as if there’s a need to further distinguish something about the friend. There isn’t. A friend is a friend. Nothing else matters.
The only possible things I can think of to distinguish a friend is if the person is a best friend, or a dear friend, or a long-time friend, or a childhood friend, that shows the value of the friendship.
There is also a lot of anger if someone thinks you’ve deliberately used the wrong labels. I am no longer sure if I should say Blacks, African Americans, or People of Color if there is a reason to further identify according to race. Or is it something else? I have no idea what is and isn’t acceptable and I certainly don’t want to insult anyone. To me the color of skin has never mattered but there can be references where it is needed to define something,
The term Hispanic gets used as a broad label for people whose heritage comes from many different countries. Yet someone who is of Mexican heritage clearly distinguishes that from Guatemalan, El Salvadoran, Cuban, Puerto Rican, etc. People from Spain make it clear they’re Spanish, not Hispanic.
Is it Native Americans or Indigenous Americans? I think that American Indian is no longer acceptable,
but I’m not sure. But I am sure that American Indian is much different than Indian American.
Asian is another broad label that gets applied at the level of heritage or ancestry when it could be Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean, Thai or Indonesian. So many different parts to Asia.
Families didn’t used to need defining. Family was whatever our situation was with the people we lived with. But now families have labels.
There are inter-racial families, gay or lesbian families, multi-racial families, single parent families, cohabitating families, blended families, nuclear families and binuclear families. And of course the traditional family. There’s still debate about whether a childless couple is a family.
One of the areas where new labels seem to be popping up quickly is the identifying of people by using sexual or gender preference labels. Lumped into LGBTQIA+ that label breakdown is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersexual, asexual, and the + is a catchall for orientations that can’t yet be fully described. Really, how many more orientations can there be?
I don’t feel there should be a need to define that.
For example, I love the TV show Jeopardy. When Amy Schneider was on her winning streak I wouldn’t miss a show! I thought she was a lovely, gracious, and incredibly smart woman because that’s how I saw her. I knew she was transgender, but never felt that was what should define her. Yet much was made in the media about her being the first transgender Jeopardy champion. Why? Being transgender isn’t why she was such an outstanding Jeopardy contestant.
Why do we feel the need to label each other? We are all part of the human race. We are all just people who at a basic level have common characteristics that we all share. Why go to such great extremes to separate the human race into categories as if we are products?
If you want to ruin a person’s reputation call them a bigot, a racist, a Nazi, or a Fascist. Call them subversive, Socialist, radical, a terrorist or extremist. It’s done on social media and by political pundits every day. It’s done without any proof or validation. Labels are tossed around carelessly. Media commentators fuel flames of intolerance, hatred, and divisiveness by deliberately using labels to promote stereotypes that aren’t valid.
The number of people who use discretion in their speech is declining. Not just in the U.S., but worldwide. Lets stop branding people by defining them with labels as if they are products we are choosing, and just accept them as all being part of the human family. Like family members we may not agree with, but we learn to live with them and work on ways to get along.
“Products are made in a factory but brands are created in the mind.”Walter Landor
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