The Beef with Labels

Posted: February 10, 2009 in Social Talk
Tags: , , ,

I like to talk about things often seen but not discussed too often. Social inequality in all forms is a big one for me. Maybe it’s because I am a minority myself but I feel that until we have social equality, we cannot be an effective society. It takes lots of unconventional and challenging thinking for people to simply understand other perceptions even if they don’t agree with them. I present my thoughts and views and hopefully with your thoughts, we can achieve common ground for prosperity.

I want to talk about the titles we give people of different backgrounds. I’m talking about the whole “black and white” thing. I am of African and Hispanic decent and it’s common for me to be recognized by the label “Black”. Though I’m only 22, I’ve often heard people speak of Blacks often complaining of what they are called and the name changes every 20 years. From negro to Afro-American, there has been many names over the years but there I feel there is a reason for it always changing: all the names have a stereotypical underlining and it creates separation.

Of course “Afro-American” is absurd in stereotyping a hairstyle besides trying to put a hip swing on “African”. “Negro” is just a half step away from the N-word so lets throw that out. To be honest I think (though its been rejected also) “colored” makes the most sense of all the names. “African-American”, to me, only applies to people who just immigrated from Africa to the US. They deserve the title once they gain citizenship. “Black” is just the new take on “colored”. How people want to be referred to as Black and not colored is beyond me. Black is usually associated with “bad” and “evil” in media, literature, and media, but by today’s standards, it also means urban.

I don’t know who blurred the line between “Black” (as in a specific American) and “Urban” (as in the hip hop culture) but they did a good job at convincing everyone else it means the same thing. I often hear people say to others of a different ethnicity “You’re trying to be Black” or “You’re not Black enough”. I think what people mean to say is urban but I understand it’s easier to just say Black instead of thinking about the connotations of your words and choosing them a little better. What happens as a result is your usual stereotypes because now there is no distinction between the Black culture and Hip Hop. I’m not saying that the Hip Hop revolution isn’t part of the Black community, but it’s not the only thing that makes it up.

So what works: Is it easy to just call every person of color “Black”, or just call everyone American, or how about “Nothing at all”? Last time I checked, I am American just as much as the next person regardless of their background. I can personally say I’ve heard accounts from friends of people from other countries referring to Americans as “Americans” because that’s how they refer to each other by the society they live in, no matter what color their skin happens to be. Why is it hard for us to not label each other? Far too often do I see “groups” of people separate from each other. It’s saddening that we appear to be the most diverse country to other nations, but when you really take a look we’re just a bunch of separate groups. Maybe the first step to a more diverse American society is to stop the group labeling. I don’t want to come off as if we aren’t a diverse society making great strides to equality. We have come a very very very very long way but the journey is far from finished.

No matter what “American” you are we are all American none the less. If you are like me and you were born here, grew up here, speak the native tongue, and live by¬† the American norms then you are American just like me. We all have more in common than we think. What do you think? Does anyone of any other ethnicity see or have these problems? I would love to hear what you have to say.

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