Labels have become apart of our every day culture. We label everything from food, clothes, genres of music, animals, and movies. But I want to talk about our most disruptive and destructive type of labeling which comes under the form of labeling people. Labeling people has led to harsh and pre emptive judgements of others, hatred, and even racism.
Yes race is indeed a label, think about it, when you sign a census card or fill out an application you have to check a box about what race you are. Have you ever stopped think about what you're labeled as? Are you African American, Asian, Hispanic, or considered other? You want to see how labeling was used amongst the dominant culture of America to separate everyone?
If you're black, you're an African American. If of Asian descent you are Asian American, Native then Native American, Hispanics are Hispanic Americans but Caucasians are simply considered to be just an American. Strange isn't it? But thats only if you are one who refuses to recognize the undercurrent of a white supremacist culture that runs rampant in this country.
It just goes to show that race is a label used to grant people of one cultural or genetic background subversive power over another, totally abolishing the notion of equality or racial equity. George Washington is known in American history as a great general, patriot, and freedom fighter according to those living here, americans in a new country looking to escape the rule of England. But to many in England he was seen as traitor and a terrorist for his acts of war against the English Empire. Same person, same deeds, but a different label brings about totally different feelings and perceptions about him.
How often do you see the media use labels to push self aggrandizing agendas to the public? If a white american goes on a crime spree then he's reported to be a troubled individual, If he or she is black they are called thugs and if they are an immigrant then they are considered a terrorist. If you don't believe me look at old news captions this past year of a predominantly middle class to upper class white student body at the University of Kentucky turning over cars and setting things on fire after the basketball team was eliminated from the final four who were considered to just be angry party goers or disappointed students.
Young black men and women who were upset over a young Freddy Gray dying after being taken into Police Custody with no explanation were called criminals, thieves, and thugs. When young Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his brother committed the heinous crime of setting off bombs which maimed and killed many at the Boston Marathon it was called an act of terrorism and he a terrorist. Why? Could it be that he wasn't born in the United States and is muslim, not Christian? I think so.
It's been very apparent since 9/11 that many in America have had a predominantly negative view of the Islamic religion even though the crime was committed by Islamic extremists. This is no different than members of the KKK who claimed to be devout Christians while they marauded the midwest and south killing many black and brown folks to push ahead their racist agenda. But as a nation many seem to not want to acknowledge the correlation. Mean while you have numerous white american males who have committed mass murders such as the Colorado theater shooter or the Sandy Hook school shooter are labeled as troubled or mentally ill men.
These are not coincidences but simply a byproduct of labels America places on individuals based on race or religion. Would Tsarnaev have been sentenced to death if he were Christian and was born in America with the name Mike Lewis (fictional person obviously)? There's a good chance he may have just gotten life without parol. I never had a doubt what sentence he would receive once a guilty verdict came back for him.
What if Freddy Gray were white and it was mostly young white men and women in the streets of Baltimore protesting, would they be thugs and thieves? Think about all those activities, people, music, and clothes that you love. Now change the label that you have for all of those things into a label that you feel is less than desirable and see where it takes your mind. Jimi Hendrix used to say that he hated to be put in a box, he didn't want his music to have a label. He wanted to think and make music that was outside of the traditional blues or rock and roll constructs. Just look what beauty he created by doing so.