Labels Are NECESSARY Damnit!

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Labels are important when you really stop to think about them and their use in our daily lives. They are primarily used as shortcuts, helping us to describe in detail just about anything  we would otherwise spend countless minutes detailing. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Some of us simply like to call it as we see it and others love going into detail, often times agonizing us with their long-winded descriptive summations. The agony for me is often tied to having the label or definition on the tip of my tongue long before they even get to the halfway point. Almost everything and everyone can be defined by a label or labels. They can and are used to identify oneself, others, and things such as clothes, food, books, corporations, job descriptions and websites. They play a significant and leading role in our lives whether we choose to acknowledge this or ignore it altogether. Societal labels are even more disputed, for no good logical reason in my humble opinion, and have raised the level of consciousness among people of all cultures, classes, and backgrounds as of late. This movement, I would have labeled “anti-establishment” years ago, but I see it now as a trend that picks up a bit more speed each passing decade, and just as quickly as new labels are invented, defined and refined to fit whatever occasion that’s risen. It’s a nhonest and humorous cycle that’s likely here to stay.

Consider this, most labels are rejected when they are deemed negative or inflammatory or when its primary use is to ascribe a negative connotation about characteristics based on any number of factors. Most often, the connotation associated with the label will only hold true if those individuals defined by it allow it to. The individual giving the label should have no problem accepting one himself, which is important and most often it is the case. Those that I find reject labels or at least claim to verbally, cannot simply reject that one label that was ascribed to them, but extend it to a rejection of all labels as if it is a logical or practical solution. When a label fits your aura, persona or criteria just as perfectly or slightly less than, why reject it instead of redefining, refining it or simply owning it? You will at one point use a label during the course of your day to describe someone or something. By simply rejecting it, you miss the opportunity to educate those who will continue to use, reject, and accept labels as every day life occurrences anyway. When you reject and rename, you are in essence, re-labeling. Anti-label is the new label.

I especially love discussing this subject as it relates to race, gender, economic backgrounds and education which are all functions that society utilizes via labels to define its “human race”. Labels designate more often than not. Among some of my personal friends, I’ve found that those who reject labels the most brazenly and say they simply are whoever they are, are an unnamed label so to speak. The labels we don’t like to think about, yet are literally forced upon us on a daily bases are the ones we rarely criticize unless the ramifications of such a title are negative or degrading due to context. If it comes off as positive, rarely is it criticized or flat out rejected. Emo, backpacker, metal head, Goth., yuppie, preppie, head banger, thug, jock and fag-hag just to name a few, and these are way mild compared to what I could have used.

Are labels really all that demoralizing and as divisive as people claim? I believe that if one considers labels as a whole, in a negative light then you defeat your own purpose, you have automatically rejected any other label close to it that coincides with characteristics or personality types that quite certainly define you, starting with your ethnic background and spanning a lifetime. Have you noticed how virtually every person, place and thing is defined, described, or ascribed using labels? That’s the process and progress of semantics and evolution, where things change with and over time. Look at race labels within the black community for instance. Some of the most vocal members of the black community have, with the help of the media, evolved black “identify” with respect to its name or label even without the help of the majority of the black population, which is, in itself a minority within a minority over the last few decades. They have single-handedly changed the way blacks are called and more importantly “referenced” in America and in history. Labels rejected over time evolve to others, the pattern is often confusing to outsiders, and amusing to insiders. Even within college collages, it’s politically correct to refer to black Americans as African-American even if some of us, like myself, are perfectly fine with black, American, or both. We went from Negro/Negress, Colored and Black to the current, yet wildly popular in intellectual circles, African-American. This happens in almost every race and culture and is not resigned to any one; this is just one example I can identity with.

This post comes mainly at the heels of what I like to consider, unveiled faux indignation about labels. These objectors feel that their actions or verbal retorts, which might coincide with a label or defining “tab”, are somehow negative, intolerable words that somehow threaten their existence within or without that label. Labels, for instance, are continuously used to redefine and evolve subsets of society. Hip hop artists are constantly reinventing the mucic in the genre while at the same time enhancing it and embracing what it represents for them in their life. For many, labels empower and its descriptors are in their full control.”Words are only as powerful as we allow.”

Granted, there are many destructive labels in circulation just as there have been for many decades. They are countered by positive ones that affect forward thinking changes in attitudes and behaviors. Everyone wants to feel accepted and included whether you’re considered the “runt” in your family, like me or the black sheep or “daddy’s girl”, then you can realize the ridiculousness of dismissing labels and begin to either redefine or embrace those that represent them. Cherry-picking labels is like cherry-picking, well, the bible to put it as harsh and blunt as I possibly can. If you’ve ever read a dictionary from beginning to end, you’ll know what I mean. It is beyond tedious, but similarly, in your insane mission you realize that the world is constructed of labels that are edited, omitted, redefined, accepted, rejected and invented daily. It’s a part of life and who we are as a species. We are labeled at birth. God didn’t ask Adam to name the animals because he was objectifying them, but because they were unique and had varying degrees of qualities and attributes that made them beneficial, yet equal. And when blended and recognized as such those attributes are honored and shared.

We are all the same in many ways and distinctly different others. I’m of the mind set that labels define and redefine me. Sometimes I’m incorrectly labeled and I use those opportunities to educate about the label so they understand the differences which make us all unique. We all own our individuality, it’s like a birthright in many respects and a label can never talk that away from you or I. Who I am and what defines me can sometimes best be described with a label. Just as we constantly question uncomfortable and unpopular beliefs and standards society has set, we must also understand labels and be comfortable with our own personal identity so we refrain from furthering the notion that ALL labels are bad. The truth is we use them for everything, everyday.

We must never stop embracing our individuality and as such we should never stop redefining what labels represent us and others like us.





3 Responses to “Labels Are NECESSARY Damnit!”
  1. LaurynX says:

    Long post, lol. I think that "labels" are more of a nuanced thing than people give them credit for. Immediately people say they don't want to be "boxed in" say with femme or example, but then go and "box" themeselves with "woman" or "black" or anything else that they ARE comfortable with. People seem to be blind to the fact that they pick and choose labels at will all the time…despite their "indignation".

    • Knowledge says:

      I know, I know… way long. It extends far beyond a normal posting or article for that matter, but I couldn’t stop myself, lol. Thank you for reading this long-winded post and for sharing your insight; much appreciated.

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