The labels that are imposed upon us often serve those in power by reducing us, flattening the complexities of life. But the labels we choose for ourselves liberate us, giving us agency to belong, to assert our identity, to fight this erasure.
In a time where “white” and “privilege” are inseparable; “Black” and “criminal” are interchangeable; one word defines entire continents; war refugees are deemed terrorists; racism is confused for freedom of speech; stereotypes pose as labels; disagreement leads to silence; and power requires us to be uniform, we have become less open, less willing, less radical. We are at war with words, where they are used as a masquerade and not for their meaning.
This leads us to be locked inside labels, battling between the ones that have been forced upon us and those we choose for ourselves. The labels that are imposed upon us often serve those in power by reducing us, flattening the complexities of life. But the labels we choose for ourselves liberate us, giving us agency to belong, to assert our identity, to fight this erasure. The way out is not by removing them, but understanding their limitations, and creating new labels to free ourselves from the narrowed views of each other and ourselves. The very way in which we begin to process the world, after all, is through the lens of labels, categories and dichotomies, and so maybe this is where we must begin.
We have all wronged each other in understanding. For this second issue, let us confront the labels and the friction — within us first — and then between us. We are often inclined to identify the areas in which we were mistreated, but rarely do we think about the myriad ways we have assumed the worst of someone for something as obvious as the color of their skin, the way they sound, the clothes they wear, or the way they pray. The better we can think of ourselves as part of the problem, the farther we can go in finding practical solutions.
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- 2: Labels