A person is worth a thousand words
As I walk through the grocery store and down each aisle, I see various labels selling me different types of products: whole grain, vegan, sugar-free.
Each food is labeled specifically for me to choose my preferences without having to do a substantial amount of investigating.
When I look around on campus, it’s much harder for me to categorize what I see. My peers don’t have Italian, gay, straight, athletic or poor written on their foreheads for me to decide if I’m interested in what they have to offer.
I may see an athletic girl with a short haircut and less-feminine clothing and automatically assume she is gay. This isn’t fair. I didn’t start a conversation with her and get to know her before making this assumption.
Just as someone with an allergy to peanuts would stay away from any food labeled “containing peanuts,” we tend to stay away from people we consider to have a label that is not compatible with ours.
I say quit staying away from people, and start staying away from labels. We all could find ourselves pleasantly surprised with what we find out about one another.
One word could never do justice to the actual being and purpose of someone, or paint a picture for me of their passions and aspirations. It’s so easy for us all to take a look at someone and instantly decide who they are and write them off if we think we are disinterested.
Why is it that we all feel the need to belong to a specific group? We all do it. We long for a sense of purpose and a sense of belonging to someone or to a group of people.
However in a greater sense, we all want to be able to label one another. For instance, I’m about as white as they come, I’m also a journalism major, and I am a member of greek life. But do you really know me based off that?
No. You don’t know my passions or dreams based off three groups I am affiliated with. You probably wouldn’t even be able to pick me out of a crowd based off that knowledge.
When we are deciding whether or not we like a person, we sort them into categorical boxes. It’s superficial, but it’s almost as if it’s an instinct or an unconscious process instilled in us from birth.
Raven-Symone recently had an interview with Oprah, and her comments have gotten her quite a bit of flak. She was asked if she’s gay to which she responded that she is a human being who loves other human beings and happens to be in a relationship with another woman.
She went on to say that she doesn’t label and she doesn’t define herself as an African-American because she can’t trace her descent all of the way back to a specific country in Africa. She said to put it simply, she’s an American who has a darker skin tone and has family roots in Louisiana.
America is supposed to be the melting pot of the world, so why is it that we find ourselves trying to segregate each other instead of learning from one another, and in a way, becoming a fusion of all types of ideas and cultures?
I think we are more comfortable when we are able to look at someone and mentally sort them into their own category. However, sometimes when you look at someone, they may not necessarily fit into a specific box.
People who are a little different or out of the ordinary may scare us, and we categorize them as someone to keep our distance from. We’ll never know how many truly amazing ideas we may be missing out on hearing because we are cutting people out of our lives before they even have the chance to get in.
I don’t know about you, but I most certainly am not a box of cereal or a can of soup, or anything else you can put a label on and be done with.
The most exciting part of human interaction is getting to know people on a deeper level, finding out the intricate details that make up who they are and who they are becoming.
Cereal is always going to be cereal, so go ahead and put a label on it, but don’t be quick to label the people who come in and out of your life. They aren’t just an item on your grocery list.
We are constantly growing and changing, and we are far too complex to ever be defined by just one word. Don’t ever subject yourself or anyone else to just one word.
You are, and will be, so much more than that.