More than a label: overcoming stereotypes

Day 49 of #LiveWell2017

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Today, I read a commentary in the Street Roots newspaper by Andy Ko of the Partnership for Safety and Justice. It was titled “One act doesn’t define you – not even voting for Trump.” In the essay he gives an example: people who suffer a crime are more than just victims and people who commit a crime are more than just criminals. He goes on to explain that developing solutions to crime and our criminal justice system require us to understand that “people are more than the labels we affix to them.”

It’s so easy to label people. We do it all the time – girl, boy, Republican, Democrat, mother, father, Muslim, Christian, homeless, rich, athlete, nerd, etc. We label people to help our brains organize the mountains of complexity in our lives. Labeling helps us connect a person with others we deem to be like them; in other words, it provides us with a set of characteristics and expectations (also known as stereotypes) for that group of people.

I’ve struggled with labeling, as I’m sure many of you have, during the past year’s election cycle and since the new administration took over. There is a grand divide between people in the United States and a lot of name-calling. I’ve struggled with the labels because I don’t believe everyone is the same – even if they “fit” in the same group. I’ve struggled, too, because people I love support causes and candidates that I do not. So, while the labels fit them in some ways, they most certainly do not fit them in other ways.

Labeling isn’t always a bad thing. It is very useful in our daily lives. Labeling people, however, can be dangerous and damaging. Here is a good article explaining why.

Ko ends his essay by reminding us that challenges are also opportunities, that we must shed the labels and focus on solutions to improve the world for all people. I agree with him. Now is the time to accept this opportunity to see people as more than our labels for them, to seek solutions to our problems through each other’s lenses, and to shed the stereotypes we hold so close. It’s hard work. It’s painful work. But, it might just help us move forward together instead of apart.

Love is stronger than hate. Let’s shed the people labels and focus on the problems we need to solve. #LiveWell2017 #CreateGoodness

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