Labels

Before I start let me say how excited I am about coming home to Little Rock to begin the book tour for When Men Betray. Unlike the book’s principal character, Jack Patterson, I have no reservations about coming to Little Rock. I am really looking forward to seeing my friends at the book signings and the event at the main library in North Little Rock this coming week.

Labels

I hope to start a discussion and an awareness of the danger of labeling people. Most of us were raised hearing the expression “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” We heard that expression, we probably repeated it many times in response to nasty or hateful things said about us, but we also knew then, as we do know now, words indeed do hurt and sometimes leave invisible scars that carry on into adulthood and beyond. There is a lot being written and said these days about bullying, and often some of the worst kind of bullying is the verbal name-calling, labeling kind.

Yet, as  adults we still engage in the activity of name-calling and labeling, putting people into categories,  and judging people based on all kind of sweeping generalities about their color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, or financial status. As an example, recently a progressive organization joined hands with a few teachers unions and sued various charter schools throughout the country calling the organizations and the people involved “racists” in protected from libel legal papers. One would think teachers would be more sensitive to using the term “racist” especially when they are attacking other teachers and administrators whose whole purpose is to educate poor and minority students and make them eligible to go to college. Whatever their motivation — whether it includes legitimate differences of opinion about ways to educate or more selfish motives such as keeping a job at the expense of people willing to work harder and longer — I would hope they would be more sensitive to throwing out such a label. A teacher or lawyer who indiscriminately throws out the word racist to garner headlines has no business teaching our children or practicing law.

Negative labels have crept into our society’s language much like armadillos have crossed the borders of Texas and now appear everywhere. Labels reflect a judgment usually not necessarily based on fact. Labels are attempts to appear superior when often the labeler is not. Labels cause hardship, pain, and incite anger and response when we are all called to love our neighbor. If I were asked where do we begin to better get along in our high tech society I would say, “Learn to restrict our language to lose labeling and when we talk about anyone refer to them as an individual and not a label. Teach our children to do the same, and like the “N” word which is finally exiting our language, encourage them not to use words that attach negative labels to human beings. We are all different. Celebrate the difference, don’t try to box it in with a label.

Now it is your turn. What do you think.

May 17, 2014 3:44 pm

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