“I Don’t Walk Up To You and Tell You That I’m Straight”
(Quote by Andrea Herran)
Recently on the news the question was asked, “How can we stop discrimination today?”
My answer: Perhaps it could be as easy as “stop putting labels on people.”
I don’t walk up to you and tell you I’m straight. I simply introduce myself by telling you my name. Valuable Resources writes content on discrimination prevention and delivers this training content via a live theatre performance. Ms. Herran attended our training back in April 2016. The group was discussing discrimination and her comment of “I don’t walk up to you and tell you that I’m straight” coupled with the media’s headlines creating separation from those who appear different, really resonated with me.
How often do you introduce someone by putting a label on him or her? Let’s hear how that sounds. Picture an introduction of two people, such as, “Hi gay friend Keli, I would like to introduce you to my black-heterosexual friend, Ron.” Awkward!
Or perhaps the introduction may sound like this, “Meet Carol, she used to be a man.” How about “Meet my cousin; she has cancer and had 6 miscarriages.” Let’s continue, “This is my niece, she is autistic.” “This is my millennial nephew” or “my old grandmother.” Do you introduce your friend as; this is my “white friend, Steve”? Or do you just introduce him with respect, and politely say, “This is Steve.”
In 1964 the government establish Title VII, which is a law that protects our civil rights. ALL of our civil rights. Title VII was established to eliminate the segregation between people of certain color. Title VII has evolved with many more categories since. Today, Title VII protects those of age, race, gender, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, marital status, and military.
Unfortunately, it appears our society is trending backwards to recreate segregation, and not just with people of certain color. Labeling others has become the norm rather than accepting that people are just “different.” By using labels, our characteristics of how we look is now the norm used to define who we are instead of focusing on ethics, morals, talents, and/or passions.
Let’s take for example, the media uses labels in the headlines to emphasize their ratings and ignores individuals as human beings. Headlines continue to read, “White cop shoots black man”. By this, the news antagonizes readers and listeners. As a result, the situation becomes about race.
The media has people placed in learned stereotypes and puts people into categories of either having morals or not having morals. So should we interpret that as because an individual, who is straight, means he/she has morals and because someone who is gay, doesn’t have morals? (You can replace my example with your own “label”). Labeling others makes a negative impact and implies that because people are different they must not have any morals or ethics.
A person’s color, disability, age or sexual preference or any other “label” used doesn’t define who they are. Rather, each individual has to start with their own core values, what they believe in and how they behave, how they respond to difficult situations and the choices they have made under circumstances. That’s what defines us, our own behavior. Let’s stop using and listening to the labels and making excuses to justify behavior and accept that people are different. People make their own choices.
Next time you introduce someone or discuss something about him or her to someone else, pay attention to the words being used. Was that person introduced or spoken about respectfully? Or did they have a label? Was the label used to make a point, or was it used to define them? Does labeling them add more vigor to the story? Honestly, does the label really matter? If so, why? What is the significance of the label?
I don’t walk up to you and tell you that I’m straight as I shake your hand, I simply tell you my name.
Discrimination stops one less label at a time
Valuable Resources, Co.