Let's Talk Labels | Lucas Afolabi
Labels: They Aren't All That Evil
“I am not an introvert!”, I retorted sharply. “You really need to stop calling me that”.
I was tense, upset and ready for a fight. This has always been a testy subject for me. I hated being referred to as an introvert even though I qualify as one, in all sense of the word. I am more comfortable around people I’ve known for a while, I am very self-aware, independent and enjoy solitude. Psychologists would definitely label me as one.
Now, I don’t know why I dislike the label. I don’t believe introverts are inferior, disadvantaged people nor do I see extroverts as superior people. I just hate the label. This piece isn't just for me.
Truth is, more people feel this way. We all hate labels, -at least some of us do. And quite rightly so. They can be very misleading, damaging and restricting. It is a term that lumps everyone together, with usually no regard for our individual differences and our unique qualities. An intriguing part to it is, there’s a study in psychology that believes the terms used to label an individual can influence their actions (the concept of the self-fulfilling prophecy).
No, this isn’t about psychology either.
This is about labels. It still is, trust me.
Labels can be bad but not all labels are. The mistake we must avoid is painting them all with a broad brush, lumping all labels together as bad. In all honesty, we all have a label in one form or the other. Blacks. Whites. Hispanics. Asians. This in itself argues that not all labels are bad. Labels that allows for easy identification, that makes career growth possible or that provides you with the opportunity that you probably won’t have had, can’t possibly be.
There are labels such as WOCinTech, Women in STEM, BAME in tech, BME students in finance, law or politics and countless others. And attached to these labels are scholarship opportunities, funding opportunities, internship and training opportunities and other career advancement opportunities.
There are people who believe these labels are discriminatory, or even derogatory. While this wasn’t written to dispute those claims, I’d rather focus on the positives these labels offer, on the good in some of these labels. I do believe they can be very helpful whatever the phase an individual is currently resident in-between a negative and a positive label.
To make an objective, unbiased decision about anything label-related:
1. Be open-minded. Don’t be blinded by your hatred for all things labels. Make the distinction between a negative and a positive label.
2. Make a conscious effort to know the values and ethics of whatever group stems from a label attached to you.
3. Then, you can decide if you want to be associated with it or not, regardless of the label.
So, the next time you get a text from your class representative, or a memo that there’s going to be a BME meeting after work, don’t ignore it. Try, it might be the break you need, the one you’ve been looking for.
Lucas Afolabi. I am a Christian freshman at the University of Portsmouth. I love Arsenal, I like the New York Giants and I follow the Los Angeles Lakers. Twitter: @___Afolabi | Instagram: @___afolabi