I will admit it… I used to be horrible when it came to titles and labels. I used to call certain types of people by certain degrading titles, putting them into a small box and not seeing who they really are. It is not that I used those titles to purposed degrade those people, but for me, I just thought, believed, or understood that those titles were universal and appropriate. Some years ago I made an unconscious vow to watch my words closer, and it was probably in relation to people constantly misunderstanding my heart when it came to a matter of my disagreement. Now I understand more fully how our choice of words can make a big difference thanks to a friend of mine.
For instance I called males and females whores thinking that I was ahead of the curve because most people only used the word whore towards women; I felt that because I did not have a gender bias in using the term “whore” that it was perfectly acceptable. And I will be completely honest, there are still times I am tempted or might slip and call someone a “whore”. When I say it I simply mean that the person in question seems indiscriminately and reckless promiscuous when it comes to sex, but what’s heard is more often judgement. I have learned over the years that titles like “ho” or “whore” are just as bad as terms like “slut” or “bitch” or “nigga”.
As much as I hate sometimes that entertainment (such as the movies) try to portray these passionate loving interiors for ruthless villains in an effort to humanize them, I understand the value and the necessity of it now. I believe I have always been empathetic and compassionate and because of that I believe what follows is my high degree of patience for most things, but my vocabulary didn’t always reflect that. Just as the movies portray villains who are humans and are not typically born “evil” and villainous I understood that people are not typically who they were born, and even that people are not always who they want to be, but my way of speaking said I was hateful, judgmental, and uncaring. I have learned we must be respectful and understanding of that fact that people are complex and it’s easy to label someone because of an action but it’s much more worthwhile and better to stray from labels and find out who they really are.
Martin Luther King Jr said part of the reason for pushing for strict nonviolence is that he believed it would create an enemy whose eyes would be opened to the fact that all of us are humans, and that none of us are less than human. It is the same in all areas of life, I think, we must take into account that despite a persons actions, they are still human, their heart and their intentions may not have been what drove those actions that we deem wrong or hurtful. Sometimes, we must get to know someone to understand their dichotomies and treat them appropriately.
I have come to learn that I do not need to label a person by one action or even by a handful of their actions. I have learned that just because a person has had many sexual partners that “ho” isn’t always an appropriate term for them. I have learned that just because someone is unsure or scared of doing something that they are not a “pussy”. I have never believed that someone who doesn’t conform to the negative norms is a “goody-two-shoes”. I have never believed that someone stupid or uneducated is a “nigger/nigga”. I have never believed that a man who is emotional is a “bitch”.
I have learned that a more appropriate way to talk about something is to acknowledge the distinction between the action and the person. I think in doing that you move away from favoritism, tribalism, and nepotism amongst other things. Because too often I see people who degrade and condemn a person they dislike for some particular action, meanwhile they do the same act or someone close to them does the act and they do not condemn that friend/loved one. I guess maybe one way to start correcting ourselves is to think,
- “would I label myself as a ….?”
- “is my mother a…?”