Beyond Labels

I have a confession to make.  It is taking me much longer to compose this series or posts on prejudice than I anticipated.  I thought I might knock out the entire subject in two of three posts at the most.  It took me four posts to give a proper introduction to religious prejudice.  Racial prejudice is a lot harder.  It should be easier in some ways, as I have devoted much of my life to the subject.  But, that is part of the problem; I have information overload.

My typical stream of consciousness style of blogging seems inappropriate for a subject this important.  So, I guess what I am getting at is that I need just a little more time to come up with the right approach for such a sensitive issue as racial prejudice.  Thank you for your patience.  As a primer to the subject, I will write a paragraph or two about labels.  This is not a full treatment on the subject.

The one thing I want to say about the subject is that ALL labels are bad.  All labels are not only bad, but dehumanizing.  They are a way of removing the human from the equation so that we can deal with a person, impersonally.

In war, we do not kill people.  No human being has ever been killed in war.  Instead, we kill Japs, Chinks, squint-eyes, rag-heads, barbarians, monsters, enemies, and the like.  Once we learn to see the person on the other side of the gun barrel as something other than a person, I gets a lot easier to kill it.

This same dynamic works for all types of things where hate and distrust are involved.  Rather than acknowledging a difference of opinion with another human being who might have a valid point, we are forced to deal with conservatives, liberals, moderates.  Religiously, we deal with Baptists, Catholics, and Mormons.  Once we have them categorized into a set of creeds, we no longer have to consider their humanity.  To bring this point home, I grew up in a denomination that believes that everyone outside of that denomination is going straight to Hell.  Denominational labels were the difference between possible, eternal life, and certain, eternal damnation.

Even the labels we consider positive are bad for much the same reason.  They dehumanize the ones we label.  We don’t idolize talented entertainers; we idolize stars and superstars.  Once a person becomes a star, they no longer have the rights of a normal human.  They are hounded, relentlessly.  We feel we have the right to know every detail of every moment of their lives.  Privacy does not apply to stars; it only applies to humans.  It is not a stretch to say this very attitude is what killed Princes Diana.

Racial labels are the ultimate, dehumanizing labels.  Race does not just lend itself to prejudice, but dehumanization.  Food for thought.

I’ll be back in a day or two to pick up the thread.  Comments are welcome and appreciated.

David Johnson

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