Why can’t we just be people? Why do we need to focus on labeling groups and subgroups when the goal is to all be one equal species—diverse and individual—yet connected? Accepting of our “unique-isms” rather than focused on them?
I was raised in a conservative, Jewish home. (Conservative in this case means middle of the road in religious practice. Reformed is the least religious…Orthodox is the most…and Conservative is in the middle.) I diligently placed my older daughter in religious school when she was five, but then I realized two things. First was the fact that Judaism is a religion that is very ingrained in practices and customs done at home—but we weren’t doing that. I was dropping my daughter off for others to teach her, but I wasn’t following through in our home. (My husband is not Jewish, so it was up to me to uphold the traditions if they were important to me.) I felt I was being hypocritical to send her to school but not reinforce what she was taught at home.
More importantly, 9/11 came along the following year, and the world became a war of accusations, all in the name of religion. But at the core, no religion preaches hate or destruction. They all preach love and honor and respect and contribution to community. So why the fight? Why the debate about whose is better and whose should dominate the others? They’re all good, and they should be able to coexist and play a vital role within their respective communities.
A few years ago, gender labels became a prominent social issue. Transgender. Nonbinary. Bisexual. Gender questioning. Everyone wanted to be seen and heard for their individual preferences…and not persecuted for them. Another irony. Those involved wanted to revise pronouns so that no one would feel an outcast. Yet this process calls more attention to something that has and should be personal and private. College classes and business meetings could not begin until everyone in the room announced their preference. In the name of Inclusion, let’s separate and label. Isn’t that ironic?
To me, this is a private choice that is no one’s business. Who you sleep with is none of my business. Your wardrobe choices and style are your personal expression. Nor is it my business how you identify as an individual. I don’t tell you about my personal sexual or gender beliefs either. I care about who you are as a person.
In the contexts of classrooms and business meetings, are you contributing? Being passive? Or being counterproductive? Self-images have nothing to do with Economics 101 or the marketing plan for a new product.
Now we are once again fighting about racism. This isn’t to say that there are not significant biases that continue to exist and that don’t need to be worked through. There are certainly biases between blacks and whites. Of course, there continue to be biases with regard to every other race and ethnicity as well —Hispanics, Asians, Jews, Muslims, Irish, Italians, Greek. The list goes on and on.
This is all in spite of the fact that this country was founded on diversity and that Lady Liberty invites “…your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” to enter. The conflict and abuses that have been placed upon virtually every ethnic and racial group in this country—including assorted white nationalities—are antithetical to the principals of “freedom and justice for all” upon which America was built.
This isn’t just about crimes. The fight exists in Hollywood as casting directors argue about the importance of being race-blind in an effort to increase the number of nonwhite actors in featured roles…corporations insist on more racial diversity on corporate boards…and universities argue for similar representation among faculty members.
My point is not whether all of these issues need to be addressed. My wish is that they don’t need to be discussed…that we don’t feel required to force race or gender or religion into the discussion at all. It is Ironic to me that those who are most against labels and divisiveness are the most focused on labels.
If the goal is to be color-blind and accept everyone as equal, then why are we spending so much energy dividing and labeling? We are creating segregation by insisting on labeling and focusing on a we-versus-them environment.
In the late 1970s, there was a big movement in consumer products to sell “generic” versions of everything from pretzels to soda to dish detergent. The items were packaged in plain white packaging, often with a black stripe that simply stated the product description. There was an entire grocery aisle dedicate to generic products. It was such a social movement that my friends and I dressed as “generic people” for Halloween that year.
We do not want generic, identical people… we should all simply be people. Fascinating, unique, complicated, incredible people.
Sarah Hiner, president and CEO of Bottom Line Inc., is passionate about giving people the tools and knowledge they need to be in control of their lives in areas such as living a healthier life, the challenges of the health-care system, commonsense financial advice and creating great relationships. She appears often on national radio and hosts the Bottom Line Advocator Podcast, where she interviews leading experts to help people be their own best advocates in all areas of life.