Labels: That Which Separates

We still struggling in “defining” . . .
Good ole Webster states that “to define” is: “to determine or identify the essential qualities or meaning of”[1]

Yesterday Scott and I spent the day in Gettysburg.
Walking the roads and area where tens of thousands of men gave their lives so that people could have their freedom.
Well, I guess it wasn’t “people’” because some “people” already had their freedom.
I should write,
“Walking the roads and areas where tens of thousands of men gave their lives so that black people could have their freedom.”

 

But it makes my stomach churn to type the word “black.”

Why do we have to label people by the color of skin?

I’ll never forget a “Theology and Ethics” professor telling my seminary class that if we had to “clarify” a label for a person by color or skin, gender, race, sexual orientation, socio economic status, or any other “qualifier,”
then we were exhibiting our own version of racism.
At first we all sat in silence; then we put our heads together murmuring the same things . . . .
How DARE he!?!?!?! Not us! We are good Christian people, so there’s no way WE are racists?!?!?!?!

Then we argued out loud . . .
“That’s not true. We just use those words as adjectives so that others can know what we are talking about.”

Following those remarks I learned perhaps the greatest lesson ever . . .
“Adjectives, really? That’s an excuse. It quantifies and qualifies people. And it is wrong.”

The lesson he taught was this:

If the words weren’t displaying prejudice or elitism, then we would use a qualifier for everyone.
For instance, how often do we phrase it like this?
“Oh, she is standing next to the white person over there.”
“I was sitting on the bus when a straight man sat down beside me.”
“The normal weight guy was beside me on the plane so I didn’t have to worry about not having enough room for the flight.”

 

Sometimes I think our statements are more like . . .
“Oh, she is standing next to the Mexican over there.” (fill in the blank w/ ethnicity or skin color)
“I was sitting on the bus when a gay man sat down beside me.”
“The fat guy was beside me on the plane so I didn’t have to worry about not having enough room for the flight.”

 

Yesterday – the first quote I read as we walked through the door still resonates in my mind,

“The Civil War put an end to slavery; yet even today we still struggle in trying to define what it means to be an American.”
Ah . . . define.
“To identify the essential qualities/meaning” does not mean attaching an identity to something or someone BY some type of label. That is a very different thing!

 

“Freedom, like power, will always be contested.” –Abraham Lincoln

 

Today I was reminded in poignant ways, freedom has yet to be gained for so many.
I have been given many privileges in this life just because of “who I am” or what I was born into.

White. Upper middle-class. Educated.

 

However, and I don’t normally get on the “woman” platform, but there are challenges we ALL face because of our gender. Men who are being kind are often times seen as chauvinist. Women who are strong are often times seen as bitchy (forgive the word, but it is one I have heard in reference to women in leadership).

 

I can’t help but wonder what would happen if we stopped with our labels and worked on defining . . .

 

Mainly – perhaps we could define what it means to be people of any race, gender, sexual orientation, class and still be people that are totally, one-hundred percent FREE.

 

The Apostle Paul wrote on several occasions that “all who were in Christ” were one body. No distinction that would keep people OUT of the Kingdom of God – not slave or free, male or female, Jew or Greek.

 

I wonder how I can find ways to no longer use “separators” but can instead find ways to make all people feel included. And free to BE.

[1] https://www.google.com/search?q=definition+of+defining&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8