December 10, 2015
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Having sex makes you a “whore;” being African-American makes you a felon; being Hispanic makes you illegal; being homosexual means you need to be masculine or feminine. This is what society wants us to believe and the previous phrases are not true but only based on stereotypes and stigmas. This “trend” known as labeling has gotten out of control, and the sad thing is that people are actually accepting these labels and believing it defines them.
When people hear the word label the first thing that comes to mind is food or a stereotype. So why should a label define who you are? Truth is a label should not define who you are as a person. What should define a person is their words, actions, beliefs and morals. In sociology, there is a term known as the labeling theory, which is a theory that states that when people are assigned a certain word (label), the person begins to accept it as their true identity. Accepting a label as self identity is one of the many ways that people can be affected by labeling, but what are other ways labeling can affect an individual? King/ Drew students were asked this question and had very interesting responses. For example, Alex Taylor (12th grade) said, “Labeling can start to show on a person and it will eventually spread.” Alexandra Heredia (12th grade) said, “It can make a person feel bad and they will start to compare themselves to others.”
The main thing that leads to labeling is people’s judgments based on either a stigma or a single action. Labeling due to a single action is when a person is labeled based and due to their actions. For example, in sociology (particularly criminal justice), an individual who commits a crime is labeled as a criminal. But should a label based on a single action define you? King/Drew students were asked this former question and senior Alexandra Heredia responded by saying, “Under a certain circumstance, it can lead people to do certain actions; so no.” Nigel Reed (12th grade) was asked the same question and he responded by saying, “No, because people make mistakes”.
Stigmas that society holds for certain groups of people are also a factor of labeling. What is a stigma you may ask? A stigma is defined as a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality or person; in other words an expectation that is derived from a stereotype.There are many stigmas that lead to labeling such as some people who label African-Americans as criminals because of their history, as well as others who label male models as “gay” just because they work in a profession that is predominantly female.
Labeling a person can affect a person in many different ways. It can degrade them, bring their self esteem down, and make them believe that they are what they were labeled. If you are a person that has been affected by the phenomenon known as labeling, keep your head high, do what you always do and begin to prove the label wrong. Stay strong and lose the label!