The Labels We Live With

By Amari D. Pollard

A couple of months ago Raven Symoné sat down to have a candid conversation with Oprah about her past as a childhood star on The Cosby Show and That’s So Raven, as well as the present she now knows.

Symoné has managed to keep her personal life very quiet, but was forced to reveal some private things when Oprah questioned her sexuality. Although reluctant, Symoné did reveal that she is in a happy relationship with her partner, who is a woman. But she made something really clear: she doesn’t want to be labeled as “gay.” In fact, she doesn’t want to be labeled at all. She referred to herself as “a human who loves humans,” as an American instead of an African-American.

That day Raven Symoné set Twitter [and even Oprah] on fire.

A lot, not all, but a lot of people were disturbed by her comments. How could a woman who loves women not be gay? More importantly how could a woman with dark skin and coarse hair not be African American?

Apparently, to most people, even in the year 2014 that thought process is too progressive. I on the other hand think it is beautiful [and I wish it were true for everyone].

The world is made out of tiny little boxes, and we as a society try to fit each individual into their “appropriate” boxes. White, civilized box. Blonde hair, dumb box. Asian, smart box. Raggedy clothes, poor box. Black, ghetto box. It happens every day, every minute, and we do it so often it has become instinctive. You see something new, something unfamiliar; more than likely your first thought is a judgment.

People deal with that everyday. I deal with that everyday. My dark skin tells a tale to people, but that tale rarely ever belongs to me. The other day at a get together someone told me I had to do the most illegal things [whatever that means] because I’m black, insinuating that most black people do criminal things.

There’s a word for that—ignorance. And sadly the world is filled with a lot of it.

My skin is something I can’t hide [and it’s not something I would want to], but when people make ignorant statements or snap judgments that have absolutely no relation to how you are as an individual, you sometimes wish you weren’t so different, that your differences weren’t so noticeable for just one second.

But I am not my skin. I am not the stereotypes that are associated with my skin. You are not your skin. You are not your ethnicity. You are not your hair. You are not your clothes. You are you. So don’t let people tell you what you are.

The world categorizes us enough as it is; there is always a box to check, so why should we feel the need to do it to ourselves?

Raven Symoné’s way of thinking is so far from being wrong. It’s the way society judges and categorizes us that is wrong—in fact, it’s dangerous. That’s the kind of thinking that got Trayvon Martin killed.

Everyday people try to tell you who you’re supposed to be, who you are. Want to know what I say to those people? Something very inappropriate that should not be printed on a blog.

I am whoever the hell I want to be.

I am an American who just so happens to be black…and Jamaican, and Guyanese, and Trinidadian, and Palestinian, and Scottish, and African, and a whole lot of things that I don’t even know about [there is all types of blood running through my veins]. I am educated like the rest of my family. I am a lacrosse player. I am compassionate and smart and sometimes very stubborn.

I am a person. Isn’t that what we all are, just people? And in a world obsessed with defining things and people, I choose not to check your boxes. I’ll just check my own, the one right next to ME.

Picture Courtesy of


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