There is an old adage that says that war sometimes must be had so that we can have peace.
I’ve been at war, but not in the conventional sense of the word. In place of projectiles furiously whizzing by and explosions enveloping me. I had to contend with an ethereal force that I was oblivious to as it assailed my mental faculties. It was dangerous, but it had no form which made it all the more sinister.
Labels… Are tantamount to being confined in a 8×10 cell without any prospect for release.
The world that we live in is defined by labels that we subconsciously embrace because it is easier than pulling back the layers of the human experience, to understand, to find the ties that bind us all.
I’ve alluded to the power of words time and again, but often I feel as if the reality of their power rings hollow to those who could truly benefit from the revelation.
Coming of age on the Northwest side of Chicago in the latter half of the 1970’s through the early 1990’s, I found myself overwhelmed by the labels that threatened to suffocate me.
I often found it difficult to cope with being placed into a box of sorts, I resented the notion of being so easily defined when the labels were so far off the mark.
Ghetto, Hood, Thug were some of the adjectives that I was burdened with, despite the fact that none of them fit the person that I was, I fumed and pushed back with anger rather than wisdom.
One of my many “come to Jesus moments” came in the form of something that my Grandmother would always say, but this time something clicked.
“You can’t be worried about people that don’t know any better, you’ve got to get off your rump and do something.”
And I did… I decided to evolve, I resigned myself to being more than “Black kid” and the connotations that came with it. There was a depth that was to be had when I cast off that label, among countless others that were slowly eroding my foundation, I discovered clarity that had eluded me up to that point.
My war against labels and their expectations ended quite sometime ago, but that is not to say that I am without the scars.
I can honestly say that I made it, but it is a journey that is never ending.
As I walk and the ideas and experiences start to percolate, the solace that I frequently find myself in is a quick reminder that I have to continually reject labels to finally have some semblance of peace.
This war is lost if I allow someone the power to define me, but I can’t help but to wonder about those who are still burdened under the untenable weight of labels. Who speaks for them if their label deems that they have no value?