Gena Raymond explains why Labels are what holds us back from being All that we truly are.
I never really thought about what race I was until I moved to America. Until then, I just thought of myself as being Trinidadian. I didn’t mind the constant questions about my heritage and I still don’t. I welcome genuine curiosity. However, I do not like being pigeonholed.
The feeling of being forced to choose only one race to represent my entirety is encountered every time I have to fill out a form. I feel like none and all of those boxes describe me, yet I’m required to pick just one. Which part of myself do I uphold as the sum of me and which ones do I deny? Why should I have to choose?
When I heard Raven-Symone’s recent interview with Oprah, I understood exactly what she meant when she said she didn’t wish to be labeled as gay or African-American. She explained that she had experienced interest in both boys and girls as a preteen. She also explained that she has ties to many races and considers herself an American. Yet, she still received intense backlash for her comments.
If we take issue with her statements, maybe we need to look at the filter through which we are viewing the world, especially when it comes to race and sexuality.
In America, anyone with African roots is described as African-American regardless of their other ancestry. Historically, some people denied their African roots if they were light skinned enough to “pass” because of the repercussions, so this is still a hot button issue for many people. However, if people try to listen to Raven-Symone’s interview with a neutral ear, I think they will see that this was not her intention. She was not denying her African roots; she just does not see why she should be defined by them while overlooking other aspects of her background.
I’m no expert on human sexuality, but I also did not take issue with her not wanting to be called gay. It’s my understanding that we all fall somewhere on a spectrum of sexuality rather than in rigidly labeled mutually exclusive compartments. Raven-Symone proudly stated she’s in a partnership with a woman. She was not denying her sexuality. She was denying society’s labels and all the baggage we bring with them when ascribing them to others and ourselves.
Maybe Raven-Symone is onto something. I think the conversation around her interview is a necessary one. It’s causing us to reflect on how we came up with these labels, what they mean to us personally and as a society, and whether it’s time to do away with them altogether.