In response to a youtube video Keola tries to tackle the question, “Who am I if I’m not labeled?”
“I am not Black.”
These are the first words that comes out of Richard Williams mouth as his video dives into the power of labels in our lives. He uses a powerful metaphor comparing our bodies to cars and that the color of our skin is just the model we were given. We are more then just the model of our car. What’s inside is who we truly are.
With poetic grace he poses a powerful question, “Who would you be if the world never gave you a label?”
These words has caused me to reflect and ask myself two questions:
How do labels affect my life?
Growing up I accepted many of the negative stereotypes about Hawaiians. It didn’t help that my father would pronounce himself Hawaiian while doing criminal activities. My father’s example told me that Hawaiians were lazy, selfish, angry and abusive. This is what I thought it meant to be Hawaiian. This is why I desperately clung to my Japanese heritage thinking it was the reason why I had good grades in school and the potential to succeed in life.
Living in this duality caused me to struggle when I went to college because like many other college students I was ill prepared for the workload. So as I did my best to stay afloat I couldn’t help but recognize who was excelling in my class. Of course it was students that looked Asian and White. This observation crippled my confidence as I blamed my Hawaiian side for my poor grades.
It wasn’t until I transferred to another college that I was given the opportunity to meet a strong Hawaiian role model that destroyed the notions I held about what it meant to be Hawaiian. I was able to take a class from a Native Hawaiian teacher who was a practicing lawyer and loving father. He didn’t seem to fit the mold I was given and that started to melt away the hardness I had toward my Hawaiian ancestry.
Then I started to learn more about the history of my people, which wasn’t taught in depth at my high school history class. I was shocked to learn how educated my people were and that at one point we were one of the most literate people in the world. These types of historical facts and Hawaiian models gave me a deeper understanding of what it meant to be Hawaiian. I know now that being labeled as one doesn’t put me at a disadvantage but why did I let in the first place.
Who would I be if I wasn’t labeled?
This question is hard to wrap my mind around because when you think about it we have been given more then one label. For instance, my labels could be Hawaiian, Japanese, Filipino, Male, Mormon, Depressed, Father and Husband. These are all labels that tell us how we should act. You can see from my list how hard it can get to figure out where I start and end but that won’t stop me from trying.
Who am I?
I’m a person that loves to consume and express myself through stories. I watch movies to disconnect with the craziness of our world and yet I can still be moved by a film that reminds me of my human condition. I enjoy the smell of barbecue in the crisp fresh air while the sun sets on a perfect evening with family and friends. I want to be guided by my heart and not be forced to do things no matter how good they may be. I want to help children who are struggling with abusive and addicted parents. I want to make a difference.
I’m a human being that wants to be loved for who he is and not what others want him to be.
In the end you have the power to control your labels. No matter what you’ve been labeled with you can overcome it. You can choose to see the positive aspects of your labels and ignore the negative ones. You can choose to look past the labels you’ve given for others and work at getting to know someone.
Labels don’t have to define you. You are in control of your own label and once you’re able to grasp that you can become the author of your own story.
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Photo: Youtube/Prince Ea