by Adrian Gale
Let me first preface this note by saying that I have nothing against African Americans. But as a social scientist I just find the phenomenon of labeling, especially in the American context, to be very interesting. Let’s face it, everything in this country has a label! If you are not conservative or liberal, left wing or right wing, republican or democrat you are out of the loop. It seems that nothing can exist without a label, and if one does not subscribe to an existing label, one is re-labeled. Case in point, before I came to Morehouse College I was unaware of my “blackness”. I have always considered myself a Barbadian first; the fact that I was black was inconsequential. For this reason I never considered myself either in the majority or the minority. However, so called African Americans are constantly reminded of their minority status and my being clumped into this group, and therefore immediately being labeled as a minority is to say the least, upsetting.
But before I continue I think that it is only appropriate that I discuss this idea of labeling or at least my understanding of it as it applies to the so called African American community. So here we go. Labeling theory focuses on the linguistic tendency of majorities (namely Caucasians) to negatively label minorities (everyone else) or those seen as deviant from norms. The theory is concerned with how the self-identity and behavior of individuals may be determined or influenced by the terms used to describe or classify them, and is associated with the concept of a self-fulfilling prophecy and stereotyping. i.e. If the descendants of African slaves continue to see themselves and call themselves African Americans they are engaging in a self defeating behavior. I am not suggesting that they deny their African heritage but build on it. Easier said than done.
My suggestion is, in America, if one considered oneself as simply American then there would be no minorities or majorities. This I admit this is very idealistic, but maybe it could be a good discussion point.
Our guest writer Adrian Gale hails from Inch Marlow, Christ Church, Barbados. Currently a senior at the historic Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, his immediate aspirations include pursuit of graduate studies in Developmental Psycholoy. Adrian enjoys taking long walks on the beach and listening to the vibes of Beres Hammond.