In the process of me not doing all the required work I should be doing in grad school, I came across this mildly viral video of Raven-Symoné “denouncing her labels.”
R: ” I don’t want to be labeled gay, I want to be labeled as a human who loves other humans. I don’t want to be labeled African American, just American”
At first I didn’t know how to feel about it. Of course you don’t want labels, especially as a minority in the United States. Being labeled gay in the scheme of privilege takes you to a minority status, that’s just the way this country works. Being black in this country means you do not inherently carry privilege, it means you’ve grown up aware of your racial standing, that’s just how this country works.
Here’s the thing Raven, we cannot escape the labels by denouncing them, nor can we help the current situation by avoiding them. You have a unique opportunity being a gay celebrity, especially an African American one. You can normalize the presence of a gay black woman, you can illuminate the struggles and be a leader. It’s a tough road, one with many obstacles but you could change the lives of so many youth.
Being labeled gay in the same country still fighting for the basic human rights of said group is rough. Believe me I know; accepting your minority status is a tough part of life, especially when you inherited that status already because the melanin in your skin. But the first and essential part of change is making sure that becoming the norm, making ourselves visible, making our struggle visible, will begin the wheels of change.
See Raven, you aren’t the ideal of American; this may come with kickback I know, but you’re not. You are not a white-hetero-male, the group you belong to will not be afforded the same inherent status in the American schema. Regardless if you avoid the labels, the terrible things that happen to those labels still exist. Females still will get paid 77 cents on the dollar to a male, the LGBTQ community is still not recognized nationally as legitimate, African Americans will still have a better chance of going to prison than any other group. We cannot be afforded the unifying label of human until we are actually recognized as one.
Eric R. Anglero
Masters of American Studies, RSCNJ