Today I woke up with a totally different idea of what to write, I was going to write a poem. A poem on the different curves and turns we take on life’s journey, curves that deceive us into thinking we have moved onto a different path. In reality, however, the path remains the same; our minds and souls change attracting different people, different circumstances. With each new addition, the path takes on a new form: it becomes rocky, smoother, broader, and narrower. We get delayed, we get propelled. We get re-tagged and reconfigured – eternally changed, essentially the same. But the path – the path stays the same. That is the crux of the poem I intended to write, but then I read something that veered me slightly off-course, it focused my mind on life and its numerous tags for everything under the sun.

Our world has become a chaotic maze, with no signals, landmarks or arrows pointing in the right direction. Sometimes I feel it’s more like doing your shopping in a massive supermarket with no aisle labels, no semblance of organization for products on display i.e. no price tags, no labels, no information on allergies or contents. Basically, mayhem on display and under those circumstances my mind starts to wonder are tags and labels really horrible things in themselves or is it the interpretation that ruins the tag?

Please do not misunderstand me, but in a world almost bent on imploding itself won’t it be nice to know what wires to avoid? There will always, always be tags for everything in life.

‘Tag: a label attached to someone or something for the purpose of identification or to give other information.’

Tags can be positive or negative, misguiding or informative, complimentary or derogatory. Trying to avoid them completely in order to be politically correct or encourage harmony is similar to trying to navigate a maze without drawing a map or directions to trace your steps back.  Tags like generalizations can be very confining, boxing people into corners they don’t fit into naturally. Blacks, whites, gay, straight, minority group, majority group, breast-feeder, bottle feeder etc, are all tags.

Tags become a problem when:

•    They blind the speaker to the potentials of their target

•    When the speaker ignores the obvious and depends on associated myths to judge the target.

•    When they are designed to humiliate or insult

•    When the target takes them up without thought or worse when they adopt it against their true individuality.

 

If I gave a child the above picture to color in and they painted it purple, has it in any way changed the true color of the flower in the garden? The color used is simply a reflection of the child’s mind at that moment. A tag takes on the life of its speaker and the reaction of its target. When someone refers to me as a colored person, I often wonder do colorless people exist.

I know it’s a difficult thing to do, to try looking past the labels. History has damaged a lot of words for us, our anger and failure to see the coward behind those derogatory tags prevents us from seeing ourselves as we truly are ‘humans on an exodus’. Hiding behind the illusion of political correctness equally doesn’t help, address the underlying issues put everyone on a level playing field. We need to erase the tag based system of treating people.

Secondly, people constantly seek to be accepted for who they are this includes individuals, families, and nations. We all crave acceptance devoid of judgement, but we must be careful to differentiate between judge and self-assertion. Freedom of expression is key; people should be able to express delight or displeasure over any issue, as long as this expression does not harbor emotional, physical or mental abuse. Restricting people’s freedom of expression gives room for the Donald’s’ of this world to shine as beacons of hope to those with similarly repressed views. Repression, No! Tactful expression, Yes! And this goes for both minority and majority groups over any discourse.

Why do we find certain tags offensive or threatening under certain circumstances, but don’t mind them under others? When Beyonce sang the song ‘who runs the world?’, women everywhere cheered, men moaned, some cheered. And when her song ‘formation’ a tribute to her heritage was released, a different kind of divide emerged, with blacks cheering and whites hissing (some whites not all). See my point there? There will always be divides, it only becomes a problem when people try to lord their side of the divide over others. For example, an individual who believes in herbal therapies insisting a doctor treats him using those methods. Both methods are often times incompatible and their process of application varies widely.

Everyone deserves the right to speak and uphold their identities (minority and majority groups alike). And sometimes we have to scream to have our voices heard, but when we start to shout down the other person, who is merely different but isn’t trying to harm us, we initiate an unfair balance. The black lives matter cry is not a figure of speech for other lives don’t matter, the gay people cannot get married in a church is not an expression of homophobia, the call for gender equality is not a call for toppling the ancient ways of life. They are calls to society to respect the rights of another, to note the boundaries of peace wherein you’ve your respect and another has theirs.

There’s always someone on your side. The minority tugs twice as hard because they fight against institutions that existed eons ago. For the individual who does not have these challenges, don’t go into the streets with a chip on your shoulder ignorant of others present pain or ready to pick a fight to assert your position in life. Know what stand to take, when to take a stand and when to stand down.

We must learn to respect each other’s individuality. Tags will forever remain a part of life especially in a world as big and diverse as ours. We should seek to increase our level of tolerance rather than policing the actions of another. Our chosen beliefs have a way of driving us passionately forward into the different realm, but we must be careful to temper passion with respect for another’s individuality.

The world was not made for ‘one man’ and ‘one man’ cannot by himself inspire the world. How we handle these issues determine whether we end up as victors or as bleeding fighters of a worthy cause. I do not write this as someone who has totally adapted the one global community spirit, far from it. I write as one who wants to pursue her path without the added consequences of a wrong re-tag.

#Don’t tag me wrong.

Published by Chioma Nwafor