Labels are Lazy and Dangerous

I don’t think labeling people is helpful for critical thinking. I don’t like to label myself, I don’t like when people label me, and I don’t like labeling others. People are more than a political persuasion.

Liberal? Conservative? Democrat? Republican? These dichotomies are not helpful for exploring nuance and gaining new perspective.

Labels are not helpful for evaluating the quality of contents or substance of a person’s words and ideas and actions.

If someone is a “liberal” and I happen to agree with some of their ideas, that doesn’t make me a liberal.

If someone is a “conservative” and I happen to agree with some of their ideas, that doesn’t make me a conservative.

Labels are an easy way to navigate the world. They’re a convenient heuristic which allow our preconceived snap judgements to be projected onto others in an effort to control what they mean to us.

But it’s intellectually lazy. Calling someone by a label prevents us from engaging with new perspective and fresh ideas. The label allows us to have to figured out already. It’s a form of prejudice. We don’t have to engage when we label people or ideas.

The world is not black and white. It’s full of depth, of gray, of color. People are not good or bad. People are not liberal or conservative. People are not smart or dumb. People are not lazy or hardworking. There is context, there is nuance, there are idiosyncrasies.

People don’t belong in a box. You don’t. I don’t. Populations of individuals don’t. It’s dangerous to label an entire population of individuals to a single descriptive label. It’s dangerous, it’s dehumanizing, it’s lazy. It’s a tool of control. It’s undemocratic. Individual humans, constituting their lived experience, their personal history, their self-generated ideas, their unique relationships embedded within a network of other humans, cannot be generalized by some crude categorization and reduced to a mere label.

That is the most dehumanizing tool of all.

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