I’ve been wondering, what are social labels and are they similar to slave owners? Without them would we be a different world? What would we be if we were all called “humans” without any other tags? Theories, such as the Labeling Theory, developed over time explaining why labels are given to groups or a single person. The theory was first presented by Howard Becker. As an American sociologist, he contributed to the sociology of deviance, art, and music. The Labeling Theory focuses on the concepts of deviance.
“In sociology, labeling theory is the view of deviance according to which being labeled as a “deviant” leads a person to engage in deviant behavior.” (CheggStudy).
Basically, if someone does something out of the social norms then they are labeled. Social labels are frequently assigned in our lives, and have been growing ever since the first civilizations of the world. They can be seen by past slavery, modern slavery, and with all of the categories of people we have today and how we try to make a change.
This video, has a simple explanation of the Labeling Theory and how it relates to the modern conflicts, such as marijuana.
Social Labeling does not only exist in the lives of the modern era, but it existed ever since the beginning of civilization in order to create what seems like a stable system of life. Out of this system may come slavery, which is a clear example of social labeling. Because of skin, class, or culture, people were forced into slavery. A primary source, and first-hand experience on slavery , would be Frederick Douglass’s autobiography. In his time period, Africans were placed in the lowest section of the civilization scale, very close to the animals.
“We were all ranked together at the valuation men and women, old and young… with horses sheep and swine,” (Douglass, 58).
Even when Douglass became a “free” man he was chained to his ethnicity.
“I contracted for it, I earned it; it was paid to me; it was rightfully my own; yet, upon each returning Saturday night, I was compelled to deliver every cent of that money to Master Hugh And why?… not because he had the hand in earning it – not because I owed it to him… but solely because he had the power to compel me to give it up.” (Douglass 125).
To give some context to what is happening, Frederick Douglass has finally gained a small taste of what freedom is. He finally escapes the wrath of the tyrant Covey and is transferred to another master, Hugh. He works in the North in a shipyard where he is a caulker (a person who makes a ship watertight). Douglass is given the opportunity to earn wages like a freeman. However, the downturn of this small taste of freedom, is his payment to Master Hugh. He is stripped away from the wages he worked hard for. With a slim chance, he could keep a very little amount of the wage. All in all, because of his skin being labeled as something different from the social norms, he is still under the oppression of the so-called “dominant” or “normal” race.
Another example, of slavery would be from today. It is surprising to say that we still have slavery in our time period, but it is true because of the “need” to live. Many who are labeled the “lower class” are pushed into laborious jobs. They need money to survive, resulting for everyone in the family to work. This denies the children’s access to education or a chance to achieve their goals and dreams for a successful life. Ravi Shankar Kumar is a boy from India who experienced slavery himself. Parents and cousin brought Kumar into the worst conditions possible for a child. He had to create carpets with only the pay of $10. The job caused bleeding and the introduction to corrupt and cold-hearted bosses. Fortunately, Kumar was taken in and treated, and he now dreams to work with electricity. Now, many try to create solutions to “modern slavery.” Some try to fund for projects that would help stop slavery across the globe. However, these problems cannot easily disappear because of the labels that are placed on specific people. Because they are deemed poor, their solution is to work and others dismiss them and put them aside at the bottom of the social pyramid.
Nowadays, discussion of seeing one another as equal beings increase. Prince Ea, in this video, addresses the issue of labeling. He proves a point that the labeling causes many controversial conflicts and the rise of ideas, such as war, racism, or sexism. Solutions
to this problem of labeling can be treated with a nontangible idea of love, but with the idea being too idealistic to some people, another solution can simply be, stop judging. Without the social labels, our world might not be divided and more connected. In addition, there would be more access for anyone to achieve what they want. Also, the idea of having someone labeled “lesser than you” would disappear. Kumar would not be seen as a tool but rather another human that is working for his family. Work conditions would surely change. Lastly, one other solution would simply to enjoy who you are and enjoy being yourselves with others who enjoy inner qualities rather than external ones. From the CGMeetup, is an animation of a father and son who are themselves and enjoy being deviant from the norm until the social expectations try to chain them back to the “flow of normal.”
Fixing what a person or group of people are accustomed to is very difficult. Social labeling has been around for a long time. In order to end this idea, it will have to come gradually.
“No baby was born racist,” (Prince Ea)
Presented by Prince Ea, we are born without being racist. We can start teaching our kids to accept people who are different. Teach them what we share as a group of people. Each of us have similarities that we may have never noticed. For instance, people don’t think about sharing common music taste or activities such as dancing. Teach our children what we can enjoy doing together rather than doing things online then competing with others. Overall, labels are such a simple concept that can be placed on anything, but are complex in meaning and lethal in representation causing fights about who is right, but it doesn’t matter who or what is right when deep inside we have similarities that we can share. Rather than enslaving each other to a label because of differences, similarities and cooperation should be encouraged.