BY HEIBER BAEZ
A while ago, a friend asked me if I was “emo” and said, “Sorry, it’s just that all that black -- I assumed you needed help with something.”
If a friend of mine assumed such things, then what would stop a stranger from assuming this and thinking I’m someone to avoid? Whenever a person talks a certain way or wears certain clothes, people find it necessary to label them and place them in a social box. For me, the experience revolves around the “emo” label. Appearance is what people usually focus on when they assume such things: the black clothing, the hair, the nails. Just like gangster rap culture, it began as a music genre and became way out of control for some people. In most cases, whenever someone assumes these things, they tend to stray away from the individual. The question, “Is everything ok?”, for example, may simply stem from good intentions, but it’s still a problem when questions like these are asked constantly. Maybe some think they’re preventing self-harm of some sort, but making assumptions about a person's mental state based on their appearance isn’t the right way to help someone.
It’s common for kids to form their own cliques and labels in high school based on clothing, attitude, or general social capabilities. It’s a dumb concept to me; why not hang around people who you like, who are just good people all around, instead of limiting yourself to people that look or act like you? “Emo” is honestly just another degrading label to me, just as “thug” may be to any African American male who may “dress like one” according to the ignorant, but is most likely just a regular student like myself who happens to dress a certain way. Labeling is a form of oppression. A big reason why many white people “fear” African Americans is because of the way they’re portrayed in media: they’re seen as brutes and thugs, but that’s a falsified perception. While being called “emo” is not as severe a problem for me as being called a “thug” might be for African Americans, I believe it’s still an issue.
Although there are people who feel like these labels are part of their identity and find comfort with being part of a group, there are still many like me who don’t relate to these labels. There have been many influences in my life which can be described as “gothic” that have moved me to dress and think certain way. However, I’ve never felt like I’m completely described by these labels. When you embrace these labels, you are empowering the ignorant and you shouldn’t allow yourself to be subdued and degraded by ignorance. I find it important for people to reserve judgement and actually know a person before assuming he or she is “emo”, “a thug”, or any other labels out there. We spend so much time looking for so many ways people are different instead of looking at how we’re all connected.