An Essay On My Experience With Labeling And Diversity.

1456 words - 6 pages

Who am I? What assumptions do people make when they see me? What labels might I pretty much wear across my chest because of the judgments that are made by others on a daily basis due to my appearance? I am blonde and thin on the outside, intelligent and inquisitive on the inside. A Christian, a feminist, a sorority member and a figure drawing model. I am many things, some positive, some negative, some known only by those who have grown up with me, and some widely proclaimed through my actions and words. Despite the myriad of characteristics that make up my unique identity as a person, there are always people who I encounter who attempt to define me and judge me based on qualities that are easily seen and that they think they understand. Our group's activity to better understand diversity was to participate in the Campus Activities Board's publicity of the Jane Elliot lecture on campus. Our part in the publicity was to wear a t-shirt with a label blatantly imposed across it, a label that our society attaches to people with stigma and disdain. We were to wear these shirts one day as we went through our daily routine and take notice of the differences in how people treated us as compared to when we were without the label. My t-shirt read "Addict", Robert's read "Abuser", and Nicole's read "Pregnant". Here is my account of a day in the life of a stigmatized individual and what I subsequently learned about myself.The morning that I decided to wear my t-shirt I found myself hesitating as I slipped the shirt over my head. What would people think when they saw my shirt? Would they think that it was for real; would they look at me differently or think that I was just trying to be funny? Would anyone take offense to it or would I receive those wary stares of people who are just unsure? I can only imagine the questions that must go through an addict's head each morning as he or she prepares to go another day in our society. My identity was plainly spelled out on my t-shirt, but what about the addict who is judged according to his or her past or appearance? Once a label is assessed a person, it is rarely shed. This labeling and stigmatizing that our society does makes it almost impossible to move on from past behaviors and establish new identities. These were just a few of the thoughts as I prepared to go out into the world and challenge the reactions of my peers.The first stop of my day was our Social Work classroom, where no one really noticed my shirt. I am pretty much attributing that to the fact that it was early and we are pretty much beyond the point of reacting to anything this far in the semester. I did think about one classmate and how he felt the first time that he revealed to the class his past with substance abuse. I remember that as an individual I looked at him in a different light after I found out. I always view people who have overcome issues such as addiction as stronger than the average person, and I looked at my classmate with a bit more...

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