Stop Labelling Other People!

The US election seems to have brought out the worst in people. Democrats call Republican supporters fascists and racists; Republicans call Democrat supporters communists and anti-American. But this isn’t just happening during election time, nor just in the US, but it seems to be happening all the time and everywhere – people are quick to negatively label others they don’t like and dismiss them completely. I scanned Wikipedia and the broader internet (not recommended!) for common negative stereotypes of different social groupings, here’s what I found:

Men – sexist, toxic
Women – emotional, complainer
Old – homophobic, xenophobic
Young – oversensitive, entitled
White – racist, ignorant
Black – angry, violent
Hispanic/Latino – illegal, lazy
Christian – stupid, irrational
Muslim – terrorist, backward
Atheist – immoral, arrogant

Quite a collection of negative terms! And when a person uses these labels against someone else, it gives them permission not to engage with what the other is saying. For example, when a Trump-supporting pundit on Fox News argues that the mainstream media is biased, the liberal/leftist will just call that person racist or stupid. Yet, if one steps aside from the label and instead engages with the topic, the liberal/leftist would find some truth in the pundit’s argument. Indeed, bias in media is a common argument seen in liberal circles.

The same can be said about a conservative/rightist watching a liberal on CNN arguing that language and speech needs to be policed to reduce racism. Rather than dismissing the liberal as anti-American, the conservative could engage with the topic and agree that the socio-economic circumstance of racial groups does vary, but curtailing speech may only give the veneer of reducing racism, rather than actually reducing it.

Whatever the specifics of any situation, the lazy option is to label the other person, and dismiss their arguments. The wiser path is to dismiss the label and engage with the argument. So whenever you think you’re about to label the other, hold off, and instead listen to the argument!

Bilal

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