Moving away from classifications

Danielle Zukowski

For some reason, people seem to fixate on categorizing things. Maybe that’s our form of understanding. We seem to want to be able to explain something with one word: a label. A label that soon comes to define us. But things can’t always be defined as one extreme or the other. And when they can’t, maybe this frustration builds internally. We don’t exactly know what to make of things that can’t be products of snap judgments.

In the past, being anything deviant of ‘normal’ resulted in discrimination. It still does, though not as heavily. This may just be the era of diversity. We are learning to broaden our minds and slowly expand our perspective.

We have this need to describe someone, for example, as gay or straight, male or female. Both sexuality and gender were considered very concrete concepts in the past. It’s hard to fathom this categorization as a spectrum. The book “Every Day” by David Levithan examines this phenomenon in sorts.

The author never uses personal pronouns in regards to the main character, which is extremely difficult to do. The protagonist is not even given a name. The nameless, genderless character becomes a different person everyday and is just as equally acceptant of taking on one gender, race or sexuality as the next. It’s an intriguing concept. Even in describing the book. I have trouble deciding what to refer to the protagonist as. But after reading “Every Day,” I’ve begun to understand the intricacies of our restrictive perspectives.

Another way labels have affected us is in discerning nature from impact. It’s hard to believe someone that had such a great influence on racial equality could commit adultery. Or that a relentless dictator could have a passion for art. How could someone so inspiring do something so devastating? How could someone so hateful create anything worth admiring?

These dichotomy between good and evil build obstacles in forming a reaction toward someone. It forces us to reflect on some philosophical questions. Is it socially acceptable to listen to a song written by someone who is abusive? Is someone who commits violence also capable of producing something beautiful? We can’t seem to make sense of things like that.

Everyone can’t fit perfectly in the little boxes we create. We truly are all just humans. Yet we hold people to such high expectations. They can’t possibly be one thing if they are another. We’re just so quick to let one thing reflect everything about a person. Whether it be a classification, an event, an appearance, a word…It just blinds us to everything else.

This tendency to form divisions, sometimes even subconsciously, is further limiting every very narrow perspective. Each time we shove someone in a box, we lose something: diversity, complexity and opportunity. An opportunity to gain insight that is vital for progress. Value can arise from surprising sources. Shutting doors minimizes exposure.