The Concept of Label and How it Negatively Affects the Society

free essayLabels are things or terms that are used in categorizing a given group that has common characteristics. In the society, human beings label different things such as clothing brands, food products, personal items, file folders and people. When labels are used they are associated with certain type of images, connotations, stigmas, stereotypes and characteristics. Racial labels have continued to change over time. Early in the 19th century and in the 20th century the common label that was used was “colored” but later it was changed to “Negro” which was used up to the late 1960’s. Thereafter, the latter was replaced with the term “black” and this was the label that was most preferred and was used for a long period until it was replaced with the current “African American”. The term “black” is mostly used in contrast to that of “white.” It was very widespread and was widely used until 1988, when Ramona Hoage Edelin, who was the president of National Urban Coalition, suggested that the term should be changed to the “African American”, and it was widely accepted; therefore, it replaced the term “black.”

In the year 1985, Juanita Jewel Shanks Craft argued that it was not fair to use the term “black” since it denied those who were labeled by it ethnic respect that they deserved to have. In the late 1980s, there was a campaign for the replacement of the term “black” with the “African American”. During it several leaders such as Jesse Jackson supported the movement of recognizing the blacks and their cultural identification (Anglin & Whaley, 2006).

Negative Effects of Labels on the Society

Despite the fact that people use race and ethnicity synonymously, these two terms are separated when it comes to labeling. Ethnic variations, on the one hand, are brought about by genetics, and, therefore, they cannot be changed by the society. On the other hand, race is a label that is socially constructed and, in most cases, it is based on the color of skin and the appearance of an individual. Labeling affects the society negatively because it is one of the forms of oppressing and discriminating people. In addition, the racial prejudice that is based on it brings about a negative association with the universal label that is used. In schools, students who are labeled as they considered being from the minority groups experience issues such as alienation and isolation which, in turn, affects their performance and achievement of their academic goals. In addition, according to research that has been done in the colleges, it has been observed that the level of retention of the black students in colleges is lower when compared to the minorities that are enrolled in different colleges (Anglin & Whaley, 2006). Therefore, cultural experiences affect the adjustment of the students and those of them who are well-adjusted are successful in attaining the college level while the others drop out of the school due to labeling.

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In addition, there are no white academic institutions that support the Afrocentric principles and those students who are labeled as black. Since labeling affects people negatively, it is imperative to have more flexible approaches to racial issues in educational establishments, because it makes individuals be connected with cultural groups and makes it easier for one to adjust to a predominantly white or a mixed race setting. It also helps students in various institutions to develop a sense of belonging and attachment to a given school or college. Due to these negative effects of labeling, it is also imperative for educational establishments to put into considerations cultural factors, especially when it comes to counseling with the aim of bettering the students’ performance (Anglin & Whaley, 2006). Eliminating racial labeling should be implemented in institutions to overcome the negative effects of the phenomenon.

Labeling can also make people not believe in themselves. For example, the term “black” makes the students believe in negative racial stereotypes. Due to this, performing well in different areas becomes a challenge for these students since they believe that they are weaker when compared to those from other races such as the “whites” and the “Indians.” Students are likely to end up internalizing the ideas and, as a result, they feel less confident and competent, especially when they are around ethnically diverse groups dominated by the whites. In cases where institutions tend to use labels that the students associate with the negative stereotypes, there is a likelihood of developing a negative relationship between the student and the establishment (Sellers & Shelton, 2003). This disconnect might be the root that will make the students develop a lower self-esteem and, finally, fail to advance in the college system.

Labeling can bring about hatred and animosity in the society. Due to this phenomenon, other people feeling inferior to others might bring hatred and wrangles to human interactions. As a result, this will disrupt peace. In addition, labeling can bring about the unequal distribution of resources in the society. Moreover, it causes people to consider themselves to be inferior to the others and this, in turn, makes them not fight for their rights of getting basic necessities such as healthcare and education (Anglin & Whaley, 2006). Labeling can also hinder economic development in the society. This can be due to people concentrating on segregating others instead of working together with all the individuals from different ethnic backgrounds with the main aim of improving the economic development.

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Labeling as not a Deviant Behavior

Instead of labeling being considered a deviant behavior in the society, it has been regarded as a normal thing and there are even those who have gone ahead to support this concept. Those who support the phenomenon and do not deem it to be a deviant conduct argue that labels are used to describe the origin of a given population. For example, those people who are labeled as “Indians” come from India, and those who are labeled as “African Americans” come from Africa. They further argue that the term “black” that is associated with the term “Negro” and this type of labeling is important since it holds consensus both in the United Kingdom and in the United States and this can be considered a socially and historically lasting conception. However, those who support the usage of this labeling are not aware of the effects that it has on those individuals who are labeled (Phelps, Taylor, & Gerard, 2001). The latter have failed to achieve success in several fields since they end up considering themselves to be inferior when compared to other people. Therefore, the usage of the term “black” should be considered to be a deviant behavior in the society since it brings about several negative effects as compared to no positive influences it has.

The use of the label “African American” is also not considered to be a deviant behavior but is accepted in the in society. Those who support the usage of this term argue that using it is not wrong since it is only used to refer to those people who have an African ancestral origin. Some individuals associate this label with the descendants of those who were brought as slaves. The supporters also claim that using the term signifies a certain geographical origin and a cultural group (Niven & Zilber, 2000). However, these individuals do not put into consideration the effects that using of this term brings to the affected people, since it is still associated with slaves. Consequently, those who are labeled are still considered to have the characteristics of slaves which have influenced their position in the community when compared to other predominant groups. Therefore, to overcome these implications, it is imperative to consider labeling to be a deviant behavior in the society.

Labeling Makes People Discriminated, Prejudged and Stigmatized

Labeling has had adverse effects on those who are labeled. This is because this process discriminates people and prejudges them. Research has shown that those individuals who are labeled end up being stigmatized. For example, those people who are labeled using the term “African American” are associated with slaves; therefore, predominant communities consider them to be less competitive (Boatswain & Lalonde, 2000). As a result, the affected individuals believe in this stereotype and fail to fight for their rights to getting equal education, healthcare and other important services and, therefore, they are discriminated in these significant fields.


Despite the fact that labeling affects people negatively and prevents them from achieving their goals in life, there are some individuals who argue that using this concept is not a deviant behavior in the society, since it associates people persons with their cultural backgrounds. However, labeling discriminates people in such important sectors as healthcare and education. Therefore, it is imperative for the international community to come together and fight against this vice.

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