Shifting Away from Social Identities and Categories

Here with in the United States, there is growing demand for a societal change in how we currently conceptualize and value social labels. Social labels are seen as valuable because it allows us to easily identify, associate, and group people who share a social label. However the grouping of individuals based on their label into social groups like race and gender have been the justification for the perpetuation of systematic oppression for centuries. The oppression each social group faces varies in form and severity dependent on how marginalized that group has been from mainstream society. At a young age we all have been taught to place individuals who seemingly share commonalities and attributes with each other into socially constructed groups like gender and race. By attaching social labels to individuals through the use of terms like men and women or African American and Latinx American, we are able to better distinguish between differing social groups. However this habit of socially categorizing people also allows us to begin to develop implicit biases towards them. These implicit biases have been continuously reinforced through the systematic sorting of individuals based on their social identity and is reflected in current discriminatory societal norms. Such as sexist gender differences like the perception men are more capable than women, or that certain racial groups are less cognitively agile than others.

However, as society progresses towards social inclusivity, there’s also the realization that the special attributes attached to individual’s social labels have no merit; that we have been socialized to believe the differences between social groups are so significant. So, in the attempt to enhance societal social inclusivity, there is an increasing push to devalue social categorization. Dr. Becky Bigler a developmental psychologist, spent 30 years examining why we specifically as children develop stereotypes and prejudice. Ze’s result revealed that prejudice and stereotypes are some of the byproducts to systemic social categorization. In a speech at Muhlenberg College in Fall 2091, Dr. Bigler stated that the constant acknowledgement of social group like gender and race prime us to develop stereotypes towards those social groups as another attempt at distinguish people. Ze’s research inspired hir to stop using pronouns, and to recommend that society devalue social labels and groups; to stop using labels like men, women, African America, and Indigenous American. Doing so will, according to Dr. Bigler, prevent the development of stereotypes around those groups. As a person with a marginalized identity, I can see the benefits to the devaluation of social labels as another attempt to dismantle oppression and foster inclusivity. However, one component of social groups I believe is an important is shared history, as result of system oppression. Social groups have built an identity around the shared history, but that bring me to the question. How would cessation of the use in social label undermine the unique history of those social group in how they identify today?