This I Believe

Kevin - Birmingham, Alabama
Entered on July 25, 2007

When I was in high school, like many young people, I struggled to find my identity. I needed to find my sexual identity, my political identity, and my racial identity. I needed to know if I was truly a man, whether I was liberal, moderate, or conservative; whether I was black, African-American or something else altogether. I never could quite put my finger on the perfect label. Only recently did I realize the truth about my identity. I learned an important thing about finding the correct label: there is no such thing. I’m me, and that’s it. I believe in the complete and utter detachment from ALL labels. I believe that labels rob me of my individuality.

Now, I know I have the Y-chromosome, sure, but what makes a man, a man? What do people mean when they say “You’re not man enough”? How’s it possible for a genetically male human being to not be ‘man enough’? What are the qualities of a “man”? Well, I’ve learned from countless commercials that men drink beer. And everyone knows that men watch football. I watch football too, but I realized that the reason I watched football was, well, because I like football. Not because I was a man.

The political aspect was even more difficult to tackle. What exactly is a ‘liberal’ or a ‘conservative’? I know that liberals tend to favor things like affirmative action and gay marriage. And I favor gay marriage; but it’s not because I’m a liberal, that has nothing to do with it. It’s because I believe people should have the same rights, regardless of their sexual orientation.

The hardest thing for me to figure out was my racial identity. I could see that my skin was closer in color to those who identified with being “black”, but I wasn’t convinced that skin color alone could dictate whether or not someone was black or not. Maybe there were cultural differences. I remembered being left out of a discussion that some of my ‘white’ friends were having about Kurt Cobain, because they didn’t think a ‘black’ guy would be interested in a rock musician; and hey, maybe a lot of ‘black’ guys wouldn’t be interested. I noticed that many people who considered themselves ‘black’ tend to prefer listening to rap and hip hop music over rock. I listen to rap music myself. But that, I noticed, had nothing to do with my racial identity, I just like rap.

I don’t want to be known as a liberal black man, because I’m not a liberal, black, or a man. Those words don’t even begin to do my (or any person’s) unique, complex character any sort of justice. I like football, but I hate beer. I’m for gay marriage, but against affirmative action. I like rap music, but Nevermind is my favorite album of all time. Sometimes labels get it right, but they get it wrong at the very same time.

I’m like most people, I don’t want to be stereotyped; and accepting a label, any label; from ‘black’, to ‘liberal’, and even ‘man’ is also accepting a host of affiliated stereotypes. I want to be known for who I am, what I believe, and what I do. That, nothing more, and nothing less.