When Sally Ride passed away last year, I remember reading a headline announcing that she had confirmed that she was gay shortly before her passing. Recently, there was a big to-do about Jody Foster at some awards show. (Sorry, I don’t watch them so I’m not sure which it was.)
I wish we were evolved enough as a civilization that we didn’t keep labeling people unnecessarily, whether by color, gender, race, sexual identity, handicap … whatever. Sure, there are times when a description is helpful, such as describing a bad guy: “He was about 6’, with jeans, gray shirt, ruddy skin tone and shaggy hair.” But we use labels when they aren’t necessary, such as the Sally Ride announcement. It seems that if she announced her preference, then, for equality’s sake, every other astronaut should announce theirs, too. Or imagine every entertainer, director, writer, etc., at awards shows going on stage and announcing their religion, race, preference, etc. Every time I hear the term “black president,” I cringe. He’s the American president of the American people, period. Let’s not separate him with a label. (Besides, he’s actually half-white and half-black, as if that makes any difference, either. He could just as easily be labeled a white president or bi-racial president; I don’t know why people label him as a black president … or use any label at all.)
All those labels don’t really matter. Does the person do a good job at what they do? Do they treat others well? Are they kind and thoughtful? These things matter, not the amount of pigment in their skin or who they love. (Love is a beautiful thing and should be celebrated.) I cringe when I read a news report where skin color is mentioned when it’s not relevant to the story. I cringed when an acquaintance wrote about her granddaughter being hassled by a schoolmate … and she felt compelled to mention his skin color.
If society pressures anyone to announce anything that labels and separates them, then they should require it of all. Can you imagine me introducing myself to you as a Spanish/French/German/Apache Catholic with Zen Buddhist leanings, some spinal issues that make movement difficult, blah, blah, blah? If you’re telling your story and including background information, that’s one thing, but for society to want people to make announcements … well, I sure do hope we evolve beyond that at some point and understand how irrelevant it really is.
I’ve felt very strongly about this for so many years, that I find that I often don’t notice the things that separate us. I try to look at who the person is—their Divine within—and I sometimes fail to note their physical appearance. Does Marsha have light skin? Are John’s eyes round or slanted? I fail to note these sometimes. Don’t know and don’t care, unless we’re talking about cultural issues that are pertinent to a discussion.
Buddhist teachings encourage us to observe, but not judge. Let us all simply be kind and accepting of one another. Let’s drop the unnecessary labels and just celebrate our shared oneness.