During an interview with Oprah Winfrey, the former child star touched on her sexuality and race, categorically rejecting being called gay or African-American.
“I’m tired of being labeled. I want to be labeled a human who loves humans,” Symone said, admitting that she is in love with her partner, who is a woman. “I don’t need language. I don’t need a categorizing statement for it.”
“I’m an American, I’m not an African-American,” the “Cosby Show” star added. “I don’t know where my roots go to. I don’t know what country in Africa I’m from…but I do know my roots are in Louisiana. I’m an American and that’s a colorless person. We are all people. I have lots of things running through my veins.”
While some may see Symone’s colorless, unlabeling as something noble in today’s post-Obama election era, the reality is that her statements are actually quite problematic. Declaring war on labels is somewhat of a trend among the affluent, educated and hipsters of the world; those who use post-racial rhetoric to create some sort of class system in which they are not of the majority, but rather a part of a unique and exclusive club. They are seemingly untouched from the trappings of racism, homophobia and other prejudices.
Rather than accepting a label on her race and sexuality, Symone, 28, would rather see herself as a U.S. citizen who happens to look different.
“I don’t label myself,” she said. “I have darker skin, I have a nice, interesting grade of hair…I connect with Caucasian, I connect with Asian, I connect with Black, I connect with Indian, I connect with each culture.”
And when Winfrey called her a “melting pot in one body,” Symone quickly agreed. “Aren’t we all? Isn’t that what we’re supposed to be?”
Yes, in theory, we are all created and should be viewed as equal. But what Symone seems to have forgotten or overlooked is the fact that in America, people who are deemed “other” are not treated equal under the laws of Government nor by society’s standards. Not when white officers and vigilantes are getting away with murdering Black boys on American soil. Not when trans women and other LGBT people are being beaten and killed on American streets for being who they are.
Simply removing a label doesn’t make any of that disappear.
Maybe in Symone’s wealthy, privileged world, living a life with no labels is an easy feat, and maybe even the norm. But for the rest of Americans whose very existence and opportunities in life centers around labels, denouncing them changes absolutely nothing.
How convenient it must be to pick and choose what and who you are when you’re Raven-Symone.
Why is that when it comes to “labels” deemed inferior, people tend to distance themselves from them as much as they can? Being proud of labels is empowering. The same way in which Symone is surely proud to be an American woman, she should be equally proud to be a Black lesbian woman.
But that would actually require admitting America’s ugly truth.
While people should have the freedom to self-identify themselves as they please, one can’t deny the dangers in one rejecting parts of who they are. Not when there is an entire nation of people who are ridiculed and bashed for it every single day of their lives.
Rather than finding ways to distance herself from those who exist within the labels of the world, maybe Symone should use her massive public platform to eradicate the ills of American society, so that her utopian idea of the country can be a reality for all and not just a select few.
Labels don’t have to be something to frown upon. They are not bad things to have. It’s how we perceive and use them that matters most.
This column was originally written for CentricTV.com.