Periodically we’re subjected to yet another round of debate about whether we ‘really’ need labels, usually with members of dominant social classes insisting that such a thing isn’t necessary, and arguing that we need to ‘move beyond labels (man),’ ‘like, they’re totally blocking up our ability to build a true and just world.’ The same kind of attitude lies at the root of the so-called ‘colourblind’ approach to life, where people pretend as though acting like race isn’t a fact of life and doesn’t matter will magically erase centuries of complex intergenerational racism.
Here’s the thing about labels: without them, we run the risk of being effectively eaten by the default, quietly subsumed into the masses. Think of immune cells, cruising around the body, pausing to completely digest foreign proteins, the cell quietly closing in around its victim, and then, poof, gone. We are the foreign proteins, you see, the things that stand out in the body politic. We are the Other. We are the thing that must be named because we are unusual, and because if we have no name, we disappear.