According to Nick Webb “We inhabit a world in which we tend to put labels on each other and expect that we will then march through life wearing them like permanent sandwich boards”. We are informally educated by our parents, teachers, and television about what we need to know to survive in this world. This information germinated into norms and these norms became our principles and ideals of what we live by. Some are healthy and some are not. As a human, it is easier to wallow upon the knowledge passed on from infancy to adulthood. Sometimes we find it bewildering when other people talk us of norms like gender equality, diversity, calling countries by their names and not by the continent (like you are in a music band touring the world), LGBTQ+ rights, etc. In this era, we defy norms because it is trending and not because we care, some people only recognize success in a woman by the ring on her finger, women should take care of home duties likes they genetically inclined to do so, people are not comfortable with trans people. The question is why should we care about breaking the norms? I am going to focus on three topics: The use of the words minority, sub-Saharan Africa, and Strong Black Women.
The word minority status is defined based on belonging to an identifiable group in society. An individual may be black, female, gay, or a non-English speaker, or physically challenged. Several objections have been raised, which are: if such status is not defined based on numbers, minority is not a correct term; the term minority can be a negative label and defines the groups so labeled from the standpoint of the dominant group; the criteria used to define minorities are ambiguous and inconsistent; the statuses that form the basis of defining minority groups include both true ascribed statuses and statuses that involve an element of choice and the term minority obscures the very real impacts of racial, gender, and other forms of discrimination, using an ill-defined term to focus on groups rather than on systemic discrimination.
Black women face discrimination of race and gender. Many women find undeniable truth, liberation, and empowerment in the “strong black woman” meme. I also used to use that term for iconic black women. Why do I have to say “strong black women’ to define woman doing extraordinary things, childbirth is extraordinary to define the word. We do not hear people say “strong white woman”, then why are we stirred into using the term for black woman.
Lastly, Is it not funny how we refer to most black Africa countries as sub-Saharan Africa except Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and Sudan, even though its territory is mostly located south of the Sahara Desert. Most international corporations, organizations (especially the United Nations), and even local bodies have adopted this weird concept “sub-Sahara Africa” which is a meaningless classificatory schema. Its use defies the science of the fundamentals of geography but prioritizes hackneyed and stereotypical racist labeling. The word “sub” could mean “under”, “partly”, “partially” or “nearly”, which is that the light-skinned Africans are the true or higher class Africans and the black-skinned African are the lower class Africans.
We have to search deep on why we claim to be progressive by advocating for the Sustainable Development Goals but act oblivious to the way we offend people by how we identify them. As social leaders, we must always question the norms that were passed on to us through informal education. I will end this with a quote by Leo Tolstoy; Progress consists only in the greater clarification of answers to the basic questions of life.