When our labels divide us

I never thought I would turn to actress Kerry Washington as the inspiration for one of these posts, but as you may or may not know, Ms Washington received the Vanguard Award at this year’s GLAAD Awards.  (The Vanguard Award is presented to media professionals who have made a significant difference in promoting equality.)

In her passionate, “get up out of your chair” speech, Washington touches on how our labels divide us and hurt us in the fight for representation and equality.  The excerpt below from her speech is particularly poignant.  You can also see the video of the full speech.

There are people in this world who have the full rights and citizenship – in our communities, our countries – around the world. And then there are those of us who to varying degrees do not. We don’t have equal access to education and healthcare, and some other basic liberties like marriage, a fair voting process, fair hiring practices.

Now you would think that those of us who are kept from our full rights of citizenship would band together and fight the good fight. But history tells us that no, often we don’t. Women, poor people, people of color, people with disabilities, immigrants, gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, trans people, intersex people. We have been pitted against each other and made to feel there are limited seats at the table for those of us who fall into the category of ‘other’.

As a result, we have become afraid of one another, we compete with one another, we judge one another, sometimes we betray one another.  Sometimes even within our own communities, we designate who among us is best suited to represent us and who shouldn’t even be invited to the party.  As ‘others’, we are taught that to be successful, we must reject those ‘other others’ or we will never belong.


We can’t say that we believe in each other’s fundamental humanity, and then turn a blind eye to the reality of each other’s existence, and the truth of each others’ hearts. We must be allies and we must be allies in this business, because to be represented is to be humanized, and as long as anyone anywhere is being made to feel less human, our very definition of humanity is at stake, and we are all vulnerable. We must see each other, all of us. And we must see ourselves, all of us. And we have to continue to be bold and break new ground until that is just how it is, until we are no longer ‘firsts’ and ‘exceptions’ and ‘rare’ and ‘unique.’ In the real world, being an ‘other’ is the norm. 

Well damn girl… damn.

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