This I Believe: Peel Off Labels

Feb 20, 2019

From the day you’re born, labels are put on you such as girl, poor, Mexican, and it wasn’t until those labels were used to hurt me that I knew the world wasn’t so simple.

Labels are meant to separate people when instead, they should be brought closer together. They try to separate the strong from the weak or the rich from the poor. Many believe that we need labels, while others cry out it’s not fair.

I believe that labels need to be peeled off, ripped up and put in the gutter. Learning to remove these labels has been a lifelong journey for me and honestly, I’m still working on it to this day. I didn’t mind the labels at first because they didn’t mean much, so I thought. It wasn’t until fifth grade that I realized that these labels were toxic. These girls would be so rude to me and call me names because I couldn’t dress like them. Poor was the label that was glued onto me that day. It made me feel like a sub-par can at the store, pushed back, collecting dust, about to expire. Later on, the same girls were still causing mayhem. They would explicitly call me horrible, disgusting names that made me ashamed of who I was. Not only did they call me poor, they plain out called me a dirty Mexican.       

Mexican was another label that was put on me and I never expected it to have such a negative connotation. At the store they have a whole aisle filled with Mexican food and many people enjoy the taste of it, like Mexican fried rice or Mexican sour cream, but Mexican people are despised. I was so ashamed of these labels that were forced on me by society. As a fifth grader, I had no clue what to do, but as I’ve matured, I have learned that these labels do not define who I am. Just because some people want to taunt me because I get free groceries or my fees waived for school, doesn’t mean that everyone will. These labels are not permanent so I will continue to peel them off, like how I used to peel off my water bottle label so no one would know it was Great Value instead of Fiji. I believe that labels need to be shredded and that labels don’t do anything more than separate people from the world when instead, we should work together and be a community that fosters growth for change and acceptance.

Summer Jett reading her essay at the Rotary Club of Springfield Sunrise
Credit TAMARRA NEWBERN / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS

Summer Jett receiving her scholarship at the Rotary Club of Springfield Sunrise meeting.
Credit TAMARRA NEWBERN / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS