Remove the labels

Published 11:54 am Thursday, August 27, 2015

The most intelligent man that I have ever met was a substance abuser, illegal gambler and felon. Fortunately, we crossed paths at a time and place where I could not judge him based on the aforementioned terms; he was incarcerated and I was his counselor.

Five years after our initial interaction, I can proudly say that he has had a positive impact on my life and I hope that it has been reciprocated.

Scenarios like this don’t happen as often as they should because we are conditioned to judge people based on their presentation, their lineage and choices that they made in the past.

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America has become a nation of words, which we use as classifying mechanisms, and they ultimately draw us further apart.

In 2015, these classifying mechanisms sound like this: black, white, Christian, Muslim, thugs, extremists, aliens, anchor-babies (by the way, if America will remain a global superpower, we must embrace immigration), felons and the list goes on. These adjectives lead to preconceived notions, which are detrimental to human interactions.

Last month, Coca-Cola removed the labels from their cans in the Middle East during Ramadan. It was a symbolic gesture to foster an environment where humans get to know other humans for who they are instead of a preconceived perception. Coca-Cola quipped: labels are for cans, not for people.

Coca-Cola says that its goal was “to promote a world without labels and prejudices.” They sent a mighty message to consumers like me: “a world without labels is a world without differences.” At our essence we are no different — we are all humans. So, I challenge you to ignore the classifying mechanisms and start a conversation with 10 strangers this week.

Perhaps you will make a lifelong friend. But, even if you don’t, you are beginning to change our world because you are not judging the proverbial book by the cover.

TAIKEIN COOPER is a native of Farmville, and a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he majored in public policy analysis. He is a community servant, educational speaker and entrepreneur. His email address is