More Talking About Why Words Matter

As a follow-up to this post on how labels are used to define ethnicity in the arts, I wanted to point out this excellent post on the Tiki Tiki blog. It discusses the implications of racial and ethnic labels beyond self-expression and self-identity. Within the arts community, artists are generally free to create and adopt labels however they want. But what happens when labels send (or don’t send) a message to the broader community?

There are two ways to look at the issue of self-identification. One side says that people who refuse to label themselves, ethnically or racially, are refusing to be positive leaders for their community. If people aren’t proud to say that they are Hispanic (or Latino, or Native American, or whatever) then no one will recognize that being Hispanic is something to be proud of. The other side of the argument is that identifying yourself or your art with a specific group will marginalize you. Some artists argue that their work should be appreciated as art, not “just” as ethnic art.

Clearly this is not a simple issue, but it is one that brings out passionate opinions from many. Please share your opinions in the comments.

As a bonus, check out the comments section of that Tiki Tiki Blog post for a discussion of race vs ethnicity.