What’s In a Name?

 

Alize. Quandinikitia. Sir Philithian. Patron. Do not adjust your computer. These are real names of actual people.  When I worked in a hospital as a Patient Advocate, part of my job was to obtain the names of newborn babies in a downtown Atlanta hospital.  I grimaced at the names that I was given, which were sometimes misspelled, and felt horrible for the new babies entering the world with names that I knew would make their lives a little harder than they should be. A part of me appreciated their need to separate from the racist conformity that is often forced on Blacks, but a bigger part of me knows that a name can make a difference in how someone is perceived and how they perceive themselves. What is in a name? Well, some say everything.  Just as if you call a child “dumb” repeatedly, research suggests that a name can make or break a child’s identity.  Naming children has seemed to become someone of a game and not the serious, meaningful task that it has been in past generations.

Naming ceremonies have been conducted for centuries. A name given to a child was chosen carefully as the name would foreshadow what the child would become.  Name a child John and God will be gracious over his life.  Name a child Alice and she would be noble and kind.  In the 70’s and 80’s, African-Americans began to separate from the status quo. As a result, many black people started creating names for their children that were as far away from American sounding as they could.  Many began naming children with African names to provide the child with a black identity that had been absent during America’s history.

 

This is not about those names. I am not talking about Iesha or Anwar; names that have meanings in other cultures. I am speaking of names that have little to no actual meaning.

 

Research suggests that a child’s name can have significant impact on its course of life. A name can suggest a child’s socio-economic status and since people of color are rarely in positions to hire and make decisions, this can be detrimental to a child’s success. As discriminatory as it sounds, I know a human resource manager who throws resumes in the trash if she deems the name “ghetto”.  She doesn’t even read the resume to check for education and work history qualifications.  Clearly her act is discriminatory and she is African-American.  I can only imagine what other people are doing with resumes that have names that they do not want associated with their businesses. I am guilty making judgments myself. I can’t help but imagining that someone named Taquishia is loud, has an attitude and can roll her neck like anyone’s business. Am I wrong for feeling this way? Probably so. People make pre-judgments about others all of the time. You meet a person for the first time and without thinking about it you immediately make judgments about the way they look, sound, smell, dress.  Does it make it right, not necessarily, but it is human nature to have preconceived notions created from previous experiences. A child should be given a chance and no matter what people may think racism and discrimination still has a stronghold on this country.  I am not advocating for African-Americans to start naming their children “normal” names just for the satisfaction of the status quo. I am all for giving children unique, beautiful names, but when you start naming them after liquor, popular singers and strippers in movies; I have a problem with that. A parent should care enough about a child to make this life a smoother transition. Naming your baby girl after a drink that Puff Daddy popped on yachts in ’97 in not the business.

 

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