Friday, February 16, 2007

The Name Game Pt.2

"Say your name again?"

"What's your real/given name"

"What did your mother name you?"

"Are you a muslim now?"

The above-mentioned questions are familar to anyone in the Black community who has 'changed' their name. It's the subject of many inside jokes when discussing the diversity of our experience. Check this hypothetical convo taking place on any block USA:

Person 1 - "Did you hear that "Insert name here" changed their name?

Person 2 - "Naw. To what?

P1 - "I don't know...Marvin X Farrakhan or something like that..."

P2 - " He must be on some back to Africa thing... If his mother call him 'insert name here', then that's what I'ma call him"

P1 - "You know he still eat pork & like white girls"

While funny, dialogue like this is damaging & counteproductive for a myriad of reasons. One, it binds everyone into whatever mental prison that person in presently incarcerated in. Two, it creates this paradox: names that have no meaning get a wink & a smile, while names that may serve as a representation of self-discovery & self- definition get snide remarks.

Furthermore, the response "well, what did your mother name you?" ain't enough either. Your mother/father may have had the best onlf intentions when naming you, b.u.t. a person may identify qualities that they would like to be known by that may not be present in what we in the NGE call our 'honorable' (called as such due to the level of honor that we give our physical family) names.

While a name is not everything, it serves as an important marker for one's understanding of self. Every culture in the world are known by their names, as it sets the foundation for what's expected from you in society*. When your name gives you no idea of your life's journey, it's hard to recover (as a collective, individuals may have an easier time identifying their purpose).
The next time you encounter someone with a name different than what your used to, you might want to take the time to get some context on what the name means, & why they changed it. Instead of perceiving it as a joke, look at it as another person looking to reclaim a healthy sense of self through cultural means.

* It must be noted that names such as Malcom, Marcus, & the like do have a signifigance due to the legacy that those men established in fighting for the freedom of our people

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The "Difference"

When I first caught sound regarding Joe Biden's flap about Barak Obama, I shook my head like everyone else and lamented to myself about the subtle presence of racial bias in all aspects of society. Then (like we all should do before we start to talk about things) I thought about it a little more & drew it up, if you will. The "Obama factor" is one that will play a large role in this election (There's been so much discussion about the 08' election that you forget it's early 07). Below are some of my thoughts on the Flare-up & the larger ramifications of Obama in the race:

- Upon further evaluation, Biden's comments weren't as disrespectful as they seemed to be; he just got tripped up saying it and came across wrong. What he really said was that Obama's the first candidate who's not an "activist candidate" (aka not a rabble-rouser a la Jesse or Al Sharpton). The key will be to see how everyday Black people respond to someone who doesn't speak like a Baptist preacher

- It will be interesting to see how Obama positions himself with respect to the developing Demo field. It's obvious that he can't look to be seen as the "minority" candidate for 2 reasons: 1) He doesn't have those "Credentials" (Demonstrations, food strikes, etc..) 2) We're in a much more moderate America than we were 20 years ago, & being the Black candidate just won't cut it

- Speeches & family life notwithstanding, I still have yet to see what worldview Obama has regarding the myriad of problems that impact America.

- Obama entering the race has the potential to siphon millions of votes from Hillary, who would have gotten most Black peoples' vote on the strength of name-recognition alone

- 3 out of the last 4 presidents have been from the south; How Obama will connect with the hicks in Tennessee is anybodies guess

- Question: Will the established Black leadership come out in support of Obama, or will they fall back for fear of pissing the Clintons off?

- If he doesn't get the nomination, he would be a very strong candidate for VP, depending on who the nominee is. In my view, a Clinton-Obama ticket would ruffle the feathers of 3/4 of white America

- Obama has an interesting conundrum: being moderate b.u.t. not too moderate; ethnic b.u.t. not too ethnic. It's going to be one hell of a ride!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Name Game







Many of us are well acquainted with these names & others; The are the infamous names that have sprouted up in our community in the last 20-25 years. They are also the subject of the name bias that's been written about in books like Freakinomics by Stephen Leavitt, that shows the discrimination against job applicants with "Black" names.

Below, find what were identified as the 20 "Blackest" names for girls:

Imani, Ebony, Shanice, Aaliyah, Precious, Nia, Deja, Diamond, Asia, Aliyah, Jada, Tierra, Tiara, Kiara, Jazmine, Jasmin, Jazmin, Jasmine, Alexus, Raven

* Please note the NGE/Islamic/Pan-African infuence in the names above

Here are the 20 "Whitest" names for girls:

Molly, Amy, Claire, Emily, Katie, Madeline, Katelyn, Emma, Abigail, Carly, Jenna, Heather, Katherine, Caitlin, Kaitlin, Holly, Allison, Kaitlyn, Hannah, Kathryn

* Please note that there are really only 5 or 6 names there; the rest are variations

The "Blackest" names for boys:

DeShawn, DeAndre, Marquis, Darnell, Terrell, Malik, Trevon, Tyrone, Willie, Dominique, Demetrius, Reginald, Jamal, Maurice, Jalen, Darius, Xavier, Terrance, Andre, Darryl

* I Must say that I've never met a white person named Terell

The "Whitest" names for boys:
Jake, Connor, Tanner, Wyatt, Cody, Dustin, Luke, Jack, Scott, Logan, Cole, Lucas, Bradley, Jacob, Garrett, Dylan, Maxwell, Hunter, Brett, Colin

All jokes aside, why is this important? Well, if people are being discriminated against, then that isn't a good thing. On the other hand, if we're giving our children the culture to go along with the names (excepting the lexus thing), then in reality, they shouldn't have as much of a problem as they may be now. Frankly many original brothers & sisters from the indian sub-continent have names that most of us can't spell, much less pronounce, yet they don't seem to have problems getting or keeping jobs. We have to do a better jobs of creating a reality for our children so that their names don't create a barrier. The issue is when give our children hard-to-pronounce names, and then throw them out to the wolves, or don't give people around them a understanding of why they carry those names. I will say that some of the names may sound a little "out there", b.u.t. in the absence of a culture to call their own, people will make do with what they have. In a sense, it's indicative of the fact that many of us were trying to go outside the box, b.u.t. didn't necessarily have a framework.

Be on the look out for Part 2...