The Privilege of Having Americanized Names
There is – or was a discussion on Abagond’s blog about American racism against blacks. The topic veered into subject regarding finding employment and names. One commenter brought up how certain names will not be given as many callbacks as those with typical names. The commenter would call the former names like ‘Jamal, Bubba, Daisy Mae and LaKeisha ghetto and trailer park names. It’s hard not to conclude that this person went there (and you know where), but I digress.
This got me to think about the advantage of having Americanized names in America. Names like Johnathan or Amber are privileged names because:
1. They are common in America.
2. They are white-sounding, Americanized names.
3. They are easy to pronounce to most Americans.
4. They are neutral in terms of class.
5. Products, like novelty license plates you find at gift shops, will have Americanized names already molded.
6. More likely to have a job interview or find the place you want to live in.
The commenter makes the argument that ‘ghetto’ and ‘trailer park’ names sound ridiculous and indicate an ignorant family background. Thus, Deshawn and Shaniqua are not qualified for whatever position they’ve applied for. The basic response is that all who live in America must conform to American standards or else they deserve to be left out of the mainstream. Institutional racism and classism abounds.
The irony of it all is that the origins of African American names are traced back to that awful period in history known as slavery. Americanized names were forced upon us through brutal methods. African slaves accepted their new names without any choice to survive.
Still, there are people who have a problem with African American names. As such they are referred to as ‘ghetto’ names and are met with disdain by many people, including some African Americans. Names with a ‘awn’ or ‘kw’ sound, for instance, are assumed to have come from no-good, ignorant black parents, a demeaning stereotype about black parents supported by the media.
To a certain extent, Foreign names are met with similar adversities. Some are ridiculed or hated such as the name Muhammed, a name typically associated with Islam, a religion feared and hated by many Americans. Asian and Latino names are usually made fun of by mainstream American, especially in the entertainment media. Native American names are parodied in American film history. And certain Southern white names like Earl or Bubba gives the assumption that those who have those names are typical among poor, country, ignorant whites known by some as ‘white trash’.
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” is a famous line from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. It means that a thing or person is still that thing or person no matter what. People may think your name is ridiculous, but you are still a person with a heart, mind and soul and should still be treated as such.