what's in a name? everything.

so a couple weeks back, while riding my local bus, a young gentleman struck up a conversation with me. we chatted for a while and as is normal in these types of situations, we exchanged names. after he spoke his native, culturally significant moniker, he began to say that if i couldn't pronounce it, then i could call him...

i cut him off. i told him that both he and his name deserved my respect to form those five beautifully composed syllables. so it's what i would learn and would call him. not the bastardized version that his mother chose not to give him. i kind of said it with such force, it's amazing that he didn't get off at the next stop, never to speak to the crazy lady with the dreads ever again.

but. it needed to be said. not just to him, but for me, too. it brought up so many emotions that i'd not acknowledged before. not that anyone has ever really required me to teach them to phonetically pronounce rachel. (although you'd be surprised how my two syllables have been butchered. i sure as hell am.) but. it made me think about how i once fell into the belief that only "traditional" names were acceptable - and shame on lakisha and jamal for sounding so ethnic! i know!

it's what was drilled into the head of an insecure, corporate striving law student a decade earlier. simple. english. assimilated. those are the names that one should give their children - otherwise, their names will preclude them from getting coveted professional jobs. as they'll be perceived as "ghetto" - whatever that shit means. anyhoo. for a number of years, i'd fallen victim to a vicious stereotypical belief that ethnic names were bad.

only in the past few years, along this journey to different places, and experiences with different people around the planet, has my outlook changed. i recognize that there is no standardized naming convention - anywhere. people give their children different names for different reasons - be they creative, unique, or familial. regardless of what another believes about the name - every human being is worthy of the respect of speaking their name properly. every. human. being.

and fuck the bullshit excuse that it's just not pronounceable. the same asshole that would butcher my bus friend's native name is the same that would turn around and use a two dollar word in a five cent phrase. it just comes down to not wanting to step outside of a busted ass box and give someone who appears different than you, due respect. that, and a few unfounded feelings of superiority. because your parents looked at the top baby names for the particular year in which you were born and chose from that. yes. i'm talking to you, michael.*

and so. i'm going to leave you with one of the most powerful poems i've ever heard - courtesy of brave new voices. it brings me to tears every single time i hear it. while i cannot relate to being called out my name (save the ray charles taunts withstood in my formative years and that time i was forced to shutdown 'black rachel' - true story), i can feel the importance of taking the time to give another soul the respect of being called the name they were blessed with at birth. i'm talking to you, kalikiano. your name is fucking beautiful.

 

*not that there's anything wrong with this reason for being named michael. and/or with the name michael, itself. just using it to prove a point. that's all. dude. calm down. it's not that serious.