Hey all. 85% of the time I am a “uniracial” writer meaning that the items I write are for the general consumption of the total reading public. What kind of short sighted author would I be if I set out to write for only one group of people? However, in some cases there are topics that sway so heavily in one ethnic direction until I have to excuse myself from being the universal writer I attain to be and speak directly to one group or the other. So to my White brothers and sisters that may happen upon this blog on, this, the first day of Black History Month, I ask you to bear with me as I speak to those of my ilk for a moment.
Recently I worked in a setting working with students that were interested in continuing their educational pursuits beyond high school. In most cases I didn’t see the student; they were only test scores and transcript information in a manila folder. And names.
Ridiculous, unpronounceable, vowel ridden, unneeded apostrophe laced names.
I give you a sampling of the names that hit my desk one day last week. Enjoy; given you have the ability to phonetically sound them out…
And my personal favorite…
De’Quan’Tavis (Ha! This name actually came up as a fragment in my spell check. LMAO)
And each time one of these gems got placed in my cubicle I silently asked myself the same question, “What in the world were their parents thinking?” Over a three month span I saw names that could only be pronounced by the mothers that came up with the monikers and the most adept of linguists.
Now, it goes without saying that all of these names belonged to Black students. (Really?) I thought back to a time when as a boy you really couldn’t get much Blacker than Malik or LeRoy; those names were like the epitome of Black like Shaniqua was for Black girls across America. Now, it seems like people are trying to out-Black one another when they get knocked up, it’s like a childhood game…
Okay…take a prefix like “La” or “De” then add your favorite car brand, throw in an apostrophe, then include two or three letters from the Daddy’s name. You get extra points if you use a “K” or a “Q”…and go!
…and there’s no apparent ending in sight judging by the constant barrage of consonants and vowels that I saw day after day.
I brought this up in general conversation while having some beers one night after work at a local watering hole after being brought to tears by too many names that I couldn’t pronounce after three attempts. Here’s a Cliff’s Notes version of that alcohol laced conversation.
Them: You just don’t understand being Black in the new Millennium.
Me: I’m plenty Black, the only thing I don’t understand is why people stopped using apostrophes to denote possession and started using them as designer imprints in their children’s names.
Them: Wait, I was on your Facebook page yesterday. You have a family member with an apostrophe in her name!
Me: You’re right, and she has a “Q” too. (Mom got extra points) but she was born in the 60s in the South to parents that were heavily discriminated against for the first 20 years of their lives. They had some angst built up. But even then they hid it in her MIDDLE name.
Them: Man, you sounding like a sellout…
Me: And you’re just selfish, think of someone other than yourself for a change. Think about the kid that has to go to Kindergarten and put all those letters on those lines, think of him crying when he runs out of room time after time on that sheet of paper. Think of the teacher that will look at that name on their role sheet year after year, frown, and then say their name with that upward inflection towards the end like they are asking a question. And for goodness sake think of the admissions advisor at a University in Georgia that will have to call and pray that he gets the pronunciation correct when he calls to follow up about the request for information on the school. Now buy me another beer…
Am I saying that you can’t be good people with 12 letters and 3 apostrophes in your name? Absolutely not! I know good and highly successful people with names that venture drastically from the norm. But, if you’re going to name your child something that looks like the cat fell asleep on the keyboard while Microsoft Word was still open I only ask that you start that child reading and writing at a young age, you stay on his/her ass in their schoolwork constantly, and you do everything you can to raise a good kid and citizen that excels because if you think people aren’t looking at those letters and apostrophes on resumes, in schools and on applications and forming their own opinions sight unseen you’re lying to yourself. It’s like Bruce Hornsby wrote years ago, “That’s Just The Way It Is”.
This has been Skrap’s Black History Message to the people for February 1, 2011.
~thanks for reading 🙂
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