A while back, I read an article on Madame Noire’s website entitled, “Poor Child: 5 Hood-ish Baby Names That Take Creativity Too Far.” When I first saw this article in my news feed, I was like, “Oh, Lord, here we go…Get ready for some outrageously ghetto names.” The article certainly does not disappoint on outrageous… Of course, names like Le-a (La-dash-a) and DaFinest are ridiculous. That fact that many black parents like the way a name sounds, but do not know how to spell it is quite sad. I don’t find aggregious name misspellings funny at all.
Social Class and Black Names
What this article really points to is the lack of education and poverty in our community. All the more reason to support and promote entrepreneurship and business within the black community. If this were done, blacks nor whites for that matter, would not have the desire to name their children after major brand names and such. As an article on Salon.com by David Zax points out,
‘” [It’s] a class thing, not a race thing,” says Cleveland Evans, noting that he has encountered twins named Camry and Lexus who were white. If you are poor and wish a better life for your kid, a name like Lexus declares that hope.”
People in general, tend to name their children after that which they idealize (fast money, the high life, cars, religion, hobbies, etc.). We are no different in that respect.
One of the primary arguments people pose for not giving your child an American-American sounding name is the high likelihood of being discriminated against when applying for jobs soley based on your name. From my personal experience, my husband and I named our two boys traditional biblical first names, and my oldest has an Arabic middle name. We chose that approach because we figured that Black men have a hard enough time making it in this world, why give them one more hurdle with an Afrocentic first name? I figured if my son chooses to go by his middle name, Jabari (which means fearless) later in life, he can do that. Now, I must say that if I had had a girl, she would have gotten a “pretty” name with meaning. (Another argument for another post on whether or not Black women have it easier than Black men…)
So the question then becomes, does your name even matter when it comes to being successful? One commenter on the article made a good point when she stated,
“To many White people hiring there is no difference between Shaqueetra Johnson or a Tiffany Johnson or a Shaunna Williams. I think we should be training our children to able to provide for themselves from a entrepreneurial standpoint in whatever endeavor they’ll choose, so they won’t have to be too concerned about filing out a job application”
Case in point, I know a Black man who has a fairly “normal” name and well-qualified, who applied for a corporate security job. They never called him back. One thing he noticed upon entering the lobby was that the faces in the front lobby were light and faces in the control room were dark faces. He did not let that detour him. He kept calling. He introduced himself to management. He went to the office of the head manager and pleaded his case. And, you know what? He got the job. It doesn’t always work that way, but as a Black person, you have to go that extra mile, be the best and never give up.
The Final Word
Starting out with a good name could be the icing on the cake, but I want you to be encouraged that no matter what your name is, God has your back. I think many names can still be seen as “unique” and “creative.” Even some names that take liberty with stretching the spelling are OK in my book. I’m going to take the unpopular view and say that this creativity is a general part of African-American culture which should be celebrated not berated. As we embark on this journey of loving ourselves and our hair we should embrace those facets of our culture that make us a community. We take race out of the equation by building and restoring our community and elevating our mindsets. Not everyone can be an entertainer or is born into a celebrity family. So, let’s continue to strive to help one another to succeed and support each other’s business endeavors and educational goals.
So, what’s your take on unique black names?