Sunday, December 4, 2011

What's in a Name?

This is a subject I have to address.

Many times we laugh at the absurdity of the names people give their children. I heard tell of a girl who named her baby Sha-ia, pronounced Sha-DASH-ee-uh. According to her the dash wasn't supposed to be silent. When I was in the third grade a friend told me her mother had a student named Vagina. I will never forget that as long as I live. I've met girls who proudly named their sons Prodigy and Jadakiss. Not even I am innocent. If I had my way my oldes son's name would have either been - brace yourself - Keyshawn Latrell (after Keyshawn Johnson and Latrell Sprewell_, Devantae Shyheim (after a member of Jodeci and one of WuTang Clan's artists), or Nasir Jodeci (after my third favorite rapper rapper and my favorite R&B group). Let's just thank GOD my son's father stuck around long enough to make him a junior. Hell, if my oldest son would have been a girl his father wanted the name Monaysia. It was a combination of Monique and Asia. Later on I learned those were the names of two girls he was seeing behind my back.

I'll give you a minute to blank-stare at me and judge me before I get to my point.

The reason for this rant is that as ridiculous as these names are, I'm tired of hearing, "They'll never get a job with that name." The black community has taken the shackles that were removed from the wrists and bound their minds with them instead. Our masters win. The only thing they had to give up when the Emancipation Proclamation was signed was free labor. Mentally they still control us. When they took us from our land they took our rights to everything, including the right to name our children what the hell we wanted. Our names had meanings that tied us to our home. Now we say puppeteered things like, "Keep it plain." Why not finish the sentence? "Keep it plain so that our master will give us the scraps from his table." In a top government office we had a woman named Condoleeza Rice. Our president's name is Barak Obama. How, then, can you justify the necessity of a "plain" name?

There are a few problems with the name thing. I would like to know why we are asking anyone for anything. Centuries after being freed we are still bowing and scraping, going to our former masters, slaves to their time. Now we are denying roots, stifling our right to give our children their own names. Why conform to "their" ways? Either protest it, or change the rules so that everyone can play the same game.

"Gotta keep it plain," they say. "If you want your children to get a job in America gotta give them an American name."

Now it's my turn to black stare. Take the shackles off your brains. What are being called "American" names are foolishness. A true "American" name would be Pocohantas or Running Bear, the names of the natives of this land. Names like Samantha, Karen, and Edward are European in origin. It amazes me what people will and won't stand up for. We all have to flex and bend in order to survive. I get that. But to deny who we are in order to get what "they" will give us is disgusting to say the least. We'll boycott a Tyler Perry film in a minute, but we won't stand up for our roots. Boycott our own yet conform to meet the standards of others. That makes no sense to me. If discrimination is screamed when we are not hired because of our skin color then the same should be done when they discriminate against us because of our names.

Going through life with the name Kimani has not been easy. I have loved my name all but twice in my life. It never mattered that I was unable to find a key chain that said "Kimani." No one else was named that. Therefore, I learned the value of being unique from the time I learned what my name was. Never did I have to be called "Kimani S," or "The bitchy Kimani," or "The pretty Kimani." I was always just Kimani. Then my elementary school principal told me my name was too hard for outsiders to pronounce. Since 96% of the people in my life insisted upon calling me KUH-man-nee rather that my name, KEY-mah-nee, I believed her. So at the age of five I decided that she could call me Kelly. Then I wrote my new name, "Kelly Smith," on my lunch box. My father was livid when he saw it. After that day I learned to cherish my name or else. Then came the day my parents took me to an African book store, and a book of names announced to me that my name was a boy's name of Kenyan origin meaning "sailor." Another attempt at hating my name was made, but I was unsuccessful. My father gave me the same look he did the day I decided to name myself Kelly.

After that came the struggle of my whole name: Kimani Lauren Smith. It wasn't until my twenty-eighth year of life that I even told people what my middle name was. Lauren just made me feel so imbalanced. Why did my parents even think it was okay to attach such a plain cotton middle name to such a leather and lace first name? Later I became Kimani Lauren Nelson, which was not much better. My middle name was denied and despised until the time came I needed an apartment and a job. At first Kimani didn't get jobs. I couldn't figure out what the problem was. I was overqualified (whatever that means). Just for kicks I began sending resumes and applications simultaneously, one from Kimani L. Smith/Nelson and one from Lauren Smith/Nelson. The same contact info, same content was sent in each. Guess who got called back? Lauren was even offered jobs she never applied for. I resented that so much. No one took my point seriously, and my younger self didn't feel like I could make a difference. I took those jobs and apartments, grumbling all the way.

The sad part is my name has a meaning in several different languages. It means "pretty little flower" in West Africa and Hawaii. In Kenya it is a male name meaning sailor or one who likes being around water. In a language in southern Africa it means "royalty." In Jamaica it means "good." In Japanese it means "golden." I'm also told it has meanings in Indian and Arabic, but I have not yet found them. My name is a United Nations within itself. With all of this history, why should my name present success? Why is this allowed.

So the children's names are different. Some of them have more letters and syllables than we are used to. Sometimes they're downright ugly. I can't see myself naming my daughter Star'Qhuay-zhia, but I also can't stand for her to be held back because her name isn't Mary. Traymier shouldn't be overlooked for medical school just because his name isn't Donald. Take a stand for something that matters. If you can't discriminate against someone because of what gender they date the same should apply to what name their parents gave them. Stop letting society stifle our freedom to choose. Most of all, don't let the slave/slave mastmer thought process control what we can or cannot have. Name your child what you want. Make it mean something. Let the world be filled with CEO's name Caltreasha, doctors named Shanequa, attorneys named Iesha, and POTUS named Rashid.

1 comment:

  1. Ive always wanted a different name LOL , for some reason I always wished I was called Skye but then had my real name as my middle name - Weird huh :). Paula just seems now and again so blah and also im not too short but am 5ft 3 and Paula means Small , though of course everyone I know is taller than me . New follower