Thursday, November 10, 2011

'Black' names vs 'White' names stereotypes: Black Folk 201

As I narrowed down baby names for my daughter before she was born, of course I was greeted with suggestions, ideas, and questions about what we liked.

I was caught off guard when someone asked if I'd name her Shaniqua.

Yes, because my name is Jennifer and Shaniqua is the first name that came to my mind.

This wasn't the only time people have brought names like this to my attention. Why they think it's fitting I'm not quite sure.

It's also strange to me when people say I "don't look like a Jennifer." What that's suppose to mean, I'm not sure.

Think I'm kidding? Think they're kidding? Yea, that's what I thought too when one of my former bosses suggested I change my name to something more "ethnic."

A lot of people are intrigued by my job. People ask if I wear shorts under the news desk (thanks Anchor Man), if I have makeup artists, if I use my real name, the list goes on.

No, I don't wear shorts, (but sometimes I'll wear jeans), I do my own makeup, and I use my own name. But at my first news job, in a small town in Southern Utah, that almost changed.

After my first day the general manager brought into our tiny little office and sat me down. The main anchor, one of my mentors was with him.

"What do you think of changing your name to Keisha?" He asked me.

I laughed. Then looked around the room, realizing I was the only one laughing. My friend did give a sympathetic shrug, which made me think she thought it was about as strange as I did but couldn't tell me right then and there.

"Are you serious?" I asked. Totally stunned.

He was.

He went on and gave me some explanation about my last name sounding French-Creole and that having "Keisha" as a first name "fit."

"Think about it," he told me.

I said I would but there was no thinking about it. I was not changing my name. Especially not to Keisha.

I did call my family, then my friends and laughed about it with anyone who would listen. To this day I still have to chuckle a little when I think back to that moment because I honestly don't know what was going through his mind.

My name is Jennifer. My siblings: Heather, Michael, Lauren, Kimberly. None of them are stereotypical names you'd hear on the Top 60 Ghetto Black Names list. They are, however, found in the most popular names of the year list. I didn't want my daughter's name on either. My mother's reasoning for her decision was different than mine. She would say "do you want to get a job?" Which sounds harsh but some research shows "black-sounding" names on resumes don't do as well next to the same resume holding a "white-sounding" names.

Deciding what to name your children is a beautiful thing. The coolest thing is that it's your choice. Some are more unusual, and others are more common, but no one should be pigeon holed into a name because of how they look.

And for your entertainment...I guess. The "Top 60 Ghetto Black Names."

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