Because most of us people of color don’t.
Recently, the former child star who has now graced The View with her presence, made some flippant remarks regarding “ghetto” names. After reviewing a study about how “ethnic” names can prevent people of color from getting hired, Raven Symoné said that she would not hire someone with a name like Watermelondria. I’m pretty sure this is actually a stage name. Don’t worry, the performer clapped back with vengeance.
The problem isn’t just that Raven Symoné is voicing opinions that negatively affect the black community, but the forum in which she voices those opinions is troubling. Unfortunately, she’s been given a loudspeaker on a show that caters mostly to a white female audience. So whatever ideas white women might have entered into the show with, may have been solidified by one black woman. When Raven Symoné says things like this, she both reassures a white audiences and muddies the waters of racism. When there was slight pushback from Whoopi, who looked very uncomfortable, Raven Symoné wanted us to know that her comments weren’t racist, but only discriminatory. Well, doesn’t that make it all better. . .
Of course, this isn’t the first time Raven Symoné has publicly flubbed on the issue of race:
- When a Univision news reporter compared the First Lady, Michelle Obama, to an ape. She didn’t think that was problematic because there are plenty of people who look like animals!
- Her interview with Oprah, “I’m an American, I’m not an African-American. I’m an American.” Oprah, who was blown away, urged her to explain herself further.
- In a later interview with E! News, she backtracked by saying: “I never said I wasn’t black, I said I wasn’t African American — to me that’s a difference, Thank you to Ancestry.com for sending me my DNA test … I am from every continent in Africa except for one and I’m also from every continent in Europe except for one.”
When it comes to “ethnic” names, I have grappled with my own. “Charish” is, for some reason, hard for white people to pronounce. All throughout my school career, I’ve had to correct teachers who read my name as “Cherise” or in weirder instances, “Charity.” In some cases, I’m called “Precious” when people can’t remember my name. Just because it just feels right. I’ve always assumed that people were just being lazy. When they come across a name that isn’t Anglo-ish, their minds just shut down and they say whatever comes to mind.
I’ve often wondered how my name has affect my ability to get jobs. Every time I write/type it on an application/resume, I think of how “ethnic” it looks. Also, do I sound like a hippy? But I remember all the other women in entertainment, politics, or famous authors, who have managed to have successful careers and live meaningful lives. Their names are beautiful and unique; their names have a history. Every name has a story. Just read the Jhumpa Lahiri novel The Namesake.
Here’s an excellent illustration from the “Feminist Made from Fire” Tumblr:
Every semester, when I call roll in a new classroom, I take care to pronounce everyone’s name, the way they that want. Because that’s just common decency. “Foreign” students usually shorten their names to make my job easier, but I don’t like it. I know how to read and I know how to practice reciting words and names from other languages. I don’t want to be responsible for taking away a piece of your identity.
In the end, it’s dangerous to take one person’s word on important issues like this. You wouldn’t take the word of ONE MOTHER when it comes to parenting in America. Nor would you take the word of ONE WHITE PERSON when it comes to learning about white culture in America. Raven Symoné is only one black (depending on how she defines it) woman in the country, who has opinions about blackness, which can’t be blanketed over an entire race. Let’s not use her has a spokeswoman on issues like this, remember that she is just one voice.