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On Having A Black Name
April 24, 2008 9:06 AM   Subscribe

On Having A Black Name "I am a white woman, a blond, blue-eyed white woman, and I have a first name strongly associated with black women. My mother, a southerner by birth, never stopped telling me she made the name up. The fact that she truly could not remember ever hearing the name before, is a testament to the strength of southern segregation. It is likely she heard it once or twice, and simply forgot it until later. And so, even at 50 years old, I have a name that makes people do a double-take. "You're _____?" is something I have heard all my life. "Yes, that would be me," is what I say, as they look confused. I have upset the social order. Names, I have learned, are a big, big part of it."
posted by nooneyouknow (257 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite

 
There are probably a lot of really interesting things to say about having a cross-cultural name. This seems to just be a chronicle of wide-eyed encounters with racism by someone who doesn't spend a lot of time thinking.
posted by aswego at 9:14 AM on April 24, 2008


I have to admit, this story shocks me. Especially the part about how she gets treated by people who assume she's black when she's working a customer service line. I should think by now that people who are racist would at least no better than to openly act like bigots.

And I'm dying to know what her name is.
posted by orange swan at 9:16 AM on April 24, 2008


"know better". As in, "I know better than to use 'no' in that context."
posted by orange swan at 9:18 AM on April 24, 2008


I thought her comment about why she didn't say what her name was (because I also wanted to know!) was really interesting:

I really wanted everyone to "project" a name into the blank. I thought long and hard about this post... and whenever I've tried to bring up the subject with white people (never black people--they know what kind of name it is), they argue over particulars and details--which I've noticed is one of the ways white people deflect criticisms of racism. They will say, well, I never thought your name was particularly *black*--just 1) southern, 2) different and 3) somewhat rare. (But that's just it, in the black community, it isn't considered any of those things.)

Rather than listen to me talk about my experiences, white people want to nitpick details and whether I am telling the truth in the first place.

So, I deliberately didn't give my name. I want to you to project one into the blank.

posted by iminurmefi at 9:18 AM on April 24, 2008 [11 favorites]


Glad someone's figured out a calling now that Jerry's gone.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 9:18 AM on April 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


Saturday Night Live even assigned my name to a black crackhead-character in a comedy skit

Surely this should narrow down the choices quite a bit.
posted by grouse at 9:20 AM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Interesting story. To be honest I usually dislike links to personal blogs, but this has a lot of merit.

It's interesting how racism hasn't so much faded, but become more covert, more built around codes and assumptions. Way back when (too long ago,) I had a friend who did a college project on race discrimination and housing. He'd make appointments using a traditionally white name, and then again with a traditionally black name. Often, disproportionately, the housing in question would become "unavailable" when he used the black name.

All in all, it strikes me that people's behavior towards minorities has changed more than their attitudes. But, I guess, that's more progress than none.....
posted by elwoodwiles at 9:21 AM on April 24, 2008 [4 favorites]


Black women (and men) have been telling us about this for... ever. But it's good that this white woman has told us about racism and discrimination, because now we REALLY know it happens, right?
posted by prefpara at 9:21 AM on April 24, 2008 [22 favorites]


MetaFilter: They argue over particulars and details--which...is one of the ways white people deflect criticisms of racism.
posted by DU at 9:21 AM on April 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


I am a white woman, a blond, blue-eyed white woman, and I have a first name strongly associated with black women

Uh, Daisy is a duck's name.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:22 AM on April 24, 2008 [4 favorites]



There are probably a lot of really interesting things to say about having a cross-cultural name. This seems to just be a chronicle of wide-eyed encounters with racism by someone who doesn't spend a lot of time thinking.


You can't have read that same article I read.
posted by cashman at 9:22 AM on April 24, 2008 [5 favorites]


I wish she was a better writer. It seems there could be one focused narrative that could be pulled out of someone who had a name strongly associated with a different culture, but she's so rambly, so ready to throw out racist comments as if that'll be interesting enough.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:22 AM on April 24, 2008


Probably much more interesting than a Latino (well, ok, cafe con leche) having a 100% Anglo name. I have nothing to compare with the stories on her blog, but I was surprised at how often "spic" would slip out of folks.
posted by jquinby at 9:23 AM on April 24, 2008


I don't know what do say, except that she certainly likes the grateful dead.
posted by milarepa at 9:24 AM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I have successfully projected Zaqueesha into the blank.
posted by BoatMeme at 9:24 AM on April 24, 2008 [5 favorites]


Thanks nooneyouknow, that was a great read.

never black people--they know what kind of name it is

Heh.
posted by cashman at 9:25 AM on April 24, 2008


aswego: It does come off somewhat "wide-eyed" (Hey! Wait, whats that supposed to mean? kidding) However, I took that as a rhetorical strategy, rather than a lack of nuance.
posted by elwoodwiles at 9:26 AM on April 24, 2008


Could be worse. Could be a stripper name.
posted by Artw at 9:27 AM on April 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


In general, links to blog posts suck, but this is a good one. She's had a fairly unique life experience and I'm glad she shared it.
posted by empath at 9:27 AM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I, too, have a rather non-identifying first name but a last name very often associated with blacks. And the fact that I was born in DC, which at one point, I listed on my resume, led to a number of doubletakes and an encounter with one moron who, after hiring me, sidled up to me one day and whispered, "But we thought you were black!" While my hair is now gray, I DO have blue eyes and very white skin.
And, I nearly gave my daughter, born in Asia, a name, which, when combined with our last, would have had her carrying the same ID as a very famous, barrier-breaking black baseball player. So she got a different name.
posted by etaoin at 9:28 AM on April 24, 2008


"It's a N-GGER name!"

I still don't understand why people use this convention. If you omit one vowel, is it somehow supposed to be more sanitized and less offensive, even though we clearly know what the word is? Or, is this a search engine thing?

Do I need to say it? It's

N-A-G-G-E-R
posted by psmealey at 9:29 AM on April 24, 2008 [4 favorites]


KokuRyu: "Uh, Daisy is a duck's name."

The very first sentence is "My blog name is my grandmother's name, Daisy." So the name in discussion is not "Daisy".
posted by Plutor at 9:29 AM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


My name is Malcolm. I am half Caucasian-American and half Asian-American. Yes it's weird.
posted by kalessin at 9:29 AM on April 24, 2008


"I know, I gave you a black name! I still thought I made it up," she told me, some time before her final illness.

"But it's been GOOD FOR YOU!" she announced. And then she smiled, satisfied.


Now, where have I heard this story before? Oh, yeah.

MY NAME IS SUE!! HOW DO YOU DO?!?
posted by yhbc at 9:31 AM on April 24, 2008 [19 favorites]


Laquita Jackson, aka Daisy.
posted by Mister_A at 9:32 AM on April 24, 2008 [7 favorites]


When I was getting my master's degree, I knew a blonde, blue-eyed girl who also had a "black name." She liked it, but was seriously thinking about using her "white" middle name when sending out resumes for fear that her first name would hurt her chances of getting a job. At first, I thought that was totally depressing. Then I decided it was probably smart. And still totally depressing.
posted by Rangeboy at 9:33 AM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I have a pretty generic name that happens to be the same name as a famous black college basketball coach. It has been a fairly annoying for me my whole life, more for the 'having the same name as a famous person' thing than the black thing, because it's not the kind of name that makes people assume that you're black. NOT THAT THERE IS ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT.
posted by empath at 9:34 AM on April 24, 2008


I wish she was a better writer. It seems there could be one focused narrative that could be pulled out of someone who had a name strongly associated with a different culture, but she's so rambly, so ready to throw out racist comments as if that'll be interesting enough.

I think if she were a better writer, a lot of people would find it less genuine. And honestly rambly? Was that really that hard to follow? And what's wrong with "throwing out" racist anecdotes in an article about her experiences with racism?

It sounds like what you want is your racist anecdotes wrapped in lots of sugary verbiage in order to make them easier to swallow. I prefer this, show people the ugliness and let them make up their own mind.
posted by delmoi at 9:36 AM on April 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


The name i imagined is Niggy Tardust.
posted by TechnoLustLuddite at 9:36 AM on April 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


You can't have read that same article I read.

Maybe "thinking" was a bit harsh, Cashman. But she's obviously not very reflective. That classroom scene has been played out in books, and that customer service story happens with everyone who has a remotely ethnic name. Once she gave us the setup for these stories, we all knew where they were going to go. It's obviously sad, but kind of Old Hat. Twenty years after C. Thomas Howell's crappy monologue at the end of Soul Man, we got this...which was about as insightful as the movie, Crash (AKA...lessons in racial conflict for 7-year-olds).

I hope the next white Zaqueesha is able to tell us something we couldn't have predicted, that's all.
posted by aswego at 9:37 AM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


At least she doesn't have to carry the 'Crusade for Moorish Dignity' banner. That thing is rank.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:38 AM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I should also mention, that i play in a band with a white drummer named Eddie Murphy.
posted by TechnoLustLuddite at 9:38 AM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I get the double take thing all the time, as my actual given name combined with my married name suggests an ethnicity and a gender clearly at odds with how I look. What stuns me about the entry is the teacher's acceptance of the boy's bigotry within the class. "Daisy" doesn't look that old. Even when I was in grade school in the early 60s in a segregated school system, overt racially charged remarks (not to mention speaking out of turn) would simply not have been tolerated. I am continually dismayed at how far we have not come.
posted by nax at 9:38 AM on April 24, 2008


Welcome, docpops, to this week's episode of MISS THE POINT!
posted by elwoodwiles at 9:39 AM on April 24, 2008 [6 favorites]


My first name (the real one, not Fuzzy) is usually regarded as a "black name" even though I am white. A while back, some news outlet was doing a study on how names effect your chances of being hired, and I think my name was in the top 10 that was supposedly discriminated against for being "black." Interestingly, when my name is used for a movie or television character, it's nearly always for a black man, or a white gay man. There are a few instances of it being used for white, illiterate, rednecks. I am also neither gay nor a redneck, although my parents are from Kentucky. Awesome huh.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 9:39 AM on April 24, 2008


Black women (and men) have been telling us about this for... ever. But it's good that this white woman has told us about racism and discrimination, because now we REALLY know it happens, right?

You know, I think her story actually provides a pretty good insight into why black people and white people have pretty different views about whether there's still much racism in the U.S. I read a short write-up of a study (I think the WaPo?) a couple months ago pointing out that when you disaggregate survey data polling people about the existence and intensity of racism these days, and whether things are better or worse now than 30 years ago, it's pretty striking how different white views are from black views, with most white people believing that racism died out in the 1970s with the civil rights movement. (All fixed now!)

And the facile explanation for that, I think, is that white people know racism is out there but think it's not a big deal because it's not their problem, or deny it because they don't want to deal with it. Not that those things might not play some role, but I think it's just as likely that most people are empiricists at heart, and in our post-civil rights era, a lot of white people don't *see* racism anymore. It's gone underground, because it's not polite to say to say these things anymore (to a white person), and since it disappeared from sight a lot of white people have just kind of assumed that it mostly disappeared for good.

All of which makes many white people skeptical when hearing something labeled as racist, because in the battle between most everything you've experienced in your life and someone you don't know very well saying, "This is racist! Racism exists," it's not surprising that your experience wins out. So it becomes a debate about whether the person labeling something as racism *really* understands what is going on, or whether it's plausible it might have been something else, and how we should give the benefit of the doubt because being called a racist is double-super-plus bad. That sort of skeptical stance reduces the cognitive dissonance between "well I've never seen anyone use a racial slur, I haven't ever seen any men in white sheets, if all this racism is out there than how come I never see it?" and what someone standing in front of you is telling you.

Sucks, don't it?
posted by iminurmefi at 9:40 AM on April 24, 2008 [46 favorites]


I have a "black" middle and last name and the only reaction I've ever noted is the occasional double take from black people expecting someone more mocha to arrive for the appointment.

Oddly enough, my Jewish family collectively changed to the surname to deflect racism in post-Leo Frank Atlanta. I don't know their logic in selecting our particular name, but I like to think they just wanted to mindfuck the redneck goyim who wanted to lasso 'em.
posted by bunnytricks at 9:40 AM on April 24, 2008


I kind of agree with aswego. The vignettes from her customer service days are so over the top they're not interesting. Yes, they are incredibly jarring and offensive, but not interesting. I know she didn't write it with the likes of me as an audience, but I would have been more interested to hear stories of the subtler racism she encountered, and how that affected from her youth to the present how she approached certain everyday life situations.
posted by psmealey at 9:40 AM on April 24, 2008


This reminds me of a movie in which a white man confirms for us that yes, the Jews aren't making up antisemitism.

I think it really SUCKS that we still need white people to tell us about discrimination.

Like, oh, NOW I get it! Those black people weren't just making it up/being hypersensitive/just as dumb as employers assumed they were/etc.

Because this woman is white, so it really truly must have been racism! And if it had been a black woman, well, maybe it wasn't racism, maybe she just wasn't qualified for the job? Maybe she was just being an angry black woman?

I'm having a long day, so maybe I am overreacting, but in the moment I am really pissed off by this.
posted by prefpara at 9:41 AM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I have a pretty generic name . . .
posted by empath at 12:34 PM on April 24 [+] [!]

Holy crap, empath is a sock puppet!

posted by The Bellman at 9:41 AM on April 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


...would have had her carrying the same ID as a very famous, barrier-breaking black baseball player. So she got a different name.

You almost named her Curt Flood? Crazy, dude.
posted by NoMich at 9:41 AM on April 24, 2008 [5 favorites]


The very first sentence is "My blog name is my grandmother's name, Daisy." So the name in discussion is not "Daisy".

Well, jeez, and here I was just about to post, "whatever, that's my grandma's name!"

Maybe her blog has a blog about how hard it is to be a middle-aged blog with a grandma-blog's name.
posted by vorfeed at 9:41 AM on April 24, 2008


I have no room to talk, my real name is Wang Fung Lopez. Try explaining that to the Aryan Nation application committee.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:42 AM on April 24, 2008 [11 favorites]


I think if she were a better writer, a lot of people would find it less genuine. And honestly rambly? Was that really that hard to follow? And what's wrong with "throwing out" racist anecdotes in an article about her experiences with racism?

It sounds like what you want is your racist anecdotes wrapped in lots of sugary verbiage in order to make them easier to swallow. I prefer this, show people the ugliness and let them make up their own mind.


I didn't say it was hard to understand, I said it was rambly. Nothing's wrong with throwing out racist anecdotes, I just don't particularly find it that interesting to read about. I already know that there's lots of racists in the world. I don't want racist anecdotes to be easier to swallow. I just don't find them particularly interesting on their own.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:43 AM on April 24, 2008


I'm pretty sure this part of an astroturfing campaign for an upcoming movie collaboration between Martin Lawrence and Steve Martin.
posted by srboisvert at 9:44 AM on April 24, 2008


I held out hope for the longest time that Leroy Jenkins was a black man.

Also, on a more serious note, my friend Corky is always assumed by strangers to have Down Syndrome. It doesn't help that he's mildly retarded.
posted by BoatMeme at 9:45 AM on April 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


So it's Laquita, huh? Hmm. Never heard that one before. It's rather pretty. I'm not sure what I would have thought about the ethnicity of that name if I'd seen it in, say, a list of names, or if I'd have thought about its ethnicity at all.
posted by orange swan at 9:46 AM on April 24, 2008


All right, last comment. I just have to say I love the people who seem to need to address her writing style, narrative choices and resolution, yet ignore the actual subject. She isn't looking for any literary-workshop critique, she's an average person writing about average experiences in our society - which is exactly what makes it interesting.
posted by elwoodwiles at 9:46 AM on April 24, 2008 [18 favorites]


I hope the next white Zaqueesha is able to tell us something we couldn't have predicted, that's all.

Who is we? Oh for folks who are familiar with topics concerning racism it is not mindblowing, but for a lot of things I don't view them as I would a piece of theory about race and social construction, but as something that some of the myriad of people who delight in saying racism doesn't exist or if it does, it's almost nowhere to be found, would read and maybe actually partially ingest.

This is one of those pieces, to me. Some people will still not believe that having a "black sounding" name will cause problems when trying to get a job. So something like this can help them understand reality more. And though it sucks, yes, that it happens to a white person can make a lot of people who otherwise write off the experiences of nonwhites en masse anyway as otherdom pay attention for a few seconds longer, is part of the appeal of the piece.
posted by cashman at 9:47 AM on April 24, 2008


heh. my given name ("regis") is usually associated with men. which has led to everyone up to and including the selective service sending me mail with the salutation "mister". the selective service didn't stop bugging me to find out why "mister regis d." hadn't registered until we sent them a birth certificate.

although the past decade or so i've mostly been afflicted by annoying "HA HA HA ITS THE SAME NAME AS A TALK SHOW HOST" jokes as far as name-based joking goes.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:47 AM on April 24, 2008


...need to address her writing style, narrative choices and resolution, yet ignore the actual subject.

And she even called these people out pre-emptively. She's got MeFi's number all right. (Largely) A bunch of white men who spend a lot of energy denying racism or sexism exist.
posted by DU at 9:48 AM on April 24, 2008 [6 favorites]


People are surprised when I tell them I use my real name online.
posted by Pastabagel at 9:49 AM on April 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


There's someone in the office complex where I work who has a "Chinese-sounding" last name, yet she is blonde-haired and blue eyed (rrrrrworrrr, she's a real hottie, too). I've always been curious about her heritage, but I've never felt that I could ask her about it.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:50 AM on April 24, 2008


You know, I think her story actually provides a pretty good insight into why black people and white people have pretty different views about whether there's still much racism in the U.S.

I don't think we need to wonder any longer. In this week's Democratic primary in Pennsylvania, of white people who reported that race was an important factor in determining their vote (12% overall), 3/4 of them voted for the white candidate.
posted by psmealey at 9:50 AM on April 24, 2008


All right, last comment. I just have to say I love the people who seem to need to address her writing style, narrative choices and resolution, yet ignore the actual subject. She isn't looking for any literary-workshop critique, she's an average person writing about average experiences in our society - which is exactly what makes it interesting.

I'm not ignoring the actual subject, I just don't think that anyone who writes on the topic of misdirected racism will automatically make something that's worth posting to metafilter.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:54 AM on April 24, 2008


I'm just waiting for the "Tonto Goldstein" joke to appear...
posted by tadellin at 9:54 AM on April 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


She's got MeFi's number all right. (Largely) A bunch of white men who spend a lot of energy denying racism or sexism exist

This is exactly why racism threads suck. Don't get me wrong, I am ordinarily a big fan of yours, DU, really enjoy your insights, but owing perhaps to poor wording or inelegantly expressed thoughts, it's entirely to easy for MeFites to call others out as racists even though they may be the furthest thing from it.
posted by psmealey at 9:54 AM on April 24, 2008


I read a short write-up of a study (I think the WaPo?) a couple months ago pointing out that when you disaggregate survey data polling people about the existence and intensity of racism these days, and whether things are better or worse now than 30 years ago, it's pretty striking how different white views are from black views, with most white people believing that racism died out in the 1970s with the civil rights movement. (All fixed now!)

It's more complicated than that. My wife, a social psychologist, used to do research on the Personal-Group Discrimination Discrepancy (PGDD). Individuals are likely to report that their group is discriminated against but for some reason they deny that they themselves have been.

Racism is a very weird thing for both the perps and the vics.
posted by srboisvert at 9:54 AM on April 24, 2008


I'm just waiting for the "Tonto Goldstein" joke to appear...

It's Bucky... and here it is
One day I got on the bus, and when I stepped in, I saw the most gorgeous blond Chinese girl. I sat beside her.
I said, 'Hi', And she said, 'Hi', and then I said, 'Nice day, isn't it?'.
And she said, 'I saw my analyst today and he says I have a problem.'
So I asked, 'What's the problem?' She replied, 'I can't tell you. I don't even know you.'
I said, 'Well, sometimes it's good to tell your problems to a perfect stranger on a bus.'
So she said, 'Well, my analyst said I'm a nymphomaniac and I only like Jewish cowboys... By the way, my name is Denise.'
I said, 'Hello, Denise. My name is Bucky Goldstein.'.
posted by psmealey at 9:59 AM on April 24, 2008 [7 favorites]


My wife is a blond, green-eyed white woman, who has a first name (Daryl) commonly associated with black men (Darrell, Darryl and various other spellings).

Oddly enough, there's rarely any confusion. Although when people ask her about her name, she says she's related to Darryl Dawkins. Which is funny because she's not very tall.
posted by three blind mice at 10:01 AM on April 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


I thought it was good; thanks for posting it.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:02 AM on April 24, 2008


So it's Laquita, huh? Hmm. Never heard that one before. It's rather pretty.

If it really is Laquita, it's definitely a "black name." Heard the name a number of times living in Atlanta, exclusively referring to black people.
posted by jmd82 at 10:03 AM on April 24, 2008


Fryer and Levitt's The Causes and Consequences of Distinctly Black Names (PDF)
Slate piece on Freakonomics, by Levitt
Business Week article from 2003 about names and hiring practices.
CBS News, 2003, same topic.

It's an interesting topic.

Anecdotally, I found out that my name was used as the equivalent of "Gomer" or "Goober" in the early 20th century in the south when it showed up in Light in August. I've also found other cultural artifacts that are pretty funny, including a 78 called "Uncle Hiram's Trip to the Big City" (it's a double-sided tale with parts 1 and 2). I tend to be asked if I'm Jewish a lot, and I'm not, but it is interesting. I haven't encountered the BS the person in the post has, though.

Thanks for the post.
posted by sleepy pete at 10:04 AM on April 24, 2008 [4 favorites]


my boyfriend also has a "black" first name -- marques (pronounced like marcus). he's been having difficulty finding a job as well and we have both wondered if it's because of his name on his resume. everyone, before they meet him, thinks he's black.
posted by kerning at 10:07 AM on April 24, 2008


My English name is not the same as my Chinese name. This was for integration... "avoiding racism," I guess. My boyfriend's name is South Asian and one mailing list changes it a little on each piece of mail, until now it seems he's a Latino Englishman.
posted by halonine at 10:07 AM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


All right, last comment. I just have to say I love the people who seem to need to address her writing style, narrative choices and resolution, yet ignore the actual subject. She isn't looking for any literary-workshop critique, she's an average person writing about average experiences in our society - which is exactly what makes it interesting.

But that's the whole point. There is nothing even mildly interesting in what she has to say.

Besides Seinfeld did it much better with Donna Chang.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 10:09 AM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


My first name has a spelling used almost exclusively by African-Americans. I've met only one other white guy with his name spelt like mine.
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 10:10 AM on April 24, 2008


I'm not sure if there was an SNL sketch with a Laquita, but In Living Color had an "I Love Laquita" sketch.
posted by grouse at 10:12 AM on April 24, 2008


Perhaps someone could post an FPP about the way black people have started adopting the name John or Richard to pass themselves off as white when talking to telemarketers and the police.
posted by docpops at 10:19 AM on April 24, 2008


...easy for MeFites to call others out as racists even though they may be the furthest thing from it.

Being a racism denialist (or topic avoidist) isn't quite the same thing as being a racist. Speaking as a white male myself, my first reaction to being told about racism in some sphere of my life is to deny that I could be so unwittingly evil. That doesn't mean I want to hate minorities, it just means I'm slow to recognize my own faults. Happens to everyone. The trouble is, when a community is largely homogeneous, the slowness to recognize one's own faults is institutionalized and reinforced.
posted by DU at 10:23 AM on April 24, 2008 [5 favorites]


Interesting topic and link—thanks for the post, nooneyouknow. Sorry about the asshats.

There is nothing even mildly interesting in what she has to say.


Translation: "Meh. I have no interest in this, but instead of saying that, I'll claim it is not interesting in and of itself, thus implying anyone who claims to be interested is a liar or a moron."
posted by languagehat at 10:24 AM on April 24, 2008 [6 favorites]


You know what's crazy? Frank Black is white, but Barry White is black. What a world...
posted by inigo2 at 10:25 AM on April 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


Saturday Night Live even assigned my name to a black crackhead-character in a comedy skit

Whitney Houston? *rimshot*

Thanks. I'll be here all week. I think she's making that part up.

My first guess is LaKeesha. My second is Geraldine. My third is Florida.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:26 AM on April 24, 2008


Just saw the Laquita comments. That's a good guess.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:27 AM on April 24, 2008


You know what's crazy? Frank Black is white, but Barry White is black.

...and they go like this, amirite?

sorry
posted by jquinby at 10:28 AM on April 24, 2008


I have a name that people struggle with - it's obscure as hell although not actually particularly difficult. People sometimes think I'm Indian / South Asian or Arabic. And they don't always know I'm male. But it doesn't really negatively affect my life in any meaningful way.

Although it kind of sucked as a kid being able to get nothing with my name on it.
posted by rhymer at 10:29 AM on April 24, 2008


My first girlfriend was named Ladonna. For the whole month I dated her people asked if I was dating a black girl. And the last time I was talking to someone about first girlfriends they asked the exact same question.

And no, she was a white girl from the rural part of Oklahoma that moved to the city when her dad got a job with a local radio station. Sweet girl, very smart. I was a crap-ass boyfriend, and regret how it ended to this day.
posted by dw at 10:29 AM on April 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


So, is the name actually Laquita? I know someone made the claim up thread, but the only substance to that claim is an imagebucket link to a pic of a publicity photo from Lord of the Rings, so... for some reason... I'm kind of skeptical.
posted by shmegegge at 10:32 AM on April 24, 2008


I knew a kid in junior high named Derek Kurtz. He was Asian, and "Derek" was the Americanized name his parents gave him to fit in to the new country, while Kurtz was the surname of his adopted step-father. His real first name was Shingu. And one day us kids discovered this when we noticed it on some school document where it was still printed.

From that day forward, Derek became Shingu to us. I guess we just liked the sound of it better, and he didn't mind. Shingu was a good friend. I like to think we re-adopted his name for him and made him feel more welcome, that he had come to a new place, had been fearfully prepared to lose his name to some tacked on replacement, only to discover that all his new friends liked the original one better.

Then again, we never asked him whether he liked Derek or not. Hey, it was the seventh grade, after all.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:32 AM on April 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


I think I'll adopt a female siamese cat, declaw it and name her Willie Mays.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:33 AM on April 24, 2008


Names aside, it is usually possible to tell a black person speaking on a phone call and if you deny this fact you are kidding yourself. Does it matter? to some, yes indeed. To others not at all.
posted by Postroad at 10:34 AM on April 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


I like to think we re-adopted his name for him and made him feel more welcome, that he had come to a new place, had been fearfully prepared to lose his name to some tacked on replacement, only to discover that all his new friends liked the original one better.

A guy in our dorm from China had (adopted? been assigned?) the name Joey. When we found out that his real name was Kwok, we started calling him that and he got upset. He really, really wanted to be called Joey, so that's what we called him. Felt a little strange, though.
posted by jquinby at 10:35 AM on April 24, 2008


Maybe her blog has a blog about how hard it is to be a middle-aged blog with a grandma-blog's name.

I went to highschool with a girl from Hong Kong named Agnes. It was strange to hear such an anachronistic name on someone so young and attractive.
posted by delmoi at 10:37 AM on April 24, 2008


Just to nitpick on thing: (like a nitpicking white person) (as if that characterization isn't racism in and of itself)
I wish I had an ethnic name to use as an excuse for all the times my resume was dumped in the slushpile. Resumes get rejected. That's why you send out so many of them.
posted by Megafly at 10:38 AM on April 24, 2008


I had a neighbor, a black woman, whose mother gave her a steretypically white first name and stereotypically black middle name. She was a real estate agent and had separate business cards as White B. Lastname and W. Black Lastname (with photo) that she gave/sent potential clients and contacts according to what she perceived their ethnicity to be.
posted by notashroom at 10:38 AM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


You know what's crazy? Frank Black is white

His real name's Charles Thompson, Barry White's was Barrence Carter. I don't know what any of that means.
posted by psmealey at 10:39 AM on April 24, 2008


Names aside, it is usually possible to tell a black person speaking on a phone call and if you deny this fact you are kidding yourself.

Would it bother you if someone said this about Jews? Because I guarantee you there are people who think that about Jews.
posted by languagehat at 10:39 AM on April 24, 2008 [4 favorites]


This woman's simple, simply told story sure has proved to be a screen for people to project their issues onto.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 10:41 AM on April 24, 2008 [26 favorites]


I'd say that within a reasonable amount of certainty, you can guess that people on the phone are black by their accent, but it's far from 100%. White people from particular neighborhoods often 'sound black', and I know plenty of black people that don't have a noticeably 'black' accent.

It really has to do with where you grow up, what kind of school you went to, etc.
posted by empath at 10:42 AM on April 24, 2008


I wish I had an ethnic name to use as an excuse for all the times my resume was dumped in the slushpile. Resumes get rejected.

Ew.
posted by lunit at 10:43 AM on April 24, 2008 [4 favorites]


Names aside, it is usually possible to tell a black person speaking on a phone call and if you deny this fact you are kidding yourself.

Funny. People I speak with on the phone always assume that I'm 6'3". I'm only 6'1" and I often don't correct this misperception.
posted by psmealey at 10:44 AM on April 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


Yeah-- I mean, she's just telling us something that's unique about her life. I'm not sure why people are trying to make it something it's not.
posted by empath at 10:44 AM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Reminds me of college. Freshman year, we lived two-to-a-room, four rooms to a floor, four floors to an entry. I lived on the bottom floor with a guy who had very little to do with anyone else in the dorm. April came around--so we'd been living there seven months at this point--and I mentioned something about Jerome (a Frenchman), who lived on the top floor.

My roommate, familiar only with the fact that he sometimes saw people walking in and out of our dorm--none of whom where black males--said, "There's a guy named Jerome in here? And he's white? A white guy named Jerome?"

He didn't believe me.
posted by uncleozzy at 10:44 AM on April 24, 2008


Names aside, it is usually possible to tell a black person speaking on a phone call and if you deny this fact you are kidding yourself.

Oh I have the best story about this. I worked at a large telecom a few years back. A guy calls in to talk about his bill. He gets my friend, who is white (I'm black). Well he immediately hears my friend talking and says "can I have your supervisor please?"

Well it was the evening shift, so we were our own supervisors based on seniority, and I was the senior person there. So I get on the phone, say the company name/department schpiel, tell him I'm the senior person, not a supervisor, the ask how I can help.

After he describes his issues, I say it's no problem and start to process things and work it out. The guy says "Oh thank goodness. I got some black guy at first ."
posted by cashman at 10:44 AM on April 24, 2008 [16 favorites]


Names aside, it is usually possible to tell a black person speaking on a phone call and if you deny this fact you are kidding yourself.

From the post:

"Give me someone white, and don't argue with me about it, just do it." (On these calls, I very much enjoyed getting the black supervisor with the British accent on the line; we both enjoyed putting one over on them. But I always made sure to tell the supervisor what was up.)
posted by sleepy pete at 10:45 AM on April 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


Had a Korean friend in college, second generation or something so his parents gave him the very American-sounding first name of Jay. His last name was San (sp?), so basically his full name was "Jason". He thought it was hilarious, but he also used to dress up as a Japanese person (rising sun headband) for Halloween.
posted by JeremiahBritt at 10:47 AM on April 24, 2008


I used to teach school in a Southern city, and some of the black students (not that other races were immune to this) came with unique names, e.g., Dartanya, Starkeesha, Prestina.

Remember that Cormac McCarthy novel (Outer Dark maybe?) where the rural (white) family had named all their daughters after words in a medical textbook? I think one was Urethra. . . Pretty funny part. You know, right up until the incest.

My dad's a paramedic, and he said once they picked up a girl whose name was Shitonya.
posted by resurrexit at 10:49 AM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


>>> She is an asshat, an idiot, a narcissistic tool, but unless she finds a way to restructure her DNA, she isn't black and her "black" name, whatever the fuck it is, doesn't make her any more a friend to the oppressed minorities than if she likes to cook collared greens and Okra.

I didn't read it as the author is claiming to be Friend to Blacks, nor did I see an overt statement of that sort. I read it as "here's my experience as a white person who is situationally exposed to discrimination toward blacks that another white person named Jennifer or Susie or Jane might not be."

And I think you mean "collard." But the irony is delightful.

>>> I think it really SUCKS that we still need white people to tell us about discrimination. Like, oh, NOW I get it! Those black people weren't just making it up/being hypersensitive/just as dumb as employers assumed they were/etc. Because this woman is white, so it really truly must have been racism! And if it had been a black woman, well, maybe it wasn't racism, maybe she just wasn't qualified for the job? Maybe she was just being an angry black woman?

Did you mean to say, "we still need white people to tell us about discrimination"? Because, the corollary is that we are supposed to stop talking about it completely... or white people can't have opinions and observations and experiences around it.

And I don't see anywhere the author claimed to be definitively sharing the collective wisdom of all the ages of minority oppression here. Nor did I see where she was figuring y'all had best LEARN about racism from an EXPERT... or that she believed that racism was a lie and now she knows it to be truth, and is here to speak truth to power.

>>> But that's the whole point. There is nothing even mildly interesting in what she has to say. Besides Seinfeld did it much better with Donna Chang.

"Nothing mildly interesting" might be your opinion, but others here obviously disagree. And I think it's disingenuous to say that one person's real-life experience < a sitcom episode. It's apples and oranges.

>>> Names aside, it is usually possible to tell a black person speaking on a phone call and if you deny this fact you are kidding yourself.

This is total bullshit. I spent 18 months as a telephone poller for Gallup. I had to call people across all cultural and socioeconomic lines from all over the country, for hours on end, day in, day out. The very last question of every single poll, no matter the subject, is to ask the pollee for their gender, income bracket, and race. I spent the first two months of that job getting over my pre-conceived notions that certain racial backgrounds came with vocal identifiers.

You can often tell a person's level of education, or what region of the country they were raised in, from a phone call. But if you think you can determine race, you are dead wrong, and uninformed.

I have given up trying to understand the thing that makes so many people feel compelled to kneejerk us out of any interesting or meaningful conversation about race, gender or sexual orientation. If you need to maintain your elite-liberal cred, put something in your profile. But dismissing this woman's statements because her writing doesn't meet your standards... or because white people = can't have opinions about racism... or because you have a class bias confirming what middle-class white Southerners must or cannot know about the plight of the oppressed... is killing a lot of otherwise decent conversations we might have.

This was an interesting read, nooneyouknow. Thanks for the link.
posted by pineapple at 10:49 AM on April 24, 2008 [45 favorites]


Bunch of White dudes discussing racism? Check.
Postroad says something dumb? Check.
All we need is jonmc to show up to let us know everyone is racist and we're good to go.
posted by chunking express at 10:50 AM on April 24, 2008 [5 favorites]


Re: the appopriation thing.

When I was really little (like 7), I remember once calling my [really white] brother the n-word. I had no idea what it meant, but my mom got really, really mad at me. I told her that I made it up, and I think I really thought that I had. Funny how racism just gets internalized like that.

I can see how having that name could have been good for her, but it still leaves me feeling vaguely uncomfortable. Maybe if her and her mother had done more research about the name after they first realized that it was a "black" name (instead of her mother continuing to insist that she made it up), it wouldn't rub me the wrong way so much. As it is, though, I'm not sure white people naming their children "black" names is really a positive trend, or an accountable thing to do.
posted by lunit at 10:51 AM on April 24, 2008


And y'all just need to read the article and quit actin' like a bunch a naggers.
posted by resurrexit at 10:51 AM on April 24, 2008


I filled in the name with "Keasha." I suppose that's because my step-mother, white and in her 60s, has always been called that, so it seems natural to me. I don' t know how she came to be called Keasha specifically, but her given name is the same as various cousins, aunts, nieces and grand-nieces. I really really want to ask her about what her experience has been like.
posted by Stewriffic at 10:52 AM on April 24, 2008


Sugaree? Peggy-O? (Loose) Lucy? (Ramble On) Rose? Stella (Blue)? Oh, wait, I might have misunderstood.
posted by fixedgear at 10:54 AM on April 24, 2008


Translation: "Meh. I have no interest in this, but instead of saying that, I'll claim it is not interesting in and of itself, thus implying anyone who claims to be interested is a liar or a moron."

More like: "Oh great, another window into racism as experienced by white people in America."

Followed by: "Why didn't she just link to a YouTube of the Donna Change episode and add a comment like 'OMG this happens to me all the time!!!'"
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 10:57 AM on April 24, 2008


Well, I was floored by some of the anecdotes in the blog. Does that mean I've led a sheltered life? And then, yes, I was a bit skeptical. Kids in my elementary school could never have used "the n word" without being severely reprimanded at the very least, certainly not when addressing the teacher in front of the class. Does that mean I'm a nit-picking white racist?

And do people really refuse to accept help from others over the phone based on race, or perceived race? I had no idea that happened either! And I'm in the South, so I should be in the very hotbed of racist practices, to add another stereotype on to the heap.
posted by misha at 10:57 AM on April 24, 2008


Did you mean to say, "we still need white people to tell us about discrimination"? Because, the corollary is that we are supposed to stop talking about it completely... or white people can't have opinions and observations and experiences around it.

And I don't see anywhere the author claimed to be definitively sharing the collective wisdom of all the ages of minority oppression here. Nor did I see where she was figuring y'all had best LEARN about racism from an EXPERT... or that she believed that racism was a lie and now she knows it to be truth, and is here to speak truth to power.


...

But dismissing this woman's statements ... because white people = can't have opinions about racism

I can see how it might seem that I was dismissing this woman's story, and I apologize for my sloppy writing. I was not saying and did not mean to say that white people can't have opinions about racism or that they should be quiet about their thoughts and experiences because of their race.

What I was trying to say was that people who are discriminated against on the basis of their race tell us all the time that this is happening. They write about it. They talk about it. This is one more in a very long line of similar stories. But this story is news because the author is white. And that is what makes me angry.
posted by prefpara at 10:59 AM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh, and on the phone thing, my voice changed early, way before my body did, to a low bass*. The already awkward process of a nerdy kid calling up the girl he has a crush on was made much worse when protective fathers assumed I was some 30-year-old pervert that met their daughter on the internet. I used to crack my voice on purpose sometimes.

That and getting women hitting on me when I answered the phone at the pizza place I worked at, only to have them look hopefully around and past me when they came in to pick up their orders.

*I can sing Rachmaninoff's choral bass parts, which I guess is hard, as I was one of two people in the college choir who could hit those notes. On the other hand, those were the only notes I could hit.
posted by JeremiahBritt at 11:00 AM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is one more in a very long line of similar stories. But this story is news because the author is white. And that is what makes me angry.

If only she were to be abducted and then she'd really be famous.
posted by psmealey at 11:02 AM on April 24, 2008


I'm probably being too English about this, but the idea of giving anybody a made-up africanised name seems kind of silly to me, regardless of race. But I also frown at weird spellings and names based on science fiction characters.

(Oh, and I don't think of them as 'black' names, because it's very much a Black American thing)
posted by Artw at 11:03 AM on April 24, 2008


My real name is Brad. I am an actor. Raised in California.
That is why I'm Dizzy.
posted by Dizzy at 11:03 AM on April 24, 2008


...would have had her carrying the same ID as a very famous, barrier-breaking black baseball player. So she got a different name.

You almost named her Curt Flood? Crazy, dude.
posted by NoMich at 12:41 PM on April 24 [2 favorites +] [!]


Ha ha. pretty darned funny. But BIGGER than that barrier. Really. Still funny, though. I will never look at my daughter the same way again.
posted by etaoin at 11:04 AM on April 24, 2008


My first name is the same as about 25 prominent rappers. And I'm white.

Of course, it's a common goddamn first name, which is one of the reasons why I'm changing it legally.
posted by grubi at 11:05 AM on April 24, 2008


What I was trying to say was that people who are discriminated against on the basis of their race tell us all the time that this is happening. They write about it. They talk about it. This is one more in a very long line of similar stories. But this story is news because the author is white. And that is what makes me angry.

That makes a lot of sense, but I think the fact that she's white makes for a pretty compelling case when addressing folks who do not want to admit that racism exists. In a world where people make comments like this:

I wish I had an ethnic name to use as an excuse for all the times my resume was dumped in the slushpile.

I think it might be helpful to read the experiences of a woman who functions as her own experiment, you know? She's got a lifetime of accumulated experience as to how she is treated when folks know her name, or don't, or see her, or don't, and it might be more persuasive to someone than the experience of someone who's always "read" by others as being the same race. I totally agree that it is shitty that there are people who deny the existence of racism and look for excuses to discount the experiences of people of color, but given that such people exist, I like that "Daisy" wrote what she did.
posted by moxiedoll at 11:09 AM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


There's a lot of overlap between names that are perceived as "black" and ones that are stereotypically Utahn (Mormon, to be more specific), so I wasn't even trying to guess.

By the way, if her name is LaQuita, it's on the list.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:12 AM on April 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


What I was trying to say was that people who are discriminated against on the basis of their race tell us all the time that this is happening. They write about it. They talk about it. This is one more in a very long line of similar stories. But this story is news because the author is white.

Hmm. I read it differently, as a white woman explaining why she's never had the luxury (I think that's the wrong word there, but I'm not sure of a better one) of white-person-obliviousness to her own privilege, and why that experience has made her an ally.

Although that's probably because I assumed she made the post in response to this recent controversy, and the ensuing discussions 'round those parts about what it means to really be an ally. I don't think her intended audience was one that she thought needed to be convinced that racism existed.

I could be wrong, though.
posted by iminurmefi at 11:12 AM on April 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


"My first name is the same as about 25 prominent rappers"

Ice grubi?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:12 AM on April 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


Josh Gibson?
posted by mrgrimm at 11:13 AM on April 24, 2008


Oh, and on the phone thing, my voice changed early, way before my body did, to a low bass*. The already awkward process of a nerdy kid calling up the girl he has a crush on was made much worse when protective fathers assumed I was some 30-year-old pervert that met their daughter on the internet. I used to crack my voice on purpose sometimes.

Did you learn to instill confidence in them by outlining how you were never gonna give them up, let them down, etc?
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 11:17 AM on April 24, 2008 [8 favorites]


I'm not sure white people naming their children "black" names is really a positive trend, or an accountable thing to do.

Are you saying that people should only be given names that are "appropriate" for their race? Why would you care? And who determines what is appropriate anyway?
posted by oneirodynia at 11:18 AM on April 24, 2008


My name is Malcolm. I am half Caucasian-American and half Asian-American. Yes it's weird.

So ... I guess that makes you Malcolm in the Middle?
posted by pardonyou? at 11:20 AM on April 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


My name (Felicity) is very English and unusual in the states; not black or white, just unusual in that a surprising number of people have never encountered it before. Some years back, when I was living in Baltimore, I entered a couple of paintings in an Artscape show with the theme of Urbanism or Urban living or something like that. The show was restricted to artists living in the Baltimore city limits, which I definitely was, and, this being the early nineties, I hadn't yet gotten the memo about urban being a synonym for black. So off they went and word came back that two of my paintings had gotten in. I was thrilled; I'd never gotten a piece into Artscape before. So I went to the opening and was a little surprised when the curator, who was black, did a complete double take when I walked in and introduced myself. Then I discovered that I was the only white artist in the show. My weird name and address had kept me in the judging pool. Oh well, what the hell. Once everyone got over the initial shock, they were very nice to me and the show even got moved to another gallery in West Baltimore for a couple months.
posted by mygothlaundry at 11:20 AM on April 24, 2008


List of Wrong

Metallica? WTF?
posted by Artw at 11:21 AM on April 24, 2008


#There's someone in the office complex where I work who has a "Chinese-sounding" last name, yet she is blonde-haired and blue eyed (rrrrrworrrr, she's a real hottie, too). I've always been curious about her heritage, but I've never felt that I could ask her about it.

So, KokuRyu -- you work in the same office-complex as Rashida Jones? Wish her and her Dad, Quincy my best, please.
posted by vhsiv at 11:26 AM on April 24, 2008


My first name is the same as about 25 prominent rappers.

MC?
posted by zippy at 11:28 AM on April 24, 2008 [5 favorites]


Maybe I should clarify: my LEGAL first name is the same as the LEGAL first name of about 25 prominent rappers.

Ahem.
posted by grubi at 11:30 AM on April 24, 2008


My surname is (usually) Asian. Two stories: When I did an overnight at the U of Chicago as a prospective student, my two hosts arrived--both were Asian women. They picked me off a list, it seems and their faces fell when they discovered that I was a white chick. "We were gonna take you to this Big 10 gook thing," one of the women told me and I was stunned to hear that word come out of an Asian person's mouth. They pawned me off to a white floormate and ditched me.

Second story: I sent away for a grad school application from the University of Georgia. What arrived was an application for international students.

The junk mail in Korean and Chinese oddly stopped a few years ago, however.
posted by gsh at 11:30 AM on April 24, 2008


I wonder how people with asian or indian accents are treated on support calls? Women v/s men? How are fat people treated at clothing stores? How are poor people treated at expensive hotels? How are red necks treat at five star restaurants? How are atheists treated at holiday parties? Men at dyke bars? Gay men in locker rooms?

Racism, Sexism, Sizism, Classism, Reigousism, Orientationism. Discrimination is not the same as dislike. Some people don't like some groups. Some groups don't like other groups. No group unconditionally accepts all the other groups. No group is free of ridicule and cruelty. Some groups have historical dislike for each other.

Let's not confuse the dimension that includes rude and nasty behavior with the dimension in which people's rights are abused.
posted by ewkpates at 11:31 AM on April 24, 2008


One of my neighbors (in Florida) used to be a white woman named Laquita, probably in her 50s now. I thought it sounded like a black name but my mom always said, No it's a Southern thing.
posted by Durin's Bane at 11:31 AM on April 24, 2008


Names hurt. "Huguenot's have had a hard time too. I can't recall how often I've had to say 'Yeah, we were chucked out of France, it sucks to be a protestant."
posted by tellurian at 11:33 AM on April 24, 2008


Here is a list of SNL characters. My bet would be Starkisha.
posted by Andy's Gross Wart at 11:34 AM on April 24, 2008


Let's not confuse the dimension that includes rude and nasty behavior with the dimension in which people's rights are abused.

I don't think that's a distinction that's easily drawn. In places where such rude and nasty behavior flourish (or are not actively discouraged), it often doesn't take much for the abuse of rights or worse to take root.
posted by psmealey at 11:38 AM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I wish I had an ethnic name to use as an excuse for all the times my resume was dumped in the slushpile. Resumes get rejected.

Yep, resumes get rejected, tons of em. And that's the excuse employers will inevitably use if you happen to question them about it. See, plausible deniability is so easy! (I'll just add that it can suck, in some parts of the country at least, to have an Arabic-looking name on your resume in post-9/11 America.)
posted by naju at 11:41 AM on April 24, 2008


Are you saying that people should only be given names that are "appropriate" for their race? Why would you care? And who determines what is appropriate anyway?

No, I don't think people should be told what to name their children. It just seems to me that white people naming their children "ethnic" names might be part of the trend of naming children increasingly obscure names. And it feels a little bit too much like white people cherrypicking what they like about other cultures, in this case "interesting" or "unique" names, for my comfort. See cultural appropriation.

It's a complicated issue; it's not that I want to determine what is and is not appropriate (which depends on the context anyway) and I certainly don't intend to offer any authoritarian solution. But it does strike me as a disturbing trend that fits into a pattern of dominent cultures stealing things from other cultures, and therefore I think it's worth talking about and caring about.
posted by lunit at 11:42 AM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


No doubt people associate race with certain names. I have a black friend whose given name is one of those. He legally changed it to Benjamin because he didn't feel he was taken seriously when using his original given name
posted by Carbolic at 11:42 AM on April 24, 2008


Were any other Americans amused that the uber-Anglo Harry Potter villian was named Lucius? I've never met a white Lucius.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:44 AM on April 24, 2008


My name is actually Pamela Anderson Leigh. You have no idea.
posted by From Bklyn at 11:47 AM on April 24, 2008


A man called Horse. A horse named Dog. A boy named Sue. My boss' name is Bitch.
posted by doctorschlock at 11:49 AM on April 24, 2008


When my white daughter was pregnant, her black mother-in-law made it a point to tell her-and I quote-not to name the baby a "ghetto" name. She'd followed her own advice when she named my daughter's husband-both he and my grandchild have the whitest sounding names imaginable.


I think it is foolish to think that names in general don't carry baggage of some sort or another. I think the article speaks to how people make lazy and ignorant assumptions about others, whether by name or by race. The author's perspective is unique precisely because she is white-because, guess what? We white people have even blindly internalized the bad treatment black people get and don't even NOTICE it so that when the same thing happens to "one of us" the contrast gets our attention.
posted by konolia at 11:49 AM on April 24, 2008 [5 favorites]


I've always maintained there are no black people named Chad.
posted by electroboy at 11:51 AM on April 24, 2008


There are black people IN Chad, I hear.
posted by empath at 11:54 AM on April 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


A very interesting article. Thanks for posting it.

For a long time, some people my wife worked with assumed that her kids were from a previous relationship. They'd met her obviously white kids and heard, but not met, the name of her obviously black husband.

If I ever experienced negative reactions to my name and perceived race, I was too dense to notice. But there was a friend of one of my kids who was delighted that we had the same and would tell all his mostly black friends about my name. I enjoyed that.
posted by maurice at 12:01 PM on April 24, 2008


a cursory search of xtube proves your thesis, empath.
posted by heeeraldo at 12:03 PM on April 24, 2008


ITS NOT A BLACK NAME. ITS OUR RANCH. ITS OUR HOME. WE ARE FREEEEEEE
posted by scarabic at 12:04 PM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


This school was not named after that Martin Luther King, but a relative of mine, who was white. I expect that's why the school's website prefers to just call it "King Middle School" instead of using his full name.
posted by JanetLand at 12:04 PM on April 24, 2008


I've always maintained there are no black people named Chad.

You were joking, but I'm bored: Chad, Brad, Ingrid.
posted by cashman at 12:04 PM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I ran into something similar back in my online dating days. I was corresponding with a woman from Oregon, and spoke to her on the phone a few times before we exchanged pictures. She was surprised to find out I'm white, since she associated southern accents with being black. It didn't matter one way or the other to her, but she was shocked.

My wife runs into the exact opposite situation. Black dad, white mom, and in the binary world in which most of us live, most folks percieve her as black. Her name, though, is white as white can be, as is her phone voice, so she often gets funny looks when she shows up for doctor's appointments and such.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:07 PM on April 24, 2008


My last name is "Moon" and, when showing up for job interviews or other pre-arranged meetings with strangers, people have often blurted out "I assumed you were Korean!" or something like that. The first time it happened I was in high school and thought it was sort of funny. It happened again just a couple of weeks ago. I'm white, Irish-American. People definitely make assumptions.
posted by Miko at 12:10 PM on April 24, 2008


pineapple: You can often tell a person's level of education, or what region of the country they were raised in, from a phone call. But if you think you can determine race, you are dead wrong, and uninformed.

Dr. John Baugh, professor of education and linguistics at Stanford, disagrees. I'm sure he would appreciate an email or a phone call from you correcting his research with your personal anecdotes.

Baugh's ongoing study shows that over the phone many Americans are able to accurately guess the age, race, sex, ethnicity, region of heritage and other social demographics based on a few sentences, even just a hello.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 12:15 PM on April 24, 2008 [8 favorites]


Everyone assumes I'm Jewish, which is usually cool, though sometimes a bizarre window into anti-Semitism. "You're not… you know… are you?" says my girlfriend's aunt. "Republican? No."

I call myself Costume Jewry.
posted by klangklangston at 12:15 PM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Chad Goodridge is Black.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:16 PM on April 24, 2008


"You were joking, but I'm bored: Chad, Brad, Ingrid."

"Of course, Sherman. You've heard of Hanging Chad."
posted by klangklangston at 12:17 PM on April 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


Welcome to everyone coming over from MetaFilter, but hey, go easy on me, okay? I know I ain't JG fucking Ballard and my writing is not world-class. I stopped writing for almost a decade and only picked it up again (in an admittedly piecemeal fashion) on blogs and message boards. I've only been blogging since June of last year.

In short, ain't no reason to be MEAN. As a previous commenter opined: mean people suck.

Thanks.

posted by Pater Aletheias at 12:21 PM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


For whatever it’s worth I came within an inch of being named “Merlin”. Hippy parents.
posted by Artw at 12:24 PM on April 24, 2008


Yeah, isn't it nice to know that in some cases getting your blogged linked on metafilter is only full of more articulate insults and one liners than if it had been linked on fark? Seriously, some of the criticisms of her blog and the crap people have said is depressing.
posted by Stunt at 12:25 PM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


blogged? blog. how the hell did that slip through. right then.

Also, interesting link, thanks nooneyouknow.
posted by Stunt at 12:26 PM on April 24, 2008


Artw, that was my grandfather's name (though spelled differently), and his family were REALLY not hippies. (He hated it, apparently, and went by his initials.)
posted by small_ruminant at 12:28 PM on April 24, 2008


I can entirely understand.

Being named after King Arthur is not nearly so bad, when I was though growing up in the UK I defiantly noticed it was a name mainly reserved for dead historical personages or the very old.

if I have a son I’m going to name him “Beowolf”. Ok, maybe not
posted by Artw at 12:41 PM on April 24, 2008


Seriously, some of the criticisms of her blog and the crap people have said is depressing.

You're not new here, so I have to assume that you don't visit that often. What you say is pretty unfortunate, but we throw far worse directly at each other on a daily basis. No one gets out of here alive.
posted by psmealey at 12:45 PM on April 24, 2008


I defiantly noticed it was a name mainly reserved for dead historical personages or the very old.

as well as wealthy idle drunks and hapless reluctant hitchhikers.
posted by shmegegge at 12:46 PM on April 24, 2008


You’ll notice both those examples have an air of benign befuddlement about them, and that has more than a little to do with the name that was chosen. I was not really completely okay with this as a kid.
posted by Artw at 12:49 PM on April 24, 2008


Also a type of fucking cat food, and don;t get me started on the cartoon characters...
posted by Artw at 12:50 PM on April 24, 2008


Baugh's ongoing study shows that over the phone many Americans are able to accurately guess the age, race, sex, ethnicity, region of heritage and other social demographics based on a few sentences, even just a hello.

It's absurd to suggest that it can't be done, especially when given some other information, such as the name and what part of the country you're calling from.
posted by empath at 12:53 PM on April 24, 2008


I'm glad I never had kids when I was in my early 20s or all of them would have had Elvish names. I think one thing may be related to the other, there...
posted by empath at 12:55 PM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Living in the US with my accent and, I guess to a certain extend, my name I get profiled as being very polite, smart and posh all the time. Ha ha ha, fools.
posted by Artw at 12:57 PM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I have given up trying to understand the thing that makes so many people feel compelled to kneejerk us out of any interesting or meaningful conversation about race, gender or sexual orientation.

BTW -- this past weekend I watched a rerun of a recent 90-minute MSNBC program 'Conversation About Race in America' which followed 'Meeting David Wilson' [MeFi thread]. If they replay both programs, I recommend watching them.
posted by ericb at 12:58 PM on April 24, 2008


Gee, I'm a white guy with a white name. I feel so left out now.
posted by briank at 1:00 PM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Is it weird that right as I was reading this I saw a meeting request by a somebody named "Daiquiri Jimenez" at my office and found it to be an interesting synchronicity?

Truthfully, I have always wanted a more interesting name. Kudos to those who are different, in whatever way they are.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 1:01 PM on April 24, 2008


Yeah, definitely not new here, but I do visit very regularly. Yeah, we say worse about ourselves, fine. I just was rubbed the wrong way by the direction of a lot of this in regards to what seems like someone's personal blog.

We pay admission to be bullied around here now! No reason she should get a freebie. If she wants snark she had better come pay her $5 just like everyone else.
posted by Stunt at 1:03 PM on April 24, 2008


Baugh's ongoing study shows that over the phone many Americans are able to accurately guess the age, race, sex, ethnicity, region of heritage and other social demographics based on a few sentences, even just a hello.
[...]
Baugh has found racist responses in hundreds of calls. He tests ads with a series of three calls. First, someone speaking with an African-American dialect responds to an ad. Then, a researcher with a Mexican-style Spanish-English dialect calls. Finally, a third caller uses what most people regard as Standard English.


I would be interested in seeing more about this methodology, since these results aren't based on a blind survey of callers of various backgrounds, but rather on calculated examples of "Black dialect" and "White dialect" fed over the line. This, I'd argue, gives Baugh an opportunity to skew his inputs well beyond behavioral norms - what if, after all, his examples of genuine "racial dialects" evoked lowbrow stereotypes worthy of Carlos Mencia? Such an experiment might give results in line with the author's bias, but would have little to say about the population at large.

Baugh: Eyyyyy, que honda, esse? I'm lookin' for an apartment, homes.

Subject: Yeah, that's a Latino voice.

Baugh: Good, next one. Vell, you've outschmarted me once, American swine, but nobody gets ze better of Colonel Klink!
posted by kid ichorous at 1:04 PM on April 24, 2008 [4 favorites]


I have a very Jewish last name and I remember agonizing over it when we I moved from NY to Florida at 13. My mother and step-family all had non-Jewish last names (because most of them weren't actually Jewish) and I could not convince them that I was being anything but silly.

But, when they tried to convince me to let them send me to Pope John Paul High I made it very clear that there was simply no way in hell that would be happening.

To this day, I often hate giving my full name to customer service people and using my full name when I introduce myself, not because I fear for my safety or because I'm worried that I'm dealing with anti-semites, but because I HATE the thought that strangers could very well think they know something about me because they know my last name is Jewishy. I HATE that. And this feeling applies to introductions to Jews and Gentiles alike.

I just want to say:
"Don't think you know any more about me than you did before I told you my name is Jewy McHymiebergenthalstein. You don't know anything about me, man. I'm an individual."
posted by mer2113 at 1:05 PM on April 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


My name is so southern WASP that people will assume it is black.

This is extra depressing because I actually do come from Louisiana sugarcane planters.
posted by keratacon at 1:10 PM on April 24, 2008


Well, at least you can probably pick up a McHymiebergenthalstein clan tartan at a Scottish tourist shop.
posted by Artw at 1:10 PM on April 24, 2008


I just was rubbed the wrong way by the direction of a lot of this in regards to what seems like someone's personal blog.

Understandable. It does happen reasonably often, though. Sometimes the blog author in question will even drop the $5 and register just to weigh in on the thread. Most of the time, they seem to be of the opinion that we're just a bunch of anonymous dickheads that waste time and talk shit on a blog. We, after all, know better: we're a bunch of dickheads that waste time and talk shit on a blog that sort of know each other.
posted by psmealey at 1:17 PM on April 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


There is nothing even mildly interesting in what she has to say.

Translation: "Meh. I have no interest in this, but instead of saying that, I'll claim it is not interesting in and of itself, thus implying anyone who claims to be interested is a liar or a moron."


Furthermore, instead of saying that, how bout saying nothing at all? Registering one's disinterest in topic X, in an arrogant, dismissive tone, is not exactly, you know, contributing to discourse. Nor is it interesting.

Just another CBG.

(Worst. Episode. Ever.)


Lord, save us from the arbiters of interestingness.

As for me, all the reasons I found this interesting have been well covered. In short, personal stories always make issues more relevant to me.

The truth revealed.
posted by flotson at 1:20 PM on April 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


Registering one's disinterest in topic X, in an arrogant, dismissive tone, is not exactly, you know, contributing to discourse.

It's not about the discussion, it's about the links.
posted by 23skidoo at 1:23 PM on April 24, 2008


My surname is Jung, if they see it written most people in England/Europe pronounce it like I'm a descendant of Carl "collective unconscious" Jung, even though it should (in Korean) sound off like Jelly. My first name is too difficult for non Koreans to pronounce and I gave up a long time ago being called correctly. Having lived outside of Korea most of my life, I've wrestled with the idea of having an anglo name (mostly out of convenience), but pig-headily stuck to the name my grandfather gave me.

A korean friend of mine who was adopted into a fanatically devout Irish catholic ginger family overcame his identity crisis by combing his korean name (Sun Tae) and his american name (Patrick) by combing the two to be called Suntrick.

As much trouble as I have with my name, I'm thankful my parents are not Venezuelans.
posted by slyrabbit at 1:31 PM on April 24, 2008


MY real first name is very WASP-ish (Heywood), and my last name is Polish... pronounced Yablovmee-eh. You'll have to work out the spelling for yourself.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:32 PM on April 24, 2008


When my father's friend, Jerry Green, got drafted into the army, he was immediately made a cook, because his last name "Green" is apparently a black name... go figure. But he is not black, he was a jewish guy from brooklyn! At any rate, he was the only white guy in an entire unit of Greens!
posted by illuminatus at 1:33 PM on April 24, 2008


It's not about the discussion, it's about the links.

It's not about the links, it's about being a dick.
posted by chunking express at 1:38 PM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


konolia declared:
"because, guess what? We white people have even blindly internalized the bad treatment black people get and don't even NOTICE it"

What do you mean "we", Kemo Sabe?

Some of us classified as "white" have done no such thing and are resolutely disturbed when such sweeping declarations are made. Some people, regardless of the ism people assume they belong to, are quite aware of the torments faced by other isms and even do some small part in trying to make it better for everyone.

None of what "Daisy" had to say surprised me, but I'm glad she said it. Yes, it sucks that people need that kind of obvious proof of something so easily observed, if not as easily directly encountered, but some people really do.

Just like some people need to read "The Pearl" (Steinbeck) in order to "get" symbolism, some people need to see something so blatantly ridiculous, so grubbily pedestrian as garden-variety prejudice focused on an unexpected target.

I think, however, that most of what can be learned here (and in any ism discussion) is that people really need to question their assumptions more.
posted by batmonkey at 1:44 PM on April 24, 2008


>> Dr. John Baugh, professor of education and linguistics at Stanford, disagrees. I'm sure he would appreciate an email or a phone call from you correcting his research with your personal anecdotes.

I'm disappointed, Pater -- I wouldn't have expected such a response from you. Thinly veiled "gotcha" snark doesn't become you. I'm glad you found a professor with enough academic credibility that you could name-check him here as a reason that I'm wrong, and all -- but you're off the mark. While my experience was absolutely anecdotal (as is everyone else's in this thread), my experience as a national telephone poller is unique and relevant. No amount of Stanford studies is going to alter my opinion that I wasn't off-base in using it as I did: to refute a dumb fake-authoritative statement like "it is usually possible to tell a black person speaking on a phone call and if you deny this fact you are kidding yourself."

>> It's absurd to suggest that it can't be done, especially when given some other information, such as the name and what part of the country you're calling from.

This is correct, and I apologize: I didn't mean to imply that it can't be done ever -- just that Postroad's original comment was ill-thought and wrong.

The other problem that I have with the suggestion that it's easy to identify race over the phone is that it makes presumptions about the listener's cultural background. A voice isn't a voice without ears to hear it. Aside from the words used, and speaking specifically about voice, inflection, et al., "What a Black Person Sounds Like" is different regionally, and in fact from city to city. People in Southern Louisiana don't sound like anyone else in the country -- be they black, white, brown, red, yellow or green-with-spots; they often speak with a creole dialect that is wholly independent of race and in fact has the same DNA as African American Vernacular English. A black person working a call center in Nebraska is not going to sound like the voices of black people that a native of Baltimore might be familiar with.

In response to the pull of the Baugh study from kid ichorous above: Call me egotistical but if that was in fact the methodology, then I not only scoff but I say that anyone who wanted to really study racial linguistics would be far wiser to ignore that crappy data and go set up shop at Gallup for a while. People of all races dial up other people of all races, totally at random. The computer selects the calls based on nothing more than whether the number is valid and has been dialed for a poll in the last X days. There's no acting with fake voices, there's no bias toward results, there's no asking fake questions that might in and of themselves carry bias (for example, people advertising in circulars for rentals, used cars, etc. Pretty easy to inject class bias there.). There's just "if I can take this person all the way to the end of the poll about summer movie releases, I get paid, and if I don't, I won't."

My whole real issue on this voice-identification thing was Postroad's comment, which I felt to be a cheap drive-by. I feel like I've addressed that as much as I can at this point, and I'm sorry for contributing to a derail (albeit a tangentially related one).

>> It's not about the discussion, it's about the links.

Actually, 23skidoo, Matt has said that it is about the discussion, in part.
posted by pineapple at 1:46 PM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Understandable. It does happen reasonably often, though.

Yeah, I'm just usually not already in a crappy mood and thus unwisely motivated to say something. I really do love this place though, even with the bits that irritated me. After all, if this conversation were to happen on fark...hahahaha. Man, I couldn't even get thorough that sentence without totally losing it. Conversation on fark? Shit, I might as well be telling anecdotes about dragons.

As far as names go, I suppose the worst I can say about my own is that due to oh-so-common mispronunciation my last name becomes unfortunate. "Ha ha! Your name is Robert's Titties?". No, good sirs, IT IS NOT.
posted by Stunt at 1:47 PM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I really wish the commodity markets would crash and then no one would give a shit about race anymore because you know they would be digesting their own bodily tissues.
posted by norabarnacl3 at 1:50 PM on April 24, 2008


No amount of Stanford studies is going to alter my opinion that I wasn't off-base

In other words, "Don't bother me with facts and studies. I called lots of people! On the phone!"
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:51 PM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


psmealey said:
"we throw far worse directly at each other on a daily basis. No one gets out of here alive."

This isn't necessarily something to be proud of or try to protect.
posted by batmonkey at 1:52 PM on April 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


Cool Papa Bell, I think what she was saying was the equivalent of "Well, I don't care if their research shows that house cats can't jump higher than 6 feet, I'm watching mine regularly hit the ceiling right now". Because regardless of what came from that study, her experiences still happened.
posted by Stunt at 1:59 PM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Make it into whatever you need it to be, CPB. You sure edited cute there, but you're willfully ignoring my actual point. I trust that those who are predisposed to make this conversation reasonable and not a kneejerky bonfire got what I was trying to say, up above.

But thanks for the noise! You make MeFi louder and more flamey!
posted by pineapple at 2:00 PM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't think it's at all admirable to be needlessly mean. On the other hand, when you put stuff on the internet, you're publishing. It's not realistic to expect everyone who sees it to approve or even be silent about it. Musicians release records understanding that some may call the work terrible, in public criticism. Ad teams put together billboards and don't worry about whether every 83rd person that drives by says "What an amateurish piece of shit design job that is." I don't think there's a reasonable expectation of "personal blog" on the public internet - if you have personal things to write and say, you can circulate them via email.

I liked her essay, I think she makes a great point in a direct and personal way, and I think she's at least as good a writer as most bloggers are, better and much more error-free, in fact, and certainly has a flair for storytelling. But I think worry about the meanness of others - whether it comes from outside or inside MetaFilter - is not worthwhile. Especially as regards MetaFilter - if we are supposed to have a community weblog here with links to things around the internet, is anyone really suggesting we should never say anything critical? Can we say it if it's John McCain's daughter's blog, or Paris Hilton's blog, or Malcolm Gladwell's blog, but not some less famous writer's blog? If we can't have a full range of responses, why are we doing this?
posted by Miko at 2:07 PM on April 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


Ad teams put together billboards and don't worry about whether every 83rd person that drives by says "What an amateurish piece of shit design job that is."

Just so you know, ad people, I do this.
posted by Artw at 2:14 PM on April 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


This isn't necessarily something to be proud of or try to protect.

To be proud of? No, it's certainly not. But it doesn't need to be protected. Given the governing theorem, all things internet tend in that direction naturally.
posted by psmealey at 2:14 PM on April 24, 2008


My last name looks like it could belong to somebody from Latin America. (It doesn't.) About a year ago, my dad got something in the mail informing that him that service from a certain cable provider "¡es comcástico!" Sadly, this correlates well with the quality of their customer service.
posted by oaf at 2:36 PM on April 24, 2008


Black women (and men) have been telling us about this for... ever. But it's good that this white woman has told us about racism and discrimination, because now we REALLY know it happens, right?

That's definitely an important criticism to make, but her experiences are interesting because only one variable, her name, was changed from the white standard. It pins the results more on overt individual racism than toward institutional racism (ie Black Laquita didn't get hired because her school system failed to teach her how to read or something).
posted by fermezporte at 2:37 PM on April 24, 2008


Hey, Stunt, are you by any chance related to the historian Richard Stites? I have one of his books.
posted by languagehat at 2:37 PM on April 24, 2008


And it feels a little bit too much like white people cherrypicking what they like about other cultures, in this case "interesting" or "unique" names, for my comfort. See cultural appropriation.

You really have to make a lot of assumptions about a person's motivation to equate "name I want to give my kid" to cultural appropriation. Really, there's no way to know anyone's motivation about a child's name unless you ask them, and it's patently ridiculous to try and sort names into culturally appropriate categories. Two names have come up in this thread which people had equated with African-american persons: Felicity and Darryl. Neither one of which says AA to me, but they obviously do to somebody. On top of that, no culture exists in a vacuum- there are Chinese people with the Chinese family name meaning "gold", because of long ago Jewish ancestry. Maurice, Russell, and Jerome are European names that, in the US, some people assume are African American. Unless we all agree to live strictly segregated cultural lives, humans will share their names with other humans.

It's a complicated issue; it's not that I want to determine what is and is not appropriate (which depends on the context anyway) and I certainly don't intend to offer any authoritarian solution. But it does strike me as a disturbing trend that fits into a pattern of dominent cultures stealing things from other cultures, and therefore I think it's worth talking about and caring about.

Sorry, I don't buy that intangibles can be "stolen". If I name my white child Muhammed, is something missing from the lives of Muslim people? What if I move to the Middle East, and am no longer part of the "dominant" culture? Cultures are always changing, evolving, sharing; if they stagnate, they disappear, because human beings are always changing, evolving, and adapting. I'd much prefer a world where people weren't afraid of voting for an American man whose middle name is "Hussein" because it denotes "Muslim", than one where only certain kinds of people were allowed to have particular names or attributes.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:40 PM on April 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


Just because some folks find themselves incapable of social skills and someone else wrote it down doesn't make it inevitable.

Resistance is possible. Agitation may be required in order to achieve real results. I'm up for the challenge. Other (better, more interesting) people are, too.

Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Help maintain a healthy, respectful discussion by focusing comments on the
issues, topics, and facts at hand—not at other members of the site.

Join us. Jooooooiiiiiinnnnnnn uuuuuuusssss...

posted by batmonkey at 2:42 PM on April 24, 2008


Some of us classified as "white" have done no such thing and are resolutely disturbed when such sweeping declarations are made. Some people, regardless of the ism people assume they belong to, are quite aware of the torments faced by other isms and even do some small part in trying to make it better for everyone.

Hey, guess what? I have been active in racial reconciliation events for years and years and have MINDFULLY sought to be quite aware of racism in all its forms and equally mindfully making sure I was not an offender.

And I found out when my daughter married outside our race that even the most "enlightened" of us have our blind spots that we are totally unaware of. Because if we knew they were there, we'd have gotten rid of them, right?

I am glad racism disturbs you. I would hope that along with me you will realize that as fairminded as we are, we have never been black, and it is the height of arrogance to suggest we could never be blind to some of the very subtle ways racism has affected people of color.
posted by konolia at 2:49 PM on April 24, 2008 [13 favorites]


konolia, it appears you've already decided based on your own experiences what information everyone else is working with, which makes it seem as if there's no room for experiences different from yours in your mind.

Assumptions are interesting creatures. Wily. Difficult to sort out. Harder still to kill. Persistent little buggers.
posted by batmonkey at 3:03 PM on April 24, 2008


languagehat: I honestly don't know. Unfortunately I don't know all that much about my family tree, and my last name was something that my grandfather took on to match his stepfather. For some reason he is estranged from anyone stemming from that side, so I know pretty much nothing. From his age though Richard Stites could be a cousin of my grandfather for all I know.

Hmm. You know, I think you've rekindled my interest in trying to find out more about all that though, so if turns out I am I'll let you know.

Traditionally I haven't been too interested in digging around thorough my genealogy, but a historian? Neat. I need to find something to compete with the plethora of interesting people my girlfriend is related to.
posted by Stunt at 3:04 PM on April 24, 2008


I really wish the commodity markets would crash and then no one would give a shit about race anymore because you know they would be digesting their own bodily tissues.

If the commodities markets crashed, then food would be cheap (crash means vast reduction in price)

In other words, "Don't bother me with facts and studies. I called lots of people! On the phone!"

What? How is calling hundreds of people on the phone not a scientifically valid way of assessing something like this?

It doesn’t even sound like what Baugh's research shows even refutes pineapple's comment, I mean his work is more about whether or not people can pick up on a 'typical' dialect. There is no analysis about how often someone of whatever race actually has that accent or dialect.

In other words, the research shows that people can tell who does or does not "sound black" on the phone (which can lead to discrimination) but it does not show that all black people actually "sound black".

There are a lot of African Americans who "sound black" and there are a lot who do not.
posted by delmoi at 3:04 PM on April 24, 2008


Okay, I'm back. But, just to share in the 'my last name' stories. My mother retained her maiden name throughout her life. It's a difficult to pronounce Austrian name - it's pretty Germanic with a dash of chosen people. Anyway, for many years this wasn't any sort of problem (other than we could tell if telemarketers or bill collectors were on the phone due to their mis-pronunciation of the name.) After 9/11, however, things got weird. People started prank calling, well, threat-calling is more apt, telling my mother to 'go back to the Iraq' in some many words (with other words left out.) This always struck all of us as really odd, since the name doesn't sound particularly Arabic, just foreign. But perhaps foreign is enough for some people.
posted by elwoodwiles at 3:07 PM on April 24, 2008


konolia, it appears you've already decided based on your own experiences what information everyone else is working with, which makes it seem as if there's no room for experiences different from yours in your mind.

What's your point, monkeybat. Konolia has passionately and elegant expressed a view that doesn't entirely diverge from your own. She's saying that, yes, you should always challenge your own assumptions, but that invariably there are blind spots in how we see ourselves, and we cannot know how the Other might fell (to paraphrase Harper Lee, until we walk in their shoes. I'm not exactly sure why you're taking issue with that, but I am sure that you are often insufferably condescending, which blunts whatever point you are trying to make.
posted by psmealey at 3:13 PM on April 24, 2008


batmonkey, why are you attacking konolia? It seems to me you're basically on the same side, and she's making a perfectly good point.
posted by languagehat at 3:14 PM on April 24, 2008


I used to work with a guy named Isadoro. When I met him everyone called him Izzy, all his life he had been called this. One day he showed up for work and said he would now go by the name of "Nick", which was short for Nickalaus, and his therapist thought it would be a positive change for him. Being good coworkers we adapted and started calling him Nick. For about 3 months our conversations went like this:
Me: hey nick,
Nick:
Me: hey Nick,
Nick:
Me: Hey NICK,
Nick:
Me: HEY NICK,
Nick:
Me: HEY NICK!!!!
Nick:
Me: hey Izzy,
Nick: DON'T CALL ME IZZY! my name is NICK!
I still chuckle when I think about it.
posted by HappyHippo at 3:19 PM on April 24, 2008 [5 favorites]


Here's something funny: I used to have a very ethnic last name, a Polish one. I never once considered the possibility that my name would have any influence on my ability to get my resume looked at (although it certainly got me teased a lot.)

Then I changed my name to something that, for reasons not particularly relevant here, is one letter away from a common "black" surname. I didn't think of it in those terms, though, until I went on another job hunt and got a *much* better response from my resumes compared to previous times, even though my experience hadn't changed much.

My theory -- and it is strictly a theory -- is that my previous Polish last name made my resumes less desireable, and/or that my newly black-sounding surname made my resumes more desirable to HR persons looking to fill certain equal-opportunity quotas.

Certainly my ratio of in-person interviews vs job offers didn't change noticeably, just the number of responses to my resumes. Oh, and the number of people on the phone and African-american people in person who add the extra letter to my name, presumably out of habit.

Similarly, my sister changed her name many years ago to something "black", again for reasons not relevant here, although she didn't think of it in those terms. She did it before entering the full-time job market, however, so I have no idea if it would have made a difference for her.
posted by davejay at 3:32 PM on April 24, 2008


Oddly enough, as black guy with an english/irish sounding name I've never had the reverse problem. No one seems surprised when I show up in person, after talking on the phone.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:40 PM on April 24, 2008


MY real first name is very WASP-ish (Heywood), and my last name is Polish... pronounced Yablovmee-eh. You'll have to work out the spelling for yourself.

Jablowmil? Sorry, don't know how to type the l with the / through it.

do I win?
posted by oneirodynia at 3:48 PM on April 24, 2008


I've never met another white Antoine Wilson.
posted by dontoine at 3:50 PM on April 24, 2008


It just seems to me that white people naming their children "ethnic" names might be part of the trend of naming children increasingly obscure names.

Usians have been giving their children peculiar names for quite a while now. I blame the Puritans.

If it's a trend, it is one with a very long history.
posted by thivaia at 4:28 PM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


languagehat asked & opined:
"batmonkey, why are you attacking konolia? It seems to me you're basically on the same side, and she's making a perfectly good point."

psmealey similarly asked and similarly opined:
"What's your point, monkeybat. Konolia has passionately and elegant expressed a view that doesn't entirely diverge from your own. She's saying that, yes, you should always challenge your own assumptions, but that invariably there are blind spots in how we see ourselves, and we cannot know how the Other might fell (to paraphrase Harper Lee, until we walk in their shoes. I'm not exactly sure why you're taking issue with that, but I am sure that you are often insufferably condescending, which blunts whatever point you are trying to make."

Here's my issue, once again:
"because, guess what? We white people have even blindly internalized the bad treatment black people get and don't even NOTICE it"

Which is why I replied to her with:
"Some of us classified as "white" have done no such thing and are resolutely disturbed when such sweeping declarations are made. Some people, regardless of the ism people assume they belong to, are quite aware of the torments faced by other isms and even do some small part in trying to make it better for everyone."

She responded in a way that seemed intent upon relating why her experience was more valid than whatever it is I may be referencing, including this:
"we have never been black, and it is the height of arrogance to suggest we could never be blind to some of the very subtle ways racism has affected people of color."

I'm not being arrogant OR condescending - to the contrary, I promise and implore you to accept as true.

Clearly my writing regarding the subject is terrible. I know for a fact that it comes out at least stilted. But that's the best compromise I can achieve, apparently. I try for casual, people think I'm being brusque. I try for light-hearted, I'm arrogant. I try for factual, I'm condescending. I use smileys, I'm a n00b. Part of it may be the topic, which makes me feel like I need to be very specific. Part of it may be that I tend to read MeFi when I need to relax, not when I'm already relaxed. And so.

But I'm by no means going to say that I don't know about something when I do. And, by all that is sacred and green, I know a whole lot more about this than even I wish I did. There was a time when I still had some gauze around my eyes regarding this topic, back when I was a surprisingly still idealistic 19 year old (it would take too long to tell you why that would be surprising). It's been many years and a lot of learning since then, and you'll never, ever catch me wishing I could go back to that less aware state, even if it meant I could look at my fellow man with a less jaundiced eye.

I do wish I could forget some of the specifics, sometimes, but I think they were necessary to fully develop my perspective to the point that I was more capable of letting go of the patronising attitude most melanin-lacking descendants of colonisation-addicted Europeans walk around with when they turn their pity-inflected gaze upon their diversely-shaded, long-suffering brethren.

The one and only thing I've learned that has any effect is to be truthful. To be honest about what you've seen and learned and understand, and to show when even one other person at least groks the scale of the monster being battled, even if that person isn't going to be the one at the front lines. Knowing which of the "others" are going to be willing to stand with you is sometimes the most valuable information one has. And, so, I stand up and make sure it is clear that I do not have blinders on. I know what we are chasing, and it is not a rabbit.

So, konolia, if you took my unwillingness to be included in your sample as an attack or an insult, my apologies. It was meant as neither. Just an unwillingness to be lumped in where I do not fit.

And languagehat, I hope that helps to explain it somewhat, if clumsily and incompletely.

And psmealey, I work on spelling your nym correctly. Why do you insist on mangling mine?
posted by batmonkey at 4:30 PM on April 24, 2008


Now I'm not so mad at my parents for naming my Pastarip Bagelmaker.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:33 PM on April 24, 2008


So this one time I'm hanging out at this bar with my friend Kim. Kim is fairly recognizable, with dark skin and long dark hair. But Kim is a guy. Presently this gal sits down and starts chatting up Kim. This would happen from time to time, as Kim had been on stage a lot. I was introduced to this woman whose name sounded like "Ohm". You know, the German name, like Georg Ohm. Only this gal was black. But I didn't think that was too weird, It could be a matter of adoption, a mixed marriage, a name change, or something else.

I was curious enough that I had to ask if she was German, or if her name was German. She said no, that her name wasn't "Ohm", but "Om", as in the mantra. At this point I thought she was bullshitting me, but she explained it carefully, and finally I believed her. Evidently her parents were big Coltrane fans, and were playing Coltrane's album "Om" when she was born. The experience was so profound that she was named after Coltrane's album.

Indeed, I had just met Om Johari, the black, female, totally kick-ass lead singer of Seattle's Hell's Belles, the all female AC-DC cover band!

It's a crazy mixed-up world I tell you what...
posted by Tube at 4:40 PM on April 24, 2008


I held out hope for the longest time that Leroy Jenkins was a black man.

It was the triumphant note with which he announced that at least he had chicken that did it, wasn't it?

For whatever it’s worth I came within an inch of being named “Merlin”.

At least you'd no longer have to announce that you were about to pull on your robe and wizard's hat. Everyone would just assume you were always wearing them.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:45 PM on April 24, 2008


I have to admit, this story shocks me. Especially the part about how she gets treated by people who assume she's black when she's working a customer service line. I should think by now that people who are racist would at least no better than to openly act like bigots.

You should read Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin.

The more things change ...
posted by bwg at 4:45 PM on April 24, 2008


batmonkey, I accept that you didn't mean to come across as insulting konolia, but you wrote "there's no room for experiences different from yours in your mind" when what you should have written was "I prefer not to be lumped in where I do not fit." Do you see the difference?
posted by languagehat at 4:49 PM on April 24, 2008


"Now I'm not so mad at my parents for naming my Pastarip Bagelmaker."

What did they name it?
posted by klangklangston at 4:49 PM on April 24, 2008


languagehat asked:
"Do you see the difference?"

Surely, I do - one would have to be 3 in order to say otherwise.

My reply to her is truthful, though, as it did appear in her reply as if she were saying there was no other possible outcome than the one she personally experienced, which, sadly, does not encourage one to continue a conversation based on a different experience altogether. Hence my reply.
posted by batmonkey at 4:58 PM on April 24, 2008


I went to highschool with a girl from Hong Kong named Agnes. It was strange to hear such an anachronistic name on someone so young and attractive.

Dude, you have no idea. Actually, I rather like the old-fashioned sound of my wife's name: Mabel.

But if it's different names you want, Hong Kong has a million of them.
posted by bwg at 4:58 PM on April 24, 2008


Once, commenting on my old-fashioned middle name - something along the likes of Guinevere and Kunegunda - an acquaintance wanted to be nice and said something like, "But it's good to have a serious name to offset a sexy first name."

And I was like, "..sexy first name?!"
posted by ruelle at 5:05 PM on April 24, 2008


I recently met a young white (very white) Canadian girl named Yolanda. In grade school there were a couple of Yolandas, all black. I was surprised that I was surprised at how incongruous that sounded. I don't think I'm reprehensibly racist, though, just slave to social patterns as anyone else.
posted by zardoz at 5:06 PM on April 24, 2008


My first name is the same as about 25 prominent rappers. And I'm white.

Andre?
posted by bwg at 5:07 PM on April 24, 2008


Cool Papa Bell, I think what she was saying was the equivalent of "Well, I don't care if their research shows that house cats can't jump higher than 6 feet, I'm watching mine regularly hit the ceiling right now". Because regardless of what came from that study, her experiences still happened.

No, Pater Aletheias' example was irrelevant to the claim she made. That researcher proved that people could distinguish between people speaking "black dialect" english vs those speaking "standard english". He did not show that they could distinguish the broader concept of race over the telephone, and she has countering evidence that in fact that is more difficult than you'd think, from having been surprised when the "dialect" of the speaker didn't match the race they self-identified as. Could you know a Barack Obama was black over the phone? An Eminem was white? Some people don't fit the standard categories as obviously, and if you've never seen them, you wouldn't put the voice with the face (who would think Leonard Cohen was a middle class jewish kid?) and accents are obviously a result of culture.
posted by mdn at 5:27 PM on April 24, 2008


What's in a name? Study shows that workplace discrimination begins long before the job seeker shows up for an interview

The response from colleagues as they designed their deceptively simple study was, "'Oh, yes, you'll find a discrimination effect, a reverse discrimination effect,'" Bertrand says.

Instead, they found that resumes with "White-sounding" names--like Jay, Brad, Carrie and Kristen--were 50 percent more likely than those with "Black-sounding" names to receive a callback. The results were striking, holding both for jobs at the lower end of the spectrum--cashier and mailroom clerk positions--and for those at the executive level. Put another way, a White job seeker would have to send out at least 10 resumes to receive a single contact from a potential employer. A Black candidate, meanwhile, would have to send out 15--and this in a "soft" economy with a relatively low rate of new job creation.

The most intriguing--and troubling--aspect of the study was that the discrimination effect held even for candidates with stronger credentials: those who had gone to better schools, or won awards, or had fewer resume "gaps," periods of at least six months without employment.

"We really thought a higher quality resume would help the African American candidate--that the employer would put less weight on the names," Bertrand says.

posted by naju at 5:34 PM on April 24, 2008


We live in a very racially diverse neighborhood and my kid's schools have every flavor kind of kid in them. My son had mentioned a girl that was hanging out with his white,nerdy teen boy group named Keisha. After hearing this for a while, I had dreams of a brave new world where nerdy white boys had happening black girl friends - because up to now, the nerdy boys, they can't even get the nerdy girls to give them a second look.

I met Keisha, and she is a white,white girl, with a "goth" look. My kids said her unconventional name gets brought up all the time, teachers start to remark on it, and realize they are crossing boundaries that are best not crossed.

People make assumptions based on names all the time. Janet and Barbara are middle-aged, their slightly younger sister is named Tina. Nicole was probably born between 1975 and 1990.

Men's names are slightly less age based, because of the convention of naming boys to carry on traditional family names.
posted by readery at 5:35 PM on April 24, 2008


Because regardless of what came from that study, her experiences still happened.

If mere "experience" is all that matters in making a solid point, then we must therefore believe that aliens regularly abduct people and perform experiments on them. After all, that's an "experience" that many, many people have claimed to have happened to them. So, what we have here in this thread is an assertion ("most people can detect race by voice") countered with anecdote ("no they can't, because I called lots of people"), countered with an actual scholarly study that shows proof of the original assertion ("well, actually, when we test a bunch of people, it's turns out to be true more often than not"), shouted down in favor of anecdote and squishy feelings ("but I called lots of people").

Typical MeFi, unfortunately. Teacher told you everyone was special. We get it. Thanks for playing.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:01 PM on April 24, 2008


MetaFilter: We get it.
posted by batmonkey at 6:04 PM on April 24, 2008


These things shift, in my experience - when I was little, people used to take the piss out of me for having an old man's name; nowadays, because I look younger than I am and have the name I do, people assume I'm in my early 20s (which you wouldn't expect to be an issue, but in work contexts it's amazing how often people express surprise that I do my main job 'at your age', or don't take me seriously because they think I'm fresh out of university.)

As for names and race, the only ones I ever pick up on are Victorian-sounding English first names, which I always assume belong to older West Indian people (a good example of name associations drifting over time, come to think of it - I'm guessing those names a were 'aspirational' in the West Indies, and racism caused them to be dropped by white people after West Indian immigration to the UK?).

Made-up 'unique' names, other than the obviously pseudo-African ones, are more an indicator of class than race in the UK, I think.
posted by jack_mo at 6:09 PM on April 24, 2008


>> So, what we have here in this thread is an assertion ("most people can detect race by voice") countered with anecdote ("no they can't, because I called lots of people"), countered with an actual scholarly study that shows proof of the original assertion ("well, actually, when we test a bunch of people, it's turns out to be true more often than not"), shouted down in favor of anecdote and squishy feelings ("but I called lots of people").

Let me help you out here, CPB:

What we have here in this thread is an assertion ("most people can detect race /black people/ by voice /and if you disagree you're an idiot/")

countered with anecdote ("no they can't, because I called lots of people /Actually, that's a bad assumption, and is also contraindicated by my uncommon experience being exposed to hundreds of faceless voices/"),

countered with an actual scholarly study /of questionable relevance, and questionable methodology/

that shows proof of the original assertion /that stereotypical dialects can be identified as such/ ("well, actually, when we test a bunch of people, it's turns out to be true more often than not /that stereotypical dialects can be identified as such/"),

shouted down in favor of anecdote and squishy feelings ("but I called lots of people"). /disagreed with/.

This is exactly the continuing crisis of kneejerk refusal to discuss the actual topic that I originally lamented. You are so busy pushing the red herrings of whether anecdote can ever be comparable to a study run by a professor, and whether drive-by assertions are actually inferior to reasoned explanations (whether the reason is correct or not -- but one person is actually participating in the dialogue, and one has mysteriously disappeared), that you are not seeing the forest for the trees, either by intent or by ignorance.

Sadly, this becomes you as little as Pater Alethias' arch snipe did him earlier.

News flash: you can be a self-proclaimed standard bearer for the minority opinion here while not also defaulting to the lowest common denominators of online discussion. I promise.

If you want to keep on with this apparent hard-on you have for me and my polling anecdote, please take it to MeTa. I'll even meet you there if you need more audience for your finger-pointing. But stop insulting everyone else on the board, and derailing this discussion, which has moved on.
posted by pineapple at 6:23 PM on April 24, 2008


(who would think Leonard Cohen was a middle class jewish kid?)

I don't know about kid, but to me he's always seemed the embarrassing uncle figure who insists on orchestrating the whole Bar Mitzvah from his 61-key Casio. It sounds just as a good as a live band, stop crying.
posted by kid ichorous at 6:34 PM on April 24, 2008


My dad's name was Dante, like that poet guy. Nowadays they make it Dontay and that freaks my mom out a little, like if she stumbles across a football game while channel surfing or something. She's a typical white woman, though.
posted by fixedgear at 6:58 PM on April 24, 2008


So, konolia, if you took my unwillingness to be included in your sample as an attack or an insult, my apologies. It was meant as neither. Just an unwillingness to be lumped in where I do not fit.

I think you totally missed my point. Which was, no matter how attuned you are there is never any way of knowing for sure that you are attuned as much as the person to whom the racism is directed. I bet if you spent a few hours with some African Americans who were willing to tell you straight up, you'd find out that even YOU had blind spots.

If you truly feel you are the majik whitey who totally always gets it, you might wanna find your most honest black friend and examine that notion.
posted by konolia at 7:50 PM on April 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


I think it's a safe bet that we all have blind spots: it's what makes us human, i think.
posted by anitanita at 8:21 PM on April 24, 2008


but to me he's always seemed the embarrassing uncle figure who insists on orchestrating the whole Bar Mitzvah from his 61-key Casio. It sounds just as a good as a live band, stop crying.

I really wonder if you would have this association if you did not know from the start that he was jewish. It's as if it's embarrassing for a jew to try to be some kind of authentic, immediate, singer of soulful music. But would he be an embarrassing uncle if he were a black man, the kind of man who "should" be expressing things directly from the heart, who "naturally has knowledge of intuitive things" (like music and dance and sex and athletics), though he's less capable in the intellectual realms? In other words, what causes the embarrassment, the actual actions, or the external markers? It can be difficult to separate what we judge and what we essentially prejudge, or judge based on categorial expectations.

I would bet if people were not familiar with them, that distinguishing which one was the black guy between Lenny Kravitz and Leonard Cohen would produce a lot of wrong answers. Even freakin' Rick Astley confused most people. It's easy to find the jewishness or blackness in someone you already know to be jewish or black. The point is that it is actually often just as easy to find it in people who are not, and who you are mistakenly making assumptions about based on various simplistic markers, like their accent, or how deep their voice is - or their name.
posted by mdn at 8:24 PM on April 24, 2008


konolia said:
"I think you totally missed my point."

Perhaps! Reading between what you write here and what's transpired, I willingly concede that as a likelihood.

When you say this...
"Which was, no matter how attuned you are there is never any way of knowing for sure that you are attuned as much as the person to whom the racism is directed."

I absolutely agree this statement.

...but that's a bit different from the one I was reacting to (yeah, reacting...not proud of it, but there ya go):
"because, guess what? We white people have even blindly internalized the bad treatment black people get and don't even NOTICE it"

My point was that there are those who do notice and haven't internalised it and want things to change because they see how horrible it is for everyone involved, with too many vulnerables in the middle. It made me uneasy to let such a claim stand.

But, like Don Quixote, it looks like I still have some learning to do about what things to let stand...
posted by batmonkey at 8:50 PM on April 24, 2008


My point was that there are those who do notice and haven't internalised it and want things to change because they see how horrible it is for everyone involved, with too many vulnerables in the middle.

You haven't internalized it? In any capacity? I find that difficult to believe, and it's probably why some people found your response condescending and arrogant, its certainly why I did.
posted by Snyder at 9:08 PM on April 24, 2008


Alright, alright: It's Chris. OKAY?
posted by grubi at 9:26 PM on April 24, 2008


Perhaps I'm misunderstanding what you mean by "internalising", then...because I'd be a fool to encroach any further on any toes before making certain we're talking about the same thing, here.

Would you mind providing an example?

"probably why some people found your response condescending and arrogant, its certainly why I did"

People like to be angry. That's really the whole of it. They enjoy being irritated and disturbed. They like being needled. So they read words written in a completely different context and mood and they feel the vague stirrings of aggravation, little tendrils of tension, and -suddenly!- there's blood in the water and everyone's got to throw a little jab in, rather than reading back on the words already invested in explaining, maybe trying to see how there could be a good person in there, someone who really means what they say in the most painfully sincere and pure-hearted way possible, at least as much as is possible in this world.

Yeah. Me, too. We all do it, we always hope it'll work out in some satisfying way this time around. It's still just arguing on the internet. And we know what that's like. I try to do it less and less and to back up and risk humiliating myself with explanation when asked for it. Thanks for providing the little extra kick.

posted by batmonkey at 9:27 PM on April 24, 2008


I really wonder if you would have this association if you did not know from the start that he was jewish. [...] In other words, what causes the embarrassment, the actual actions, or the external markers?

I see what you're going for, but, honestly, the orchestration and production causes the embarrassment. Cohen is a fairly solid writer; however, his attempts to marry his verse to a tapestry of Mooged-up demosongs has the feel of Saturday Karaoke night; the oil-and-water mixture of elderly voices and factory preset synthpop inhabits a certain zone of experience for most of us - drunk uncles, boozed-up executives, relatives crooning at weddings. It's hard to shake that.

Half the time I think Cohen's quite aware of all of this. The humor in a song like "First We Take Manhattan" - where he channels Yeats and moans geriatric rage against the art world while a cocaine disco anthem pulses in the background - cannot possibly be unintentional. Whenever it comes up on my playlist, people with no knowledge of Cohen or his works are in stitches. It's not his Jewishness, it's the incongruence between lyrics, voice, and orchestration.

But, considering how sincere some of the lyrics are, there's also something elegiac about this drunk uncle thing, that the singer in a tone-deaf Karaoke bar, the "drunk in a midnight choir," really has something "authentic," "immediate," or "soulful" to say. So maybe it does work.

It's as if it's embarrassing for a jew to try to be some kind of authentic, immediate, singer of soulful music.

Well, I don't think it's embarrassing to hear Robert Zimmerman/Dylan tackle blues-influenced folk music, or to hear Paul Simon attempt Afro-pop. I imagine that some people have accused these artists of "cultural appropriation," as if there were some genetic copyright on musical tropes, but I've never heard anyone express embarrassment on their behalf.

posted by kid ichorous at 9:44 PM on April 24, 2008


What, like there are no embarrassing black uncles pulling this sort of thing?
posted by small_ruminant at 10:07 PM on April 24, 2008


As a Canadian on MetaFilter, my assumption is that race matters more in the US than it does up here in Canada. My wife is Japanese, and I am white. Our son is a little bit of both. It's not a big deal. In fact, no one has ever said anything about it, and I don't even think our relationship as being "interracial". Our son has a Japanese name - no one cares. His best friend has an Iranian name. No one cares. Another friend is from the Punjab. No one cares.

Of course, I went on a business trip to a small town in the Interior. One of my colleagues has South Asian ancestry, by way of Fiji. She's pretty striking to look at. She said that people (fellow Canadians, but hicks) at the hotel we were staying at wanted to know what country she was from. She was sad.

But I kind of wonder when this American obsession with race will simmer down.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:18 PM on April 24, 2008


KokuRyu,
Race matters a lot in Canada; for aboriginals for example. Yes, we have somewhat different issues and challenges than the states, but the complacent superior attitude I see from many Canadians is part of the problem.

Eg, I have been advised to make my CV 'less Jewish.' I have a friend who said she loves Montreal and would live there for herself but never with kids, to spare them what she experienced growing up visibly brown and Muslim.

I'm glad that things are good for you and your family, but that shouldn't necessarily lead to the assumption that race doesn't matter for others as well.
posted by Salamandrous at 1:13 AM on April 25, 2008


I really wonder if you would have this association if you did not know from the start that he was jewish. [...] But would he be an embarrassing uncle if he were a black man, the kind of man who "should" be expressing things directly from the heart, who "naturally has knowledge of intuitive things" (like music and dance and sex and athletics), though he's less capable in the intellectual realms?

Also, and this has been nagging me enough to post hours later - isn't it a little unfair and presumptuous that, from one offhand remark, you suggest some deep, unseen part of me partakes of a stupid "Magical Negro" stereotype? I don't even think it's a popular motif outside of the cheapest Hollywood entertainment, so I'd wonder why you'd assume that anyone here operated under its influence.
posted by kid ichorous at 1:27 AM on April 25, 2008


Alright, alright: It's Chris. OKAY?

Damn, I was hoping for Andre. Dre. DRE Grubi ...
posted by bwg at 3:39 AM on April 25, 2008


The world would be a nicer place if tribalism and racism didn't exist.
But it does and is going to be here as long as there are differences in people and cultures.
posted by notreally at 6:33 AM on April 25, 2008


But I kind of wonder when this American obsession with race will simmer down.

Not today.
posted by oaf at 7:11 AM on April 25, 2008


We named our partially Japanese but mostly white girl a relatively normal name, but we were considering Rahsaan if we had had a boy...do you think that would have been a mistake?
posted by kozad at 8:05 AM on April 25, 2008


Heehee. I'm getting married later this year to a guy with one of the definitive Chinese last names and emigrating out to the US. I'm white, Scandinavian last name, English and anyone in this country (60 million+ people) with my last name is closely related to me. My accent is very definitely Bristolian (think pirate-esque), so I already get questions from Americans over whether my accent is "real".

I contain a certain amount of unexpressed exhilaration of just how many people are going to be really really messed up when they talk to me on the phone and then meet me in person.

But then I have white/English privilege. If I was black or brown, it would probably be a whole other story. And there's a very race-based reason he's not coming to live in the UK. Only in America!
posted by saturnine at 8:49 AM on April 25, 2008


I know an Irish guy named Klaus. I did have to stifle a giggle when he first introduced himself, in his thick Dublin accent - but then I remembered Giuseppe Conlon and eh, maybe it's an Irish thing.

I found the post an interesting read, thanks!
posted by goo at 8:59 AM on April 25, 2008


I'm realliy white, whiter than Steve Martin. Once when I had long hair and a beard I was at a restaurant frequented by really rich people in Canada, in the Gulf Islands, and they refused to serve me and my wife. I think it was because we looked like hippies and were on the wrong side of the track.

Here is the Utah baby namer. Some of these names seem less white than others.
posted by mecran01 at 10:32 AM on April 25, 2008


Wow, she's pretty pissed at us. And posts about it in the same breath as Amandagate, posted previously.
posted by lunit at 1:46 PM on April 25, 2008


Do you think she stole the Amandagate idea after checking out MeFi? That would be some pretty sweet irony there!
posted by Pollomacho at 1:53 PM on April 25, 2008


Wow, she's pretty pissed at us.

Daisy's got her dukes up!
"Apparently, it costs a whole week of waiting and a $5 tip to post on MetaFilter. You may say I'm an asshat and an idiot, but I don't pay $5 to post a damn thing and you do, so who's the idiot?"
posted by ericb at 2:06 PM on April 25, 2008


I always wanted a lot of hits, so I guess it's one of those "be careful what you wish for" scenarios.

Well, yeah!

Too bad, really. She'd be a good addition to MeFi.
posted by Miko at 2:14 PM on April 25, 2008


This was great writing. Thank you for posting it, I might have missed it without Metafilter.
posted by agregoli at 5:26 PM on April 25, 2008


Too bad, really. She'd be a good addition to MeFi.

I dunno. I don't think we have enough popcorn for the potential flameouts.

I mean, nice article, well-written, but yearrgh the attitude in that MeFi/Marcotte post. "I want more readers but not YOU UNWASHED."
posted by dw at 8:06 PM on April 25, 2008


Do you think she stole the Amandagate idea after checking out MeFi? That would be some pretty sweet irony there!

Daisy wrote about it way back on the ninth. Metafilter was pretty late to the Amandagate party.
posted by LeeJay at 10:09 PM on April 25, 2008


Only the five dollah noobs pay $5. And I thought that Matt would sometimes waive that for people who were discussed here and want to join the conversation.
posted by grouse at 3:58 AM on April 26, 2008


I don't think we have enough popcorn for the potential flameouts.

Yeah, you're probably right. And yes, I think there is a precedent for people who become the subject of posts to have their account fee waived.
posted by Miko at 8:58 AM on April 26, 2008


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