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we finalized the list by crossing out names that weren't funny
June 4, 2009 8:48 AM   Subscribe


 
I like the name Wendell.
posted by exogenous at 8:50 AM on June 4, 2009 [10 favorites]


wow... this was wrong on so many levels....

What are we supposed to say about this?
posted by HuronBob at 8:55 AM on June 4, 2009


Uhm!? I laughed. I feel bad about. I laughed again. The watermelon thing went too far though so they deserve a PC arse-whipping.
posted by doctorschlock at 8:57 AM on June 4, 2009


"barackobamaniqua" tag? Really? Why not just cut to the chase and label this "lolnegroes"?
posted by mhoye at 8:58 AM on June 4, 2009 [7 favorites]


The Asian one really got going when they got to the Xanga jokes.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:58 AM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


While we're talking about Kanye West's blog, I just want to point out what may be the best blog-post title of all time -- one that not only works well in context, but also pretty much acts as a mission statement for everything Kanye does. Link.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:59 AM on June 4, 2009 [5 favorites]


"Found on Kanye West's blog" is going to be my new "But some of my best friends are black."
posted by ND¢ at 9:00 AM on June 4, 2009 [49 favorites]


Is there a "worst of the web" tag?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:01 AM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter is not ready.
posted by hermitosis at 9:01 AM on June 4, 2009 [7 favorites]


In retrospect, I DO know what to say about this...

"flagged"...as in "flagged as racist"
posted by HuronBob at 9:02 AM on June 4, 2009


Hey, where's my ten foot pole? Oh wait, I left it in Brandon Blatcher's thread.
posted by Mister_A at 9:02 AM on June 4, 2009


I will also share my favorite Kanye blog-title of all time.

I DON'T HAVE GREY IN MY BEARD IN REAL LIFE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'M ALL DOWN WITH BEINGS IN MY 30'S BUT DAAAAAAAAMN!!!! THIS IS SOME BENJAMIN BUTTON'S SHIT!


"This is some Benjamin Button's shit" is a useful phrase for many situations.
posted by Locative at 9:02 AM on June 4, 2009 [13 favorites]


Blah blah blah Freakonomics blah blah blah Mormons blah blah blah urban legends blah blah blah.
posted by box at 9:02 AM on June 4, 2009


"barackobamaniqua" tag? Really? Why not just cut to the chase and label this "lolnegroes"?

Good point, deleted that. My intention in posting this was just that it was very funny but in a very very risky way, like Chappelle's use of "nigga" on TV. It's making fun of stereotypes, but lots of kids don't get that at all.

Confusing.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:03 AM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Mehtifa
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:03 AM on June 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


The watermelon and the fried chicken turned something funny and witty into something dumb and embarrassing. A shame.
posted by applemeat at 9:03 AM on June 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


Potomac Avenue: "it was very funny but in a very very risky way"

On the occasions when I've tried that, people have usually just called me an asshole and left it at that.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:04 AM on June 4, 2009 [5 favorites]


Hahaha! Black and/or poor people name their kids funny things! Amirite?
posted by arcticwoman at 9:04 AM on June 4, 2009


The watermelon and the fried chicken turned something funny and witty into something dumb and embarrassing. A shame.
posted by applemeat at 12:03 PM on June 4 [+] [!]


To me that was the part where it became clear they were making fun of the whole concept of "ghetto names" for being a favorite white suburban concept.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:06 AM on June 4, 2009


I went to high school with a black kid named President Washington. He went by "Prez." I also went to high school with black kids named Michael and Debra, but still, this is great, love the responses too.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 9:06 AM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


There's this thing that happens to white people whenever the word watermelon is mentioned even incidentally in the vicinity of a black person that is really fascinating to watch. You can actually see the skin around their eyes ripple in unconscious alarm. I'm surprised we don't see more instances in the grocery store of white people hurling themselves in front of produce department signs to blot them from sight.
posted by hermitosis at 9:08 AM on June 4, 2009 [23 favorites]


Potomac Avenue: "it was very funny but in a very very risky way"

On the occasions when I've tried that, people have usually just called me an asshole and left it at that.
Was that you last weekend around the campfire telling nigger jokes to me and my wife?
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:09 AM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also sprach Colson Whitehead:

You didn’t, for example, walk down Main Street with a watermelon under your arm. Even if you had a pretty good reason. Like, you were going to a potluck and each person had to bring an item and your item just happened to be a watermelon, luck of the draw, and you wrote this on a sign so everyone would understand the context, and as you walked down Main Street you held the sign in one hand and the explained watermelon in the other, all casual, perhaps nodding between the watermelon and the sign for extra emphasis if you made eye contact. This would not happen. We were on display.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:12 AM on June 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


Potomac Avenue,
Exogenous,
HuronBob,
doctorschlock,
mhoye,
Inspector.Gadget,
Greg Nog,
ND¢,
roomthreeseventeen,
Hermitosis,
Mistaer_A

etc...
posted by Elmore at 9:14 AM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not flagged, cause stuff like this needs to be talked about.
posted by hpliferaft at 9:14 AM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


I also went to high school with black kids named Michael and Debra, but still, this is great, love the responses too.

I had a friend named Felix Davila who was black. He said the greatest joy in his life was showing up for job interviews and watching people's preconceived expectations for a Latino magically transform into preconceived expectations for an African American.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:15 AM on June 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


Also, Kanye West is really a moron.
posted by Pax at 9:17 AM on June 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


I went to college with siblings named Lord and Lady. Poor hippie-americans, disadvantaged from birth :(
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:20 AM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]




That was pretty bad, but I'm totally naming my kids Revelatia and Ab'c'De.
posted by The White Hat at 9:21 AM on June 4, 2009


Not flagged, cause stuff like this needs to be talked about.

Stuff like what? People's stupid prejudices about other people's names, I hope.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:21 AM on June 4, 2009


Did you all see about Kanye West's book which is about three pages long and still required a ghost writer / collaborator? He's a proud non reader!

A friend of mine did the audiobook version.
posted by fleetmouse at 9:23 AM on June 4, 2009


So the explanation here is "it isn't lolblackpeople, it's lolWHITEpeople"?
posted by DU at 9:24 AM on June 4, 2009


I don't know why the Indian one was in the train-wreck section. Yeah, the delivery wasn't consistent, but the facial expressions were often funny.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:25 AM on June 4, 2009


I'll go back to my original question.. "what are we supposed to say about this?"...

The FPP was bait, nothing less, nothing more.
posted by HuronBob at 9:28 AM on June 4, 2009


I went to high school with a black kid named President Washington. He went by "Prez."
posted by ethnomethodologist


Eponhistorical?
posted by rokusan at 9:34 AM on June 4, 2009


Potomac Avenue: it became clear they were making fun of the whole concept of "ghetto names" for being a favorite white suburban concept.

Is it accurate to dismiss such names as a "white suburban concept?"
posted by applemeat at 9:36 AM on June 4, 2009


The last link is pretty funny. ABCDE is not quite as awesome as LMNOP which, spelt Elemenope, is the name of my firstborn daughter to be.
posted by waraw at 9:36 AM on June 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Come on, that was funny.

"Courtney!"
posted by yhbc at 9:37 AM on June 4, 2009


HuronBob:

Here is the statement by the kids that made this video:

And to the people that leave hate comments and/or have pointless arguments over this video, just get over it. It's a joke. Nobody wants to hear your complaining.

Are they allowed to say that? Are they allowed to make this video? Are we allowed to find it funny? Are we allowed to be offended by it? I really do not know.

So if by "bait" you mean, "confusing and worthy of discussion by the most serious and level-headed forum I could think of on the internet" then I totally agree. I really wanted to know whether other people were as confused by it as I was, especially after seeing the weird range of video responses.

Please take it to MeTa if flagging did not satisfy you.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:37 AM on June 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


Looks like Queen Latifah's gonna be kicking some butt.
posted by doctorschlock at 9:43 AM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Flagged. Moving on.
posted by ixohoxi at 9:45 AM on June 4, 2009


Top 25 Female White People Names:

1.
2. Wingspan
3. Britney
4. Brittany
5. Brettany
6. Tawny
7. Tanya
8. Britney-Tayna
10. Mercedes
11. Abby
12. Emma
13. Anna
14. Lisa
15. Maggie
16. Annalisa
17. Gucci
18. Anna Nicole
19. Benetton
20. Betsey Johnson
21. Courtney
22. Courtney Thorne-Smith
23. Courtney Cox
24. Jennifer
25. Michelle Obama

Top 25 Male White Names

1. Abercrombie
2. Fitch
3. Michael
4. Steve
5. Turdblossom
6. Tennis Whites
7. Trust Fund
8. SAT
9. Treehugger
10. Foghat
11. Trailer
12. Thomas
13. Joe
14. Riley
15. Wingspan
16. Oliver
17. Sasquatch
18. Anthony and the Johnsons
19. Lil' Wayne
20. Eminem
21. Andy
22. Sting
23. Conan
24. Bandwidth
25. Mathowie
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 9:46 AM on June 4, 2009 [23 favorites]


I don't really see what's confusing about this. Seems like pretty pedestrian racist humour to me. It's also kind of tired - the same joke (hurrhurr black people have funny names) that MadTV and countless other racial comedians have been using for years.

This might be something I'd expect to see on Fark or Reddit, but not MeFi.
posted by sid at 9:47 AM on June 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


My nephew's name is Bandwidth Treehugger so fuck you
posted by Dr-Baa at 9:48 AM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is it accurate to dismiss such names as a "white suburban concept?"

I meant that making fun of crrrazzzzy "ghetto" names, much like using the term "ghetto" pejoratively, seems to be primarily a suburban white person way to be subtly racist, as well as not particularly funny (HAW HAW THAT NAME SOUND DIFFRNT HAW!). These kids took that boring concept and reduced it to nonsense, which somehow made it refreshing and sharp.

The most bewildering idea to me is that they seem to be arguing (and some of the responses bear that out) that they cannot possibly be racist, because they are joking. In our estimation that is impossible, but perhaps, by the time these children are grown up, it might be true?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:50 AM on June 4, 2009


My nephew's name is Bandwidth Treehugger so fuck you
posted by Dr-Baa at 9:48 AM on June 4 [+] [!]


Maybe so, but he was born Thomas Stewart Dewey Smith, and he changed it as part of his "make up your own major" senior thesis at the New School.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 9:53 AM on June 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


I meant that making fun of crrrazzzzy "ghetto" names, much like using the term "ghetto" pejoratively, seems to be primarily a suburban white person way to be subtly racist, as well as not particularly funny (HAW HAW THAT NAME SOUND DIFFRNT HAW!). These kids took that boring concept and reduced it to nonsense, which somehow made it refreshing and sharp.

No, they really didn't.
posted by not that girl at 9:55 AM on June 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


Is it accurate to dismiss such names as a "white suburban concept?"

It's absolutely accurate to dismiss the idea that "only black people who live in the ghetto have unusual first names" as a "white suburban concept," yes.

And for proof, I give you the Utah Baby Names site.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:57 AM on June 4, 2009 [5 favorites]


I meant that making fun of crrrazzzzy "ghetto" names, much like using the term "ghetto" pejoratively, seems to be primarily a suburban white person way to be subtly racist

You are using the word "subtly" here in a sense that is different from my understanding of the term.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:59 AM on June 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


My nephew's name is Bandwidth Treehugger so fuck you

Why doesn't he capitalize that last part?
posted by The Bellman at 9:59 AM on June 4, 2009 [28 favorites]


Ghetto is subtly racist like cunt is subtly sexist.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:01 AM on June 4, 2009 [13 favorites]


Over half of my company's clients are black and I run across a lot of unique names on a daily basis. My list of people to email today includes Darrashawn, Quenella, and MaKhia (spelling changed by one letter so they don't google themselves and wind up here). A white ex-coworker would frequently comment on the most unique names and she just made me shudder with revulsion. She was pretty damned stupid, though, since the person who sat in the cube next to her was named Sheronica.

Sheronica still works here. "Elizabeth" does not.
posted by desjardins at 10:02 AM on June 4, 2009


i am confused by their first two guys' need to make a behind the scenes blooper reel. their finished product has a number of harsh edits as it is; the first go arounds would have been just as good as the shots that they kept. furthermore, they had already invited us to a kitchen. about the only mystery left about the process was which cheap camera they used to film with. maybe they could have also filmed themselves uploading the video.
posted by the aloha at 10:03 AM on June 4, 2009


You guys are WAY too uptight.
posted by hillabeans at 10:03 AM on June 4, 2009 [6 favorites]


I have nothing to add on the video, but I just wanted to say Holy Malware Alert, Kanye! My (poorly-protected) work PC popped open 20 windows when I went to his site.
posted by brain_drain at 10:04 AM on June 4, 2009


Hurr, hurr, hurr.

WTF, MetaFilter?
posted by five fresh fish at 10:05 AM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


On a serious note, whatever kind of name you choose for your child, have someone spellcheck it for you. I knew a girl whose mom wanted to tame her girl "Tiara" but spelled it "Tire" on the birth certificate. She got mad at a lot of roll-calling substitute teachers in her life.
posted by kozad at 10:05 AM on June 4, 2009


From the Utah Baby Names site Sidhedevil linked:

Antrim Zeezrom
Bryce-Zock
Cree-L
Daxson Ekewaka
Jeddie Nephi
T
Xaylan
Zaragrunudgeyon


It's like a cast list for Hitchiker's Guide to the Oregon Trail Strikes Back.
posted by Dr-Baa at 10:08 AM on June 4, 2009 [25 favorites]


In an effort not to overthink this plate of beans, I have this to say:

I laughed when that one kid said "BON que que!" Because 1) "Bon Que Que" is funny, and 2) He said it in a funny way.

So. Bon que que to all of you.
posted by rusty at 10:10 AM on June 4, 2009


Sidhedevil: And for proof, I give you the Utah Baby Names site.

No, what you gave us is 'an online help for parents looking for that distinctive name that says "I'm a Utah Mormon!"'

Here, from the U.S. Social Security Administration, are the actual most popular baby names from Utah.
posted by applemeat at 10:12 AM on June 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


I bought a Sprint phone online used. It hadn't had it's memory flushed so it was full of the previous owner's contacts. It had many interesting names and nicknames, it had both a "Keesha" and a "Keesha Big Cuz" my favorite was "Lil Bit".
I am jealous that the cell phones previous owner had so many more friends that I have
posted by I Foody at 10:15 AM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'd like you all to know i'm not a racist.
posted by sgt.serenity at 10:21 AM on June 4, 2009 [2 favorites]




Are they allowed to say that? Are they allowed to make this video? Are we allowed to find it funny? Are we allowed to be offended by it? I really do not know.


This is the LOLWhitepeople part to me. Sort of the same thing as the ole eye crinkling if the word watermelon is spoken around black people, as noted by hermitosis above.
posted by spicynuts at 10:24 AM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


I thought the top male names were along the lines of:
Aidan
Aiden
Ayden
Aydynn
Braydon
Braedun
Breighdonne
Kaydon
Clayton
Cleyttonn
Kalaityn
Peyton
Greydon
Freydan
Radon
Tatyn
Dreydon
Quaydon
Yayden
Etcaedon
posted by arcticwoman at 10:26 AM on June 4, 2009 [5 favorites]


You forgot Elron. I guess that's only in California though.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:31 AM on June 4, 2009


and Enron.
posted by applemeat at 10:32 AM on June 4, 2009


I dunno, I think as an example of youtube phenomenology in action it's pretty interesting stuff; the bumpiness in quality and degree of apparent self-awareness in the various responses is pretty meaty social-media-in-action-for-better-or-worse stuff.

It's inherently touchy territory, but I'm pretty much in agreement with the notion that what this is about (at least the lead video and some of the more on-key responses) is more metacommentary on than naive perpetuation of this sort of trope. To what degree these kids truly succeeded with that is open to debate, but it doesn't seem like there's much question that that's the territory they're operating in.
posted by cortex at 10:33 AM on June 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


Here, from the U.S. Social Security Administration, are the actual most popular baby names from Utah.

But...but...applemeat, those lists aren't funny at all. Why do you have to bring factual information into this? You're harshing my buzz.
posted by not that girl at 10:35 AM on June 4, 2009


Me: And for proof, I give you the Utah Baby Names site.

applemeat: No, what you gave us is 'an online help for parents looking for that distinctive name that says "I'm a Utah Mormon!"'

Yes, the site whose name is "The Utah Baby Names Site" (or, on some pages, "The Utah Baby Namer"). Your point--that the majority of people in Utah don't have unusual names--is kind of moot here, because the whole "look at those unusual names that {$people} have!" mockery is about the unusual names.

My sister-in-law's mom is named Deween, and she has a close friend named Latonisha (it may be "Letonisha" or "Lutonisha" or "Latonicia", because I've never seen it written out , only heard it). They're 70-something white ladies from Salt Lake.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:35 AM on June 4, 2009


You know who else operated in touchy territory?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:35 AM on June 4, 2009


Why just last night my friend and I were talking about her upcoming trip to Poland and how there aren't many black people there and her assigned roommate is named "Courtney" and she's like "so you know she's white" and I was like "I know a black Courtney!" and this video proves my point. It is also racist.
posted by Danila at 10:36 AM on June 4, 2009


Ok I guess while we're doing this...friend of mine has a nephew named Elims. That is Smile backwards.

She also has a kid in her class named La-a. Pronounced: Ladasha.
posted by spicynuts at 10:40 AM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's inherently touchy territory, but I'm pretty much in agreement with the notion that what this is about (at least the lead video and some of the more on-key responses) is more metacommentary on than naive perpetuation of this sort of trope. To what degree these kids truly succeeded with that is open to debate, but it doesn't seem like there's much question that that's the territory they're operating in.

Wow, maybe it's so so subtly not racist that I'm just too sensitive to tell. What am I missing? Making fun of "ghetto black names" while mocking "ghetto black women" is not racist because they're making fun of making fun (except the only thing supposedly funny is those craaaazy names and the funny way those craaazy women act ha ha).
posted by Danila at 10:40 AM on June 4, 2009 [2 favorites]



You know who else operated in touchy territory?


Obstetricians?
posted by spicynuts at 10:42 AM on June 4, 2009 [7 favorites]


cortex: "I'm pretty much in agreement with the notion that what this is about (at least the lead video and some of the more on-key responses) is more metacommentary on than naive perpetuation of this sort of trope. To what degree these kids truly succeeded with that is open to debate, but it doesn't seem like there's much question that that's the territory they're operating in."

Recently I've been wondering if the "metacommentary" in, say, Stephen Colbert's Ching Chong Ding Dong routine [which I admit, not necessarily proudly, I find hilarious] is different enough from non-meta racist humor to matter.

Is the audience laughing at the Colbert character's racism? Or are they laughing at the honorable Chinaman with the frapping dickey?
posted by Joe Beese at 10:42 AM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'd like you all to know that I'm even less of a racist than sgt. serenity.

Do you all know it yet? Good. I like that.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:44 AM on June 4, 2009


Eh, it's somewhat amusing, with the occasional step over the line. I don't know if it's racist so much as making fun of ghetto-dwelling black people who have ridiculous names (and some of the real ones ARE ridiculous...don't you want your kid to be able to get a job someday? But I digress...). My point is, it's a little funny and occasionally too mean-spirited, but I'm not sure I get the racism accusation. If we were talking about all black people, then that would be racist. That's not to say that I think it's entirely appropriate (i.e. the aforementioned mean-spiritedness). But racism isn't QUITE the same thing as making fun of a subset of a race for their actual behavior.

I wouldn't bother pointing this out, but since many mefiers seem quite comfortable with taking pot shots at "white trash" and the fat-and-stupid bible-banging/gun-wielding denizens of middle America, I can't help but play a little devil's advocate.
posted by Edgewise at 10:44 AM on June 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Blanche.
posted by Sailormom at 10:48 AM on June 4, 2009


I don't know if it's racist so much as making fun of ghetto-dwelling black people who have ridiculous names

That is racist.

(and some of the real ones ARE ridiculous...don't you want your kid to be able to get a job someday? But I digress...).

Don't name your kid that because racist people might not hire them because they'll know your kid is black!!
posted by Danila at 10:49 AM on June 4, 2009 [12 favorites]


Is the audience laughing at the Colbert character's racism? Or are they laughing at the honorable Chinaman with the frapping dickey?

I figure that depends a lot on who exactly is sitting in the audience, no? It's impossible to know for sure, but I'd bet that most of Colbert's audience is relatively canny and there aren't a bunch of unreformed racists there sitting around laughing at the jokes that they don't realize they don't get.

I have similar feelings about mefi. I knew this was going to be a contentious post the minute I saw it, but I think it's good and interesting internet-and-sociology stuff, and while I'm not under the illusion that my opinion makes it not a potentially bumpy ride I have faith nonetheless that metafilter is the sort of place that can actually unpack some of the interesting meat here.
posted by cortex at 10:50 AM on June 4, 2009


But racism isn't QUITE the same thing as making fun of a subset of a race for their actual behavior.

Yeah, I think it is. I am not comfortable with the expression "white trash."
posted by Pax at 10:53 AM on June 4, 2009


Look people, you can't get bent out of shape over every stupid thing teenagers do. If you do, they'll make a YouTube video outta that, just to piss you off.

And it's not racist so much as classist and otherist. It's your basic "Let's laugh at the stuff that sounds weird and strange to us!"

Now, we could get all deep and shit and talk about the creation and projection of stereotypes from the dominant people to minority people to the extent that minority class reuses those stereotypes within its own power structures to denote hierarchy and how that intersects with race, class and sex, but it's lunch time and I'm good go get some fried chicken.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:53 AM on June 4, 2009 [8 favorites]


Ok I guess while we're doing this...friend of mine has a nephew named Elims. That is Smile backwards.

She also has a kid in her class named La-a. Pronounced: Ladasha.


My future m-i-l was telling me about a kid with this same name that attends the school she works for. Weird.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 10:54 AM on June 4, 2009


We need more creative children's names that reflect our interests and ideals.

I am naming my firstborn son Hurf D. Buttereater.
posted by benzenedream at 10:57 AM on June 4, 2009


The video was...teenage humor. And I was disturbed because it wasn't just about "black" names, but only *female* names. Even still, the way people are reacting here (which seems to be along the lines of "I will not engage with this video, 'nuff said.") makes me feel a little nervous. Maybe because we're all nervous. I'm not sure how not talking about this video somehow is better than what the people in the video are doing.

I'd also like to add, as other people have, that names are funny. (But yes, the joke they made of it was a pile of old ones, visited at the usual young-person-editing-youtube warp speed). The unforgiving in-your-faceness reminded me of this.

So...is the fact that this is on many levels blatantly and unmistakably racist somehow worse than more insidious forms of racism? Because personally, I don't think so. They're performing racism, and that's infuriating, but it's not like the racism isn't there to begin with.
posted by theefixedstars at 10:58 AM on June 4, 2009


Top 4 names of Frank Zappa's kids:

1. Moon Unit

2. Dweezil

3. Ahmet Emuukha Rodan

4. Diva Thin Muffin Pigeen
posted by Midnight Rambler at 10:58 AM on June 4, 2009


She also has a kid in her class named La-a. Pronounced: Ladasha.

My future m-i-l was telling me about a kid with this same name that attends the school she works for. Weird.

See, it's spelled "Le-a" but pronounced "urban legend".
posted by ShawnStruck at 10:59 AM on June 4, 2009 [11 favorites]


Just so you know I wilkl never hire any one named "Brandi", "Quinton", "Niles", "Tawny", or "Tiffany, (Tiffani, or Tiphanni)." It's a rule I have.

And once again Mefites just love to scream "RACIST!" any god damned chance they get. Congratulations you are so much less racist than everybody else. You should get some kind of tax deduction.
posted by tkchrist at 11:00 AM on June 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


Honestly, I will have a problem keeping a straight face if I meet someone named "Q’Antity", regardless of ethnicity.

But then I laugh at Dr. Spaceman "Spe-gem-men" on 30 Rock *every*time*, so YMMV.


Little girls named Clitoria just make me sigh.
posted by anitanita at 11:03 AM on June 4, 2009


We all have our own definitions of what we think are silly names, whether they are the interchangeable strings of last names that so many US college presidents seem to have (Kingman Brewster, Abbott Lawrence Lowell, Drew Gilpin Faust, etc.), the "Daddy's name, feminized" names that were popular for white girls in the US South in the 1940s-1960s (Raylene, Earlene, etc.), and the Puritan names so well-spoofed by Terry Pratchett's Omnians like "Visit-the-Unbeliever-With-Explanatory-Pamphlets" (I myself have a bunch of ancestors with names like this, of whom my favorite is Zealous B. Tower--the "B." stands for "Be").

But there's so much extra glee taken by so many people in mocking unusual names given by low-income black people in majority-black neighborhoods that that can't be all that's going on. Is "LaDainian Tomlinson" really a funnier name than "Brandyn Dombrowski"? Is "Lorenzen Wright" really a funnier name than "Zydrunas Ilgauskas"?
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:04 AM on June 4, 2009 [6 favorites]


theefixedstars: "is the fact that this is on many levels blatantly and unmistakably racist somehow worse than more insidious forms of racism?"

Yes.

Hope this helps.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:05 AM on June 4, 2009


Look people, you can't get bent out of shape over every stupid thing teenagers do.

When it comes here as a FPP, it seems appropriate to comment here, yes?

If you do, they'll make a YouTube video outta that, just to piss you off.

And it's not racist so much as classist and otherist. It's your basic "Let's laugh at the stuff that sounds weird and strange to us!"


I think there's more energy here than with other non-standard names (see my post above), which suggests to me that there is a racist component.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:07 AM on June 4, 2009


I'm not really understanding how so many here thought the first link was funny. Content aside, I thought their delivery was really awkward, and kinda cringeworthy.
posted by walrus hunter at 11:08 AM on June 4, 2009


Look people, you can't get bent out of shape over every stupid thing teenagers do. If you do, they'll make a YouTube video outta that, just to piss you off.

Okay, then why does the stupid racist stuff teenagers do have to get posted to Metafilter? Isn't that what Myspace is for? Or youtube? Couldn't it stay at youtube?

And it's not racist so much as classist and otherist. It's your basic "Let's laugh at the stuff that sounds weird and strange to us!"


It's the top 60 ghetto black female names. That's classist, "otherist", and racist. It can be all three. Oh, and sexist too!

I have similar feelings about mefi. I knew this was going to be a contentious post the minute I saw it, but I think it's good and interesting internet-and-sociology stuff, and while I'm not under the illusion that my opinion makes it not a potentially bumpy ride I have faith nonetheless that metafilter is the sort of place that can actually unpack some of the interesting meat here.


That only works if everyone is of like mind and everyone isn't. There are racist people here and racist apologists here so all that's going to happen is "you're too sensitive!".

And this isn't particularly cutting edge, it's just blunt force in your face "ha ha poor black people women!. It's also too obvious to warrant much unpacking.

Maybe because we're all nervous. I'm not sure how not talking about this video somehow is better than what the people in the video are doing.

I'm not nervous. I think people don't want to talk about it because who has time for dealing with obnoxious racist youtube crap unless you have to? This is why I don't read the youtube comments. This is best of the web? People told me that metafilter isn't about the discussion, it's about the links.

Can we laugh at these guys the way we laughed at those black guys who humped the ottoman? No, people are saying we're supposed to be laughing with them. Well bump that noise. It's not funny cause it's racist.
posted by Danila at 11:08 AM on June 4, 2009 [5 favorites]



Now, we could get all deep and shit and talk about the creation and projection of stereotypes from the dominant people to minority people to the extent that minority class reuses those stereotypes within its own power structures to denote hierarchy and how that intersects with race, class and sex, but it's lunch time and I'm good go get some fried chicken.

You know what's funny. Every white couple I know that has recently had kids in the last eight or nine years is bending space time with this penchant for rediscovering the lost names of Old Testament, white god-fear'n sharecropper, hobo, and hick antiquity names: Jethro. Otis. Tallulah. Delilah. Jeb. Ned. Isaac.

White upper middle class. It's like camouflage for "Hey! We're down witht he poosr folk. We're even naming our kids after Steinbeck novels!
posted by tkchrist at 11:09 AM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


And once again Mefites just love to scream "RACIST!" any god damned chance they get.

You are fucking kidding me. I would so vastly prefer not having to wade through racist crap on this site, let alone in the rest of the world.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:10 AM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is the audience laughing at the Colbert character's racism? Or are they laughing at the honorable Chinaman with the frapping dickey?

I think this was part of what led to Dave Chappelle deciding to walk away from his show and I don't think there is really a good answer.
posted by ND¢ at 11:12 AM on June 4, 2009 [6 favorites]


Danila, you're missing all the points...

I don't know if it's racist so much as making fun of ghetto-dwelling black people who have ridiculous names

That is racist.

How? They are not making fun of a RACE any more than people who make fun of rednecks are making fun of white people. Maybe YOU are the racist if you conflate "ghetto" with all black people. It is not their "race" that is being made fun of; it's the behavior of certain people (not all!) who are a member of that race. Like I said, this is no more racist than making fun of rednecks.

Don't name your kid that because racist people might not hire them because they'll know your kid is black!!

They'll know the kid is black when they show up for the interview. Naming your kid something like "Shaquaneesha" signals to the world that you're not to be taken seriously...too bad the kid suffers the consequences. Where do these names come from? Some of them are based on Swahili, which is fine, but most of them are invented whole cloth to SOUND Swahili. I'm sorry, that's just ridiculous. Nobody would have any trouble making fun of me if I named my kid something that SOUNDED French, like "J'attoir." Please tell me that wouldn't be stupid of me.

Seriously, some of you gotta lay off the knee-jerk "that's racist!" reaction to everything that mentions non-white people in a less than 100% positive light. Also, if you're going to go around accusing this and that of racism, you should have a pretty tight definition of what the hell you're talking about.

@BrandonBlancher

And it's not racist so much as classist and otherist.

Precisely.

@Pax

Yeah, I think it is. I am not comfortable with the expression "white trash."

Since you think it is, I'd like to hear how. And I'm not comfortable with the term, either...I'm using it to highlight my point. The term itself ("white trash") may be racist, but the way it is typically used is NOT racist (since the implication is not actually that white people are, by definition, trash). But I appreciate your consistency (i.e. non-hypocrisy) even if we disagree.
posted by Edgewise at 11:13 AM on June 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


Why... why... those young black and Asian kids were... were... racist!

They must secretly serving the man! I wonder what they got in return for betraying their race? Well who can blame them you know becuase, like that champion of racial fairness Limbaugh says, their role models, Obmam and Sotomayor, are the most racist of all. Right?

Jesus Christ. The way Mefites love to hurl racism accusations around the terms has become devoid of all meaning.
posted by tkchrist at 11:14 AM on June 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


Now, we could get all deep and shit and talk about the creation and projection of stereotypes from the dominant people to minority people to the extent that minority class reuses those stereotypes within its own power structures to denote hierarchy and how that intersects with race, class and sex, but it's lunch time and I'm good go get some fried chicken.

I was kinda hoping for this, in all honestly. But I'll settle for the fried chicken.
posted by desuetude at 11:20 AM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


MeFi + race = ¯\_(o.0)_/¯
posted by walrus hunter at 11:25 AM on June 4, 2009 [9 favorites]


You know, just once, I'd like to see one of these racism-accusers try to define racism. I suspect the definition would be something like "saying or doing anything negative about/to someone where race gets mentioned." For me, the definition is simple: a racist statement is a statement which attributes INNATE value (negative or positive) to a race. Simple.

Another question: can a racist statement be true? For instance, here's a statement that will probably get a few knees jerking: black people tend to perform worse in school than white or asian people. Is that racist?

Well, here's another one: a noticeable proportion of lower class urban black people give their kids some very unusual names. Is that racist? If not, then how is it racist to lampoon it?
posted by Edgewise at 11:27 AM on June 4, 2009 [5 favorites]


When it comes here as a FPP, it seems appropriate to comment here, yes?

If you like, feel free of course, I personally just don't think there's much to the charges of racism/sexism/whateverism.

I think people don't want to talk about it because who has time for dealing with obnoxious racist youtube crap unless you have to?

Nah, it's bored teenagers trying to be funny and edgy and failing spectacularly. I tried to be offended by it, I really did, but it was so stupid and unfunny that it's hard to take seriously.

Some of this might be colored by the recent video festival at my daughter's high school, where lots of videos got cheers and laughs from the students, but I thought they were astonishingly boring (sorry honey!).
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:30 AM on June 4, 2009


It's only racist if it's not funny.
posted by alzi at 11:30 AM on June 4, 2009


Ok, now I get it... it has become hip to be not racist while sounding racist....

that's cool, y'all

I just didn't get it..

and.. Potomac Avenue, telling someone to "take it to Meta" when they call you out? I don't think so... you posted this crap, perhaps we'll respond to it...
posted by HuronBob at 11:33 AM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


i'm here to settle this for you all. it's a little funny AND it's racist. you are now entitled to feel appropriately offended if you wish. see? easy.
posted by gnutron at 11:33 AM on June 4, 2009


63 comments in the time I was looking at the links. Who knows how may more while I type this.

I was born in Oakland, CA in the early '70s, I grew up with many people with "black" names. I have heard so many white people make fun of "black" names over the years. The popularity of these names grew in a very political time. Black people making a statement in a culture they did not truly feel a part of. What I have found interesting in the past several years is the increase in white people who give their children "distinctive, non-traditional" names. Look at the recent Aiden/Jayden/Cayden/Brayden thread. I met a child child named Gauge not too long ago. Really, Guage? How is that any different than Shaniqua?

cortex: It's inherently touchy territory, but I'm pretty much in agreement with the notion that what this is about (at least the lead video and some of the more on-key responses) is more metacommentary on than naive perpetuation of this sort of trope.

Not meaning to call out a mod. I'm not a particularly sensitive guy. I like awful humor as much as the next guy. I like "your mom" jokes more than the next guy. But the first two words that struck me about this were not "metacommentary" or "trope," they were "racist" and "bullshit."

Potomac Avenue: You know who else operated in touchy territory?

What? The people who have pointed out what a racist, bullshit post this is must be comparing you to Hitler, so you can't be wrong?
posted by ActingTheGoat at 11:34 AM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]




It is not their "race" that is being made fun of; it's the behavior of certain people (not all!) who are a member of that race. Like I said, this is no more racist than making fun of rednecks.

Or those Japanese people who speak "Engrish", ha ha, no not all Japanese people, just those Japanese people doing something we racists associate with Japanese people, but the Japanese part is irrelevant.

Naming your kid something like "Shaquaneesha" signals to the world that you're not to be taken seriously...

Oh, does it really? Shoulda stuck with Heather or Marianne or something similarly respectable? Far be it from a black woman to be creative or honor her ancestry or anything like that. You're in America now sista.

The term itself ("white trash") may be racist, but the way it is typically used is NOT racist (since the implication is not actually that white people are, by definition, trash).

Why not just say "trash" then (besides the fact that it's rude and nasty)? Why bring the "white" into it?
posted by Danila at 11:34 AM on June 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


I met a girl named "Britonie," once.

Alexander Schliemann, excavator of Troy (and Mycenae), named his son Agamemnon.

Is "LaDainian Tomlinson" really a funnier name than "Brandyn Dombrowski"?

Those are both very funny. While I was out canvassing during the Obama campaign, I came upon a household of an wealthy Armenian family. The daughter was named "McKenzie." If I ever run into someone named "Jayden Camryn Papadopoulos" at church, I'll have a similarly amused reaction.

I think this was part of what led to Dave Chappelle deciding to walk away from his show and I don't think there is really a good answer.

I frequently find that you get a white people with unsophisticated senses of humor who laugh at Chapelle's skits not realizing he's making fun of those same white people for their ridiculous ideas about black people. In a certain sense, the white person who sends you a video of a Chapelle skit is just another piece of the performance art, driving home the point of the skit.
posted by deanc at 11:34 AM on June 4, 2009


int racist_level = 0;

for( i = 0; i < posts_involving_race_count; i++)
{
     PostCommentDemonstraingMyNonRacism();
     racist_level--;
}

ERROR: Integer underflow detected on line 6.
posted by jsonic at 11:35 AM on June 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


"but it was so stupid and unfunny that it's hard to take seriously."...

Brandon...you nailed it... and that's why it shouldn't have been an FPP here... it's stupid, it's not funny, and it comes across as racist..

I come to MeFi for a lot of reasons, but this type of FPP doesn't fit any of them...
posted by HuronBob at 11:36 AM on June 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


here's so much extra glee taken by so many people in mocking unusual names given by low-income black people in majority-black neighborhoods that can't be all that's going on

I agree with you 100% on that, and I think it's not just limited to the low-income end of the socioeconomic scale: I sometimes notice a little bit of that same extra glee when white males criticize Oprah, and I often have to wonder if her being a rich, powerful black woman is what intensifies their derision. (Before fingers hit keyboards to produce angry retorts, let me point out that I agree that Oprah has in fact done much that deserves to be dissed by rational people.)

The way Mefites love to hurl racism accusations around

tkchrist, my experience here is different: Mefites are actually quick as hell to tell blacks and Latinos in particular that race is not a factor in something ethnic minorities perceive and react to as racial.

For example, I vividly recall a disappointing number of people here saying that although we can't know for sure what happened on the scene or what the people involved were thinking, we can nevertheless be relatively certain that race played no role in the tragic deaths of Oscar Grant and Sean Bell or the robber killed by the pharmacist recently. See also: non-trivial portions of the posting population expressing utter bewilderment -- and in some cases outright anger -- over black people having problems with the Resident Evil 5 trailer, etc.

With all that said, I thought parts of the video -- and the responses -- were pretty funny, although I think the kids who created it are astonishingly unaware of the sensitive nature of their subject material. But name number one made me laugh out loud because there are 3 Courtneys in my family -- white (wife), black (niece), and biracial (2nd cousin).
posted by lord_wolf at 11:37 AM on June 4, 2009


I tried to be offended by it, I really did, but it was so stupid and unfunny that it's hard to take seriously.

Brandon, I'm not offended that they did it, I'm offended that it's here. But since it's staying, I guess that's that.
posted by Danila at 11:37 AM on June 4, 2009


Oh, fine, since the post isn't going to be deleted...

Naming your kid something like "Shaquaneesha" signals to the world that you're not to be taken seriously

Since no one, to my knowledge, has actually named their child "Shaquaneesha"—this was one of the made-up names in the video—let's revise this strawman:

Naming your kid something like [an unusual name that suggests African-American background] signals to the world that you're not to be taken seriously

Now, my response would be: why?

I worked for a while at a company that was about 50% black. There were a few names there that sounded quite strange to my ears—and, yes, even ridiculous, as in "why on Earth would you name your kid that?". But the same is true of a lot of "white" names—"Kaylynn", "Dakota". I don't see why the "ghetto" names, in particular, warrant attention, or why it should be considered acceptable to not take someone seriously because of their name.

It makes about as much sense as making fun of Chinese or Pakistani names—"HAR HAR, PEOPLE FROM DIFFERENT CULTURES NAME THEIR KIDS DIFFERENT THINGS".

Believe me, I'm no PC freakazoid, and I understand ironic quasi-racist humor, as I make abundant use of it myself (always being mindful of the company, of course). I'm not indignant and scandalized by this video; I just think it's dumb, and nowhere near as clever as people think it is. This is a standard trope of middle-school humor, not avant-garde social commentary.
posted by ixohoxi at 11:39 AM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Caveat: "Urethra Franklin" is pretty funny.
posted by ixohoxi at 11:47 AM on June 4, 2009


Not meaning to call out a mod. I'm not a particularly sensitive guy. I like awful humor as much as the next guy. I like "your mom" jokes more than the next guy. But the first two words that struck me about this were not "metacommentary" or "trope," they were "racist" and "bullshit."

Well, to be fair, I thought of all four of 'em, as much as my emphasis were on the first two. This post has gotten a few flags already and we've talked about it a little bit in the backroom; in part I was feeling like getting at least a brief "why this hasn't been deleted" comment in was probably a good idea, to make it clear we're not just all sleeping it off or something.

I think Brandon Blatcher's point about the notion that these are kids trying and in some respects failing to do something clever was a clearer statement than I managed with my "To what degree these kids truly succeeded with that is open to debate" point in my first comment—the intersection between self-awareness and blundering is interesting and is a sort of weird Youtube-made-this-possible slice of culture that otherwise wouldn't be anything but a couple kids dorking around in the privacy of one of their bedrooms or whatever.
posted by cortex at 11:48 AM on June 4, 2009


I believe I have mentioned this before, but my daughter's African American mother in law had a talk with her before my grandson was born in which she in no uncertain terms told her she was NOT to name the baby by any, and I quote, "Ghetto" names. She practiced what she preached as my son in law has about as white bread a name as you could imagine.

On one hand, I think it is totally atrocious that people would make fun of or mock someone else's name, but on the other, I think Mother-in-law had a valid point re how an unusual or ethnic sounding name would attract racism. Sad but it is what it is.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:53 AM on June 4, 2009


the intersection between self-awareness and blundering is interesting and is sort of weird

I agree completely. My first, clumsy, attempts left me unable to look myself in the mirror for years.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 11:53 AM on June 4, 2009


Or those Japanese people who speak "Engrish", ha ha, no not all Japanese people, just those Japanese people doing something we racists associate with Japanese people, but the Japanese part is irrelevant.

Right, this pretty much sums up the non-difference of making fun of "some" people of a certain race.

I once heard someone say "I don't hate black people, I hate n-----s; not all black people are n-----s." See how that doesn't work?
posted by Pax at 11:55 AM on June 4, 2009


I thought the current white name trend was the archaic professions: Archer, Fletcher, Thatcher, Cooper, Tanner, Fuller, etc.
posted by klangklangston at 11:57 AM on June 4, 2009


I once heard someone say "I don't hate black people, I hate n-----s; not all black people are n-----s." See how that doesn't work?

Part of the thing is how the person most famous for saying that in the last ten years or so was Chris Rock. And coming from him, in the context of a funny goddam live set, it's one thing; coming from the white guy who thought it was a funny goddam set and goes around recycling or incorporating those bits into his own beertime comedy routine, it gets a lot more complicated.
posted by cortex at 12:00 PM on June 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


wow-i was kinda meh on the video link-and checked the comments to see what would be the reaction-but -come on- a couple of minority kids joke about the bulk of new names that all sound alot like each other, so much so that they start to sound like sections of finnegans wake when you read them in a row-and everyone freaks out? stupid hippie names, stupid alaskan governors' kids names,stupid sounding names in general-if the name sounds goofy -can't we just make a joke and move on without yelling racist? sheeeesshhh
posted by donabean at 12:00 PM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


My child's name is ☃
posted by zippy at 12:02 PM on June 4, 2009 [7 favorites]


Or those Japanese people who speak "Engrish", ha ha, no not all Japanese people, just those Japanese people doing something we racists associate with Japanese people, but the Japanese part is irrelevant.

I'm not sure this is a great parallel. It would be racist to laugh at mispronounced English with the assumption that Japanese people are somehow incapable or too stupid to form words. This isn't exactly a pervasive stereotype at this point. While racist people certainly often jeer English spoken with a foreign accent, the Engrish thing is generally much gentler humor, is it not? More along the lines of unintentionally awkwardly translated elevator signs and the like?


Naming your kid something like "Shaquaneesha" signals to the world that you're not to be taken seriously...

Oh, does it really? Shoulda stuck with Heather or Marianne or something similarly respectable? Far be it from a black woman to be creative or honor her ancestry or anything like that. You're in America now sista.


I agree with you here, Danila. Unusual names of a certain ilk are taken as, incredibly, some sort of contributing factor to socioeconomic disparity. Oh, unless they're the subject of breathy articles about the special snowflake celebrity children and the "phenomenon" of giving children unusual names!
posted by desuetude at 12:03 PM on June 4, 2009


I never understood the fried chicken/watermelon stereotype. Everyone eats fried chicken and/or watermelon. (Generally speaking of folks in the US, of course)

Not that racist stereotypes have to make any sort of logical sense... but usually stereotypes are based on some aspect of difference.
posted by Fleebnork at 12:06 PM on June 4, 2009


Naming your kid something like "Shaquaneesha" signals to the world that you're not to be taken seriously...too bad the kid suffers the consequences.

The only reason that these names are taken less seriously is because they are associated with other people who may commonly personify negative traits. If the majority of girls named "Shaquaneesha" are low-income and uneducated, then someone encountering this name will classify that person to be similar without any other information. I think this is less a question of racism than a question of perspective. This will be true of girls named "Beyonce" as well: even though they may not be beautiful or rich or a talented singer, other people will more easily associate them with those traits because of their famous namesake. Same with "Mariah" or "Shania".

I know several ethnically Chinese students (with non-Americanized names) who were born and bred on U.S. soil (in fact graduating from Princeton, Yale, etc.), but still put "U.S. Citizen" on their resumes. Just to be clear, they say, as they are often asked. Again, it's all about perspective.
posted by gushn at 12:06 PM on June 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Edgewise does not speak for me, and i totally agree that most of the time this kind of joke (or god forbid wannabe-serious point about strange names--our president has a name that ends with a vowel people, who gives a crap what parents call their children?) is offensively not humorous. But this particular instance seems to be coming from inside the community or at least with a lot of knowledge about the terribleness of what has come before, such that it is cast in a self-mocking and absurd tone. If you guys are offended by it, i understand, but you can't tell me it doesn't have self-awareness about it's own offensiveness (unlike the white teenage response videos that utterly miss the point horrifyingly).

i guess it just comes down to the fact that i like middle-school humor, or just lists of random silly words. i don't think i am racist, but i may be reta--..er...developmentally disadvantaged.

i defy anyone to watch this video response and not lol at "Absede"
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:10 PM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


but my daughter's African American mother in law had a talk with her before my grandson was born in which she in no uncertain terms told her she was NOT to name the baby by any, and I quote, "Ghetto" names. She practiced what she preached as my son in law has about as white bread a name as you could imagine.

Yeah. From a practical perspective, it's hard to imagine that the name Devonte vs Michael wouldn't promote a lot of subtle racism i.e. Devonte doesn't get as many callbacks on job searches and similar stuff. Part of having to deal with racism is knowing where it tends to be or might be and leveling out the playing field as best you can, such as the names of children.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:12 PM on June 4, 2009


I've been on both ends of a good amount of racial humor. I'm using the term racial (as opposed to racist) humor here, because while the jokes we made were all poking fun at traditional racial stereotypes, it was clear that it was all in fun, more like a game of "the dozens" than a racist screed. I think that what maybe makes this kind of humor funny, in the right company, is the realization that there is this little kernel of racism in us all, and it can be cathartic to acknowledge its existence and diminish its influence by cracking racial jokes with your friends.

Obviously I'm talking about a mixed-race setting with people who were all good friends. A bunch of white people sitting around telling jokes about black people is no longer "racial" humor, it's racist "humor".

Part of the problem here is that we don't know these kids, nor their motivations; we haven't built up a reserve of trust between us. Thus we really don't know if it's racist or racial humor, if you follow me; but the fact that one of them appears to be of African descent suggests to me that they're basically clueless high school sophomores who've seen other people handle this sort of material much more deftly and are attempting to follow suit. It's a one-trick pony, though; there is nothing in the "text," as it were, to support the idea that these kids are not racist, though the "metatext" suggests that this may be the case. Chappelle's racial humor is funny because he goes much deeper than this very shallow attack on non-standard names, and makes it clear, even when he is lampooning stereotypical "black" behavior, that it's the stereotype he's lampooning more so than the people.

So, yeah, public racial humor is not for beginners. The internet is not made up entirely of people who know you and trust your motivations.
posted by Mister_A at 12:12 PM on June 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


MeFi + race = ¯\_(o.0)_/¯

Metafilter, when the racism fell! Unevenboobs, her arms upraised, her snark unfurled!
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:14 PM on June 4, 2009 [5 favorites]


On one hand, I think it is totally atrocious that people would make fun of or mock someone else's name, but on the other, I think Mother-in-law had a valid point re how an unusual or ethnic sounding name would attract racism. Sad but it is what it is.

St. Alia of the bunnies, while to a certain extent I think this is true, it also sounds very much like the rationale behind discouraging mixed-race marriages: because people will treat the children badly, and nothing to do with the fact that we don't want you to marry one of those people. It's true, racists will leap at opportunities to do racist things like deny jobs or tease people because of their race, but I think we should be making fun of the racists, and not the victims. The victims of racism don't need to hide or be silent or acquiesce. The racists need to be the ones on the run.
posted by Danila at 12:15 PM on June 4, 2009


So, I'm guessing white people don't get the "License to Mock Your Own Race" ID cards at birth?

Now, some of these kids weren't the same race they were poking fun at, but I do know that there's a difference between perpetuating stereotypes and poking fun at stereotypes.

The business owner I was helping in a banking office who said he paid his Latino employees in cash because "my Mexicans* don't hardly believe in checking accounts?" Racist.

Me describing my first job doing lawn work and cleaning an old white man's house as "I've never felt so Mexican?" Not racist.

It might be right, it might be wrong, but I'll abuse my right to make jokes I don't believe in but think are funny anyway.

I was actually disappointed there wasn't a video mocking Latino names. Now that I've actually clicked all the links, I'm going to complain that there isn't a video mocking Latino names, just a video of two teenage girls preening in a bathroom mirror. I'm going to make up for it by sharing one of my favorite jokes. I know this might get flagged, I know it might get people mad, and I know it might look like I'm trolling. But I'm telling it to illustrate a point; you're allowed to make fun of groups which you belong to.

Why do Mexicans drive low riders?

So they can drive and pick lettuce at the same time.
posted by Juliet Banana at 12:17 PM on June 4, 2009 [5 favorites]


It might be right, it might be wrong, but I'll abuse my right to make jokes I don't believe in but think are funny anyway.

Amen.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:21 PM on June 4, 2009


So.. Jeff Foxworthy is a racist?
posted by hypersloth at 12:21 PM on June 4, 2009


Worse: he's Jeff Foxworthy.
posted by cortex at 12:23 PM on June 4, 2009 [7 favorites]


it also sounds very much like the rationale behind discouraging mixed-race marriages: because people will treat the children badly, and nothing to do with the fact that we don't want you to marry one of those people.

That is exactly what came to mind for me, too. I still remember getting a well-meaning but of course offensive talk from my folks as a teenager about how "difficult" it would be on me if I dated someone not white 'cause people are so mean. I'm not very patient with this argument.

Yeah. From a practical perspective, it's hard to imagine that the name Devonte vs Michael wouldn't promote a lot of subtle racism i.e. Devonte doesn't get as many callbacks on job searches and similar stuff. Part of having to deal with racism is knowing where it tends to be or might be and leveling out the playing field as best you can, such as the names of children.


Are there upper-middle-class African-Americans would like to give their kid a "black sounding" name but default to something traditionally white-bread so that their kid doesn't get pegged as ghetto in twenty years when they apply for a job? I'm genuinely asking. Well, of course it depends case-by-case on the temperament of the parents. But I'm heading back in the direction of your original comments about whether this issue is really more about class than race.
posted by desuetude at 12:29 PM on June 4, 2009


I am going to tell you something a little bit racist. About 20 or 25 years ago, there was a guy named Rulon Jones who played for the Denver Broncos, a semi-professional "American football" team. I was a little surprised when I saw that he was white.
posted by Mister_A at 12:30 PM on June 4, 2009


I figure I'd better not judge, since I'm neither raining, nor in any way associated with Florence Henderson. But honestly, the dumbest name I ever heard of is "Apple." Really? Apple? How generic. Why not Granny Smith Martin, McIntosh Martin, Jonagold Martin, Braeburn Martin, Fuji Martin, Gala Martin, or Golden Delicious Martin? [NOT MALUS DOMESTICAIST!]
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:33 PM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


A couple of points.

1. The African American tradition of "inventing" names (especially amongst the unprivileged) has been seen by some scholars (including myself) as a method of agency by specifically poor, black women. That is to say, black women who have had no power in their lives whatsoever have taken it upon themselves to create names that they feel are appropriate. They are controlling one of the few things that they have power over, the names of their children. To many people not a part of this grouping, the names sound ridiculous--however, as has been shown above the granting of ridiculous sounding names (to outsiders at least) is not confined to poor black folk.

2. Though the book has been criticized quite a bit, Freakanomics does include a study of the effect that "overly ethnic" names have on children's futures. The conclusion was that any effect was negligible.

3. To those contrarians that love to pop into threads and take to task those that they perceive as overly sensitive liberal white folks who are too sensitive to allegations of racism . . . trust me, their are black folks who find this shit tiresome too (that is, the ignorance seen in the fpp's links). I'm not sure that I would call this stuff racist, but its definitely classist, otherist, crass, and ignorant as hell. The "hurf durf, we're just kids and we're not racist we're just having a laugh" doesn't cut it.

4. I lament the crappy stunt posts that keep pushing mefi into Fark territory. I mean, WTF? Is this really something that is so interesting and compelling that it had to be shared here? I know that fpp's aren't supposed to be about the comments but about the post itself, but surely the OP could have foreseen that this wouldn't go over well. IMHO, the only type of posts that rate posting regardless of whether they are inflammatory or not are truly amazing, mindblowing things that others might not be aware of yet. This post does not any any way seem to be necessary. For real, can we please stop with the lolxians, lolrepublicans, lolblackpeople, lolpoorpeople, etc? I is really unbecoming and just makes you look like an ass. There are thousands of websites that do precisely these things (see the above mentioned Fark) and do them much better than we do.
posted by anansi at 12:40 PM on June 4, 2009 [28 favorites]


Metafilter, when the racism fell! Unevenboobs, her arms upraised, her snark unfurled!

Gilgamesh and YouTube at Uruk.

I can't believe you outed me!
posted by ActingTheGoat at 12:42 PM on June 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh, and Kanye West is a dick. Just because he links it on his blog is not some sort of "Get Out Of Squirrely, Racialist, Ignorance Problems Free" card.
posted by anansi at 12:49 PM on June 4, 2009 [5 favorites]


I feel this link is the equivalent of linking youtube jackass stunts- is this really noteworthy? I mean, sure, there's the occasional joy of watching someone fall on their balls, but at least that's not say, painted as a stereotype of an entire people...

I feel like I need to listen to some Paul Mooney to wash the wackness away.
posted by yeloson at 12:54 PM on June 4, 2009


I like unusual names. I remember them more easily, and can count on a person with a rare name realizing I'm shouting directly to them from across the room, unlike someone named John or Michael who can't be bothered to even look up half the time. I ran into a woman named Fashionette last year. I thought that was awesome.

The only way I could construe "white trash" as racist rather than classist is if the implication of the speaker was that non-white automatically meant trash. A full unpacking of the phrase as it is usually meant is "Ignorant poor from a southern white cultural background." I don't generally use that term, redneck, or cracker, but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't call racist on someone who did.

I'm surprised the Indian list didn't include "Anal", which has got to be one of the most embarrassing possible false friend pairs other than the Asian "Phoc".

I had a friend who worked in a clinic south of Mission who explained to a patient why she might not want to name her baby the quite lovely sounding "Chlamydia".
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:56 PM on June 4, 2009


I never understood the fried chicken/watermelon stereotype. [It is illogical because ][e]veryone eats fried chicken and/or watermelon.

It is illogical, and that may be the fried chicken/watermelon trope's most offensive factor. Because the generalization that black people enjoy these foods more than other people isn't even slightly true, any references to it are not even slightly funny. Add to that a century or two of demeaning references that most contemporary Americans find deeply offensive and the fried chicken/watermelon cliché is, for many, an automatic comedy dealbreaker with no valid place in any intelligent parody of race or racism.

And yes, perhaps the "radioactivity" of this old chestnut is what's keeping it alive.
posted by applemeat at 12:56 PM on June 4, 2009


But I'm telling it to illustrate a point; you're allowed to make fun of groups which you belong to.

I don't get any particular pleasure out of hearing jokes about Native American "halfbreeds" or "dumb blondes" or "bluestockings" or any of the rest of it. Either you believe there's truth in racist bullshit or you don't. If you don't like hearing it, why say it?

Whenever I hear someone cut themselves down by appealing to idiotic stereotypes, it makes me cringe and think less of them. It really seems like a self-esteem issue. Being around people who've perversely internalized racism and sexism is painful. Get a spine and quit propagating this shit. Why go there? What's the fucking point? You expect me to laugh, or are you trying to make me uncomfortable?

Are you trying to be cool and pretend like racism doesn't bother you? Say "wetback" as many times as you want, but you're not fooling anybody. It's hurtful, inappropriate, and pisses me the fuck off.
posted by aquafortis at 12:57 PM on June 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


This might be something I'd expect to see on Fark or Reddit, but not MeFi.

One of my best friends is on Reddit.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:58 PM on June 4, 2009 [6 favorites]


I see what you did there, Mr. Pileon.
posted by Mister_A at 1:06 PM on June 4, 2009


I never understood the fried chicken/watermelon stereotype. [It is illogical because ][e]veryone eats fried chicken and/or watermelon.

Miko had some info on that, somewhere in one of her comments which I can't find at the moment.

But I think the heart of the explanation behind the stereotype is that fried chicken and watermelon were luxuries, rarely had, so the image of black person sitting around all day eating those things made blacks look lazy and greedy for eating all they could of luxury foods that took a lot of time and effort.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:11 PM on June 4, 2009


Here is the comment by Miko that Brandon's talking about.
posted by cortex at 1:13 PM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


If I met someone named Shaquaneesha, I would find their name interesting and fun to say, and otherwise would not think anything of it. I really don't get the notion that it would interfere with someone getting hired; as with anyone's name, after a week you get used to it and don't even hear yourself saying it anymore.

When I worked at a Jewish nonprofit, I was always fascinated by names that I'd never heard before. But really you only marvel over the first name "Perel" or the last name "Finkelshteyn" for as long as it takes to get to know the person -- I doubt that even Marijuana Pepsi Jackson's coworkers would deny that.
posted by hermitosis at 1:22 PM on June 4, 2009


BrotherCaine: you don't really believe your friend's story, do you?
posted by ixohoxi at 1:24 PM on June 4, 2009


Dibs on "Marijuana Pepsi Jackson" as my new sockpuppet name.
posted by ixohoxi at 1:25 PM on June 4, 2009


I like exotic names.

I guess, if I ever thought about it, I think of how slaves were sometimes forced to take their owners' names. If you're African American and that doesn't make you want to do whatever you can to distinguish the names of your kids from generic "white" names, I don't know what would.

I realized that I do have a negative reaction, though, to typical names with "creative spelling", like substituting "y" for i or switching letters around or adding more letters. And I think I have the "right" to feel this way, given that my own name has a creative spelling since my Dad spelled it wrong on my birth certificate.
posted by misha at 1:31 PM on June 4, 2009


If I met someone named Shaquaneesha, I would find their name interesting and fun to say, and otherwise would not think anything of it. I really don't get the notion that it would interfere with someone getting hired;

Not everyone is like you and no doubt, black people are and were aware that decent white existed. However, if you were a black parent and you've spent your entire life dealing with racism and know in your bones just how much harder things will be for you child, you want to give that child every advantage that will get them somewhere, you want to cut off any anchors, even if they're potential anchors, because literally all it took was one white person (on a good day!) and your kid's life could not only be hobbled but destroyed.

So yeah, Michael sounds a lot more reasonable than Devonte, because it's common and known and popular and it's one less barrier to getting your kid put down.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:35 PM on June 4, 2009


Here is the comment by Miko that Brandon's talking about.

Thanks. I suspected class and/or luxury status figured into the stereotype somehow, but I couldn't imagine how. It didn't occur to me that the implication might be that the chicken was stolen.
posted by Fleebnork at 1:35 PM on June 4, 2009


You know, just once, I'd like to see one of these racism-accusers try to define racism. I suspect the definition would be something like "saying or doing anything negative about/to someone where race gets mentioned."

I will define racism in humor as follows: A racist joke is any joke that's all "OH HA HA LOOK AT THOSE STUPID {$group} PEOPLE AND THE STUPID {$group} THINGS THEY DO!"

A joke about racism is a joke about "OH HA HA LOOK AT HOW STUPID PEOPLE ARE WHEN THEY SPOUT PREJUDICED BULLSHIT ABOUT {$group}."

As others have already mentioned, if there was a bright line between the second category and the first category, Dave Chappelle would still be making a television show.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:37 PM on June 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


My child's name is ☃

You named your kid "Frosty"? That's cold. That's ice cold.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:40 PM on June 4, 2009


Mister_A: I've been on both ends of a good amount of racial humor. I'm using the term racial (as opposed to racist) humor here

Point taken. My friends in high-school were an assortment of differently mixed-race guys. Being a gathering of 15 year old boys, most of what went back and forth was offensive, a lot of it was racial. But as awful as it may have sounded, taken out of context, the tone was bantering. That's not to say it never went over the line. Sure, I still engage in some racial humor. But it's always among people I know, and almost entirely self-deprecating.

I remember watching a black stand-up comedian doing a routine about going the fair and buying food from the various stalls. At one point he buys some fried chicken, the next stall is selling watermelon and he buys some of that. He's having a great time, walking around with a big smile on his face. Then he sees a group of white people taking pictures of him with their cell phones. What was funny, was him talking about racial stereotypes and laughing at them. Some white guys laughing about, "those black people sure do love fried chicken and watermelon" isn't exactly the same thing.


Juliet Banana: The business owner I was helping in a banking office who said he paid his Latino employees in cash because "my Mexicans* don't hardly believe in checking accounts?" Racist.

Me describing my first job doing lawn work and cleaning an old white man's house as "I've never felt so Mexican?" Not racist.


My hackles went up when I first read this. I've worked with plenty of Mexican guys who didn't have checking account, cashed their paychecks and used Western Union to send money home.
I've heard more than one guy at a job say, when asked to do something unpleasant, "what do I look like a Mexican/nigger?"

Then I got to the part of your comment where you say, "you're allowed to make fun of groups which you belong to." And I hate to say it, but my hackles went down. I feel somewhat hypocritical and uncomfortable agreeing with this. But I do the same thing. When it comes up with other Latinos that I don't speak Spanish, I grin sheepishly and claim to be "the worst Mexican in the world." Do I assume that it's obvious that I can't be racist against Latinos, so therefore I can say what I want? Maybe that's it. Maybe it's not that people of a specific race have a free pass to make fun of themselves and others do not. Maybe it's that others need to be clearer that their jokes are banter and not derogatory. This is hard to do, especially on the internet. Maybe it's sometimes best to leave it alone.
That being said, I do have to take issue with you. The best Mexican joke in the world is,

What do you call two Mexicans playing basketball

Juan on Juan
posted by ActingTheGoat at 1:45 PM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


*Tires of being last in line, changes name to Aaaabneretta Aaaabraham*.
posted by Cranberry at 1:45 PM on June 4, 2009


She also has a kid in her class named La-a. Pronounced: Ladasha.

My future m-i-l was telling me about a kid with this same name that attends the school she works for. Weird.

See, it's spelled "Le-a" but pronounced "urban legend".


Yeh. Would you like to see her class roster? I guarantee you it's not an urban legend.
posted by spicynuts at 1:50 PM on June 4, 2009


Oh hai guyz Shanda Lear is on the phone I gtg.
posted by Mister_A at 1:59 PM on June 4, 2009


Here is the comment by Miko that Brandon's talking about.

cortex helps black people!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:01 PM on June 4, 2009


Some Of My Mutual Contacts Are Black People!
posted by cortex at 2:07 PM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am going to tell you something a little bit racist. About 20 or 25 years ago, there was a guy named Rulon Jones who played for the Denver Broncos, a semi-professional "American football" team. I was a little surprised when I saw that he was white.

Sportswriter Bill Simmons created his "Reggie Cleveland All-Stars" to enshrine athletes whose names make them sound like they come from a different race than they really do. Rulon Jones was a first-ballot member, if I'm not mistaken.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:08 PM on June 4, 2009


> ...coming from the white guy who thought [Chris Rock had] a funny goddam set and goes around recycling or incorporating those bits into his own beertime comedy routine, it gets a lot more complicated.

This is as good a time as any to link to Ill Doctrine, which provided one of the best explanations I've seen of why white guys playing with race humor is still not working well.
posted by ardgedee at 2:11 PM on June 4, 2009 [8 favorites]


True story: A teacher friend of mine had a girl in her class whose name was:

La-a

(that's pronounced "Ladasha")
posted by Kabanos at 2:11 PM on June 4, 2009


well said
posted by HuronBob at 2:16 PM on June 4, 2009


Ixohoxi, If she'd said the woman had actually named her child Chlamydia I wouldn't have believed the story. What she did say was that the woman said Chlamydia sounded like a lovely name (I'm not sure she actually used the word lovely, I gather the conversation was taking place in Spanish). What made me take her at face value was that the she was relating an event that she was a party to, not some friend of a friend thing. Chlamydia is not much more unlikely a word for a foreign language speaker to latch onto than Chevrolet. Actually managing to get it onto a birth certificate would surprise me.

Yeh. Would you like to see her class roster? I guarantee you it's not an urban legend.

I'm not sure why someone you call future Mdashidashl would make fun of a Ladasha.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:26 PM on June 4, 2009


one of the best explanations I've seen

Agreed. "this hipster ironic Vice Magazine thing of deliberately acting racist as a way to show that we're not racist, because we think we need to prove to everyone that being past racism means being freed from the unfair burden of ever having to care how we affect each other.... we don't want to go down that road."
posted by jessamyn at 2:33 PM on June 4, 2009 [6 favorites]


See, it's spelled "Le-a" but pronounced "urban legend".

Nope, one of my company's clients is La-a. The coworker who brought it to my attention is black, and he thought it was fucking hilarious.
posted by desjardins at 2:34 PM on June 4, 2009


Yeh. Would you like to see her class roster? I guarantee you it's not an urban legend.

Yeah, let's see it. I'm betting it's an urban legend, but if it exists, we can send it into Snopes, at least.
posted by mr_roboto at 2:34 PM on June 4, 2009


I like posts that make white people uncomfortable.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:35 PM on June 4, 2009 [5 favorites]


I misspoke. Her name is La-shia, pronounced Ladashia. He found this out when he called her and asked for "La Shia," and she corrected him.
posted by desjardins at 2:36 PM on June 4, 2009


jessamyn, that quotation hits the nail on the head. I don't feel like going into details, but my wife and I run into that shit all the damned time (see my campfire reference above--true story), and it's just fucking tedious.
posted by MrMoonPie at 2:40 PM on June 4, 2009


This is from an article on the book Freakonomics, on Slate.com:

The California data establish just how dissimilarly black and white parents have named their children over the past 25 years or so—a remnant, it seems, of the Black Power movement. The typical baby girl born in a black neighborhood in 1970 was given a name that was twice as common among blacks than whites. By 1980, she received a name that was 20 times more common among blacks. (Boys' names moved in the same direction but less aggressively—likely because parents of all races are less adventurous with boys' names than girls'.) Today, more than 40 percent of the black girls born in California in a given year receive a name that not one of the roughly 100,000 baby white girls received that year. Even more remarkably, nearly 30 percent of the black girls are given a name that is unique among every baby, white and black, born that year in California. (There were also 228 babies named Unique during the 1990s alone, and one each of Uneek, Uneque, and Uneqqee; virtually all of them were black.)

What kind of parent is most likely to give a child such a distinctively black name? The data offer a clear answer: an unmarried, low-income, undereducated, teenage mother from a black neighborhood who has a distinctively black name herself. Giving a child a super-black name would seem to be a black parent's signal of solidarity with her community—the flip side of the "acting white" phenomenon. White parents, meanwhile, often send as strong a signal in the opposite direction. More than 40 percent of the white babies are given names that are at least four times more common among whites.


It seemed appropriate to note here.

In Romania under Ceausescu, they made a law that you could not give a child a traditional Hungarian name, if a "good" Romanian equivalent existed. So, "Janos" or "György," both popular boy's names, were forbidden, in favor of "Ion" and "Gheorghe." The ethnic Hungarians didn't like this much, so they tended to give their kids obscure names without Romanian equivalents. This is probably why I know so many Romanian Hungarians named Emese (after the mother of High Prince Álmos) or Gyöngyvér (after the wife of Attila The Hun's brother, Buda - it literally means "Pearl Blood") and relatively few Hungarian Hungarians with those names. (These names tend seem to be often ridiculed on Budapest television as "village names," the way Jethro or Elmer might be seen in America.) But these names exist as mild social protest.

This was also true in Yugoslava, where overtly Muslim names were seen as somewhat antiquated and representative of bad old times. So in a pretty cosmopolitan place such as Sarajevo, it was seen as "classier" (for lack of a better word) to give your Muslim child a name like "Rusmir" (very Slavic, it means something like "Russian peace.") Of course, when the country fell apart and the threat from Serbian (i.e. Orthodox Christian) forces was apparent, you'd be astonished at how quickly the city folk reverted to old "village" Muslim names. Again, a slight form of protest.

So it's no surprise to me that African-Americans might choose names in much the same way. The primary difference is that the vast majority of parents who choose names like "Bon Que Que" have absolutely no knowledge of their specific African roots, nor do most have any knowledge whatsoever of the linguistics of any genuine African language. So they do the next best thing (and several African-Americans have flat-out told me this), and that is to give their kids a name that "sounds" "African."

To people with some exposure to world linguistics, these names don't usually sound very authentically "African" - whatever that might mean - but they do to the parents, and these names signify this to people within their communities. And that's really the point. I rather like the idea, in some sort of cosmic way, that all people in the world crave roots - even in some cases where they must resort to the "sense" of these roots as they're cut off from the actual thing.

Plenty of people make fun of the current crop of trendy "white" names. I especially like the "action" ones like Hunter or Connor or Tanner or Taylor, where one can easily imagine that that "-er/-or" at the end is, subconsciously, meant to convey the great "doingness" they would like to see connected to their child - even if, in reality, he will probably be a fat little monster who eats too many Doritos and spends all his free time playing Guitar Hero II. Ditto those names which seem to want to convey "solidity" - Branden, Hayden, Aiden, etc. Those will probably be the first ones on Prozac-For-Kids. People make fun of these names quite often, but their African-American equivalents deviate so much more dramatically from the most common names in America than their "white" equivalents that I can understand why people would poke fun at "Bon Que Que" more often than "Hunter."

2. Though the book has been criticized quite a bit, Freakanomics does include a study of the effect that "overly ethnic" names have on children's futures. The conclusion was that any effect was negligible.

I sort of touched on this before, but your short paraphrasing misses some of the point - the effect is negligible because of the immensely negative milieu in which such names are given. To quote from the passage quoted above:

What kind of parent is most likely to give a child such a distinctively black name? The data offer a clear answer: an unmarried, low-income, undereducated, teenage mother from a black neighborhood who has a distinctively black name herself.

So if such a mother gave her kids the names "James" and "Karen" instead of "DeQuon" and "Latisha," their statistically likely futures would not change for them - they'd still be the children of "an unmarried, low-income, undereducated teenage mother," with all the strikes against them that such a background entails. In other words, when you're that downpressed from birth, what's one more strike really mean? Not much, probably.

Although every now and then one comes across a successful Marijuana Pepsi Jackson, I've met many seemingly open and liberal people tell me that when they receive a resume with a name on top like "DeKendra Latisha Washington," they're likely just to throw it in the trash, although they'd happily interview that same black woman if she were named "Janet Ellis Washington" or something like that. I think it's really classicism at work here, not racism per se. If you're prone to upward mobility, your name can mean a lot.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 2:43 PM on June 4, 2009 [16 favorites]


It's why I have stopped making "I'd hit that" jokes, even though I always tried to put it in a context where it was clear that I was mocking the "I'd hit it" comment itself. Because even still, it set eyes a-rolling, because you can be as clever and as ironic as you like, you're still using something very painful and irritating and potentially easy to misinterpret as a source of humor, and, in the end, the point you're making isn't "I am so clever" but "I am so privileged that I can just express whatever the hell I want and excuse it because I think I'm so freaking funny."

I'm funny, but I'm not that funny.

I didn't manage to rain in that behavior in time to get Jessamyn to change her name, which I regret.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:44 PM on June 4, 2009 [8 favorites]


I mentor two 6th graders whose mothers gave them unique, euphonious names which suit them perfectly. They are smart, funny, talented, and hard-working young women who are going to grow up to be scientists or doctors based on how they've excelled in our enrichment programs.

Your clever, clever jokes and urban legends have real people as their punchline.
posted by hydropsyche at 2:47 PM on June 4, 2009 [7 favorites]


It might be just me, and after an hour of searching I could find nothing definitive but it seems that almost all:
New drug brand names take the form of verb"a" or verb"ia" just end in "a".
New car model names end in "a".
Cliche or racist young black female names end in "a". (As seen in the first post above.)

It's as if the letter A is trying to take control of all new names from the other vowels through a stealth campaign, sneaking up from the end.

Just me?
posted by vapidave at 2:47 PM on June 4, 2009


reign in that behavior, rather.

Sorry. I was annoyed by the misspelling.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:54 PM on June 4, 2009


You know who else operated in touchy territory?

Michael Jackson?
posted by MikeMc at 2:55 PM on June 4, 2009


And I'm pretty sure I misspelled it again.

(Slams head against desk.)
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:55 PM on June 4, 2009


Oh, and Kanye West is a dick. Just because he links it on his blog is not some sort of "Get Out Of Squirrely, Racialist, Ignorance Problems Free" card.

But it's okay for YOU to speak for all black people as to what they "find tiresome?" But you can't give Kanye the same lattitude or benefit of the doubt?

While I agree the post in question was only offensive in that it was not in the least bit funny, it was also not in the least bit racist.

Metafilter has gotten into this awkward space so ultra-meta as to now infer that fellow Mefites — who don't think it's racist for minority kids making fun of their own culture — are racist/racialist. Fucking pathetic.
posted by tkchrist at 3:05 PM on June 4, 2009


That J Smooth bit was really good…

I was thinking about bit about, well, America's Next Top Model producer Ken Mok, a name that my girlfriend and I love to shout at each other. The reasons why I think it's funny are kinda oblique, and I remember being taken to task over mentioning it in Meta—the reasons being mostly the triune of homophone "mock", Ooklah the Mok and that it sounds like a D&D name to me (our cross-street here, Charnock, also sounds totally D&D). But I remember being questioned over whether or not it was racist, and feeling pretty defensive about that. It certainly made me more circumspect in sharing my stupid glee over it.

But I've come back to it, though I recognize he has only the second funniest TV producer name—he has nothing on Dick Wolf, who I've envisioned a whole pornographic helicopter action series for.
posted by klangklangston at 3:07 PM on June 4, 2009


But it's okay for YOU to speak for all black people as to what they "find tiresome"

Re-read the sentence, that is so not what anansi said. What she/he said was smart, intelligent and well written, so yeah, I'll put in vote for speaker for all black people for a day.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:13 PM on June 4, 2009


I would like to see a class roster, actually. I usually assume that many of these stories are exaggerations or repeated urban legends, as i have worked in elementary schools in the hood and went to school with lots of black people growing up and never heard any of these names.

I just heard this story from a friend re: this video...
my girlfriend met a woman at the hospital with a daughter whose name was pronounced Fee-Mahl-L'Ay...

She asked her "Is that a family name, or something?" The woman said "No. It was already there on the birth certificate so I decided to call her that." F-E-M-A-L-E


Well OK, but 1. who cares? and 2. really? It seems unlikely, and I'm sure I've heard that one before.

IN ADDITION
I loved that jsmooth video as usual. He's like the xkcd of vlogs. But one thing I totally disagree with is that we have to choose to be either one thing or the other. Some people can write for vice magazine, and some people can like it (like me, i think them douchebags is hilarious to the max quite often). Some people can be offended by that kind of talk and can write about race without making jokes. Just because there is a wrong way to do it doesn't mean there is only one right way.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:19 PM on June 4, 2009


About the assumption that African-Americans are somehow unique in having unusual names:

I was talking to the dean of my college about a student who was having some difficulties, let's call her "Tyreena". The dean asked if the student was African-American. I replied, in total truth, "Actually, my students named Tyreena and Kenya are white. My African-American students have names like Dana and Cassandra."
posted by lleachie at 3:20 PM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


which provided one of the best explanations I've seen of why white guys playing with race humor is still not working well

I loved the Google ads saying "Meet Interracial People" in it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:22 PM on June 4, 2009


So they do the next best thing (and several African-Americans have flat-out told me this), and that is to give their kids a name that "sounds" "African."

I'm actually pretty interested as to whether anyone has done work modeling the like folk-generative process behind these names. If it's the case that a lot of folks are more operating in the sphere of Something That Sounds Right than working from any strict formal structure, pinning down some of the specific patterns and transformation operations that lead to a name could be really interesting as a linguistic distraction.

You can see at least superficial evidence of that kind of process in the videos themselves, really—the deployment of specific consonants and the appending of word-parts and suffixes and such.

It's as if the letter A is trying to take control of all new names from the other vowels through a stealth campaign, sneaking up from the end.

Not just the letter a in general, but a-as-unstressed-schwa. Ending your name or word on a nice relaxed vowel sound feels natural in the context at least of American English. Would this pattern (such as it is) be the same in e.g. Italian contexts, where -i and -o endings are much more common? Etc.

But you can't give Kanye the same lattitude or benefit of the doubt?

Of all the interesting things we could talk about in this thread, Kanye is pretty low on my list in either direction.
posted by cortex at 3:39 PM on June 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


All names are stigmas from a certain point of view. Making exaggerated ones up isn't necessary, but it's comedy and has been for ages. If this is racist or ___ist (and yeah, obviously it is, either self-consiously or not), so is Harry Potter and the works of Shakespeare and so on and so on.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:47 PM on June 4, 2009


I was thinking about bit about, well, America's Next Top Model producer Ken Mok, a name that my girlfriend and I love to shout at each other.

My name is [Ken] Mok, thanks a lot.

posted by Bookhouse at 3:53 PM on June 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


> I thought the current white name trend was the archaic professions:
> Archer, Fletcher, Thatcher, Cooper, Tanner, Fuller, etc.
> posted by klangklangston at 2:57 PM on June 4 [+] [!]

Fulling was not exactly a profession. (Scroll down to "In Roman times, fulling was conducted by slaves standing ankle deep in tubs of human urine and cloth.")
posted by jfuller at 3:58 PM on June 4, 2009


Brandon, here is the sentence>
    To those contrarians that love to pop into threads and take to task those that they perceive as overly sensitive liberal white folks who are too sensitive to allegations of racism . . . trust me, their are black folks who find this shit tiresome too (that is, the ignorance seen in the fpp's links).

So? There are black folks who find it hilarious. Bad taste not withstanding. They like it enough they made a video and got the attention of Kanye West. And other minority kids made their own which apparently is popular with minority kids according to the comments.

Some black kids and Kanye West apparently are not tired of this shit since they made and distributed it and black kids are the obvious audience for the video in the first place.

And BTW what's "love" to pop into the "thread-S" Plural? Nice characterization. To be fair I'll stop speaking for the MeFites propensity to Cry Racism in other threads as well.

So. Let's leave it to this case right here, shall we. And I let my take that IN THIS CASE this "racism" kerfuffle is mostly liberal guilt/oversensitivity or misreading stand.

You all can't have it both ways.

I dunno why but discussions like this remind me of a party a couple of years ago where the all white upper middle class people were talking about how racist Star Wars was. Not the prequels. The originals. It started off with some interesting points about and then digressed into this "Luke Skywalker wore white, Darth Vader wore black." To which I replied that it's racism than simplistic. In that it's hard to convey quickly complex topics like good and evil with visual metaphor. And besides the StormTroopers wore white? Anyway this went on and on. Until an actual black person showed up. My friend Mike. Here he is the only black person at this cocktail party and the topic of race shuts down completely. So I ask him, in front of everybody if he thought Star Wars was racist? Every white person in the room looked like they were gonna run. Since I knew him the longest and knew a couple of facts about him, namely that he fucking LOVED the original Star Wars, I kind knew what he would say.

"The original? Simplistic maybe. Not racist. Hello? Lando Calrisian! But The Phantom Menace? HELLS yes!"

But what stood out for me is that talking about race with white people is always more about defining your Bone Fides as a Not Racist by finding these tenuous outliers you can point to as racist. But god forbid actually talking about race with, you know, an actual black guy.
posted by tkchrist at 4:00 PM on June 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Of all the interesting things we could talk about in this thread, Kanye is pretty low on my list in either direction.

Oh. You know what I meant.
posted by tkchrist at 4:01 PM on June 4, 2009


All names are stigmas from a certain point of view. Making exaggerated ones up isn't necessary, but it's comedy and has been for ages. If this is racist or ___ist (and yeah, obviously it is, either self-consiously or not), so is Harry Potter and the works of Shakespeare and so on and so on.

I've been going to one particular Thai restaurant for 10 years. For the first three or four years every time I'd say my first name, Todd, for the take out order the owners two youngest daughters would laugh and laugh. I wasn't offended as much I was insecure - worried I had a booger hanging out my nose or they had talked to an old girl friend or something. So a couple of years pass I finally asked Johnny, the owner, what was so funny?

He said "Todd means "fried" in Thai."
posted by tkchrist at 4:09 PM on June 4, 2009


Brandon, here is the sentence

Yeah, got that. However, nowhere in that sentence does anansi proport to speak for all black people, as you originally said he/she did. That's my only point here.

Well that, and you're using the "Well some black people like it" defense. Trust me, we're all tired of that.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:17 PM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


I spent this morning at a graduation ceremony at our region's most internationally diverse high school. I enjoyed hearing the great variety of naming conventions, a charming complexity that often graces an ethnically and culturally diverse group.

Later, I was seated near a person intent on finding humor in the students' names. She made a special point of noting which girls wearing headscarves also had "funny" names.

One student was named Igor. Though Igor is a markedly unusual name in the U.S., the race-humorist seated next to me didn't happen to notice that one; "That's not the kind of name I'm talking about," she told me, with some asperity. Nor were the Italianate names, nor the Spanish-inspired names, nor the South-East Asian names. No. She was specifically interested in "the Aaaaaafrican names."

She radiated waves of xenophobia, classism, and racism. It made me feel sorry for her, and sorrier still for the people she encounters who fall outside her narrow expectations for naming conventions, people who no doubt have to put up with culture-bound fools like her on a regular basis.

This post is kinda like that.
posted by Elsa at 4:20 PM on June 4, 2009 [5 favorites]


About the assumption that African-Americans are somehow unique in having unusual names:

You know who has really unusual names? Well besides hippies....

Mormons.
posted by jessamyn at 4:22 PM on June 4, 2009


"Well that, and you're using the "Well some black people like it" defense. Trust me, we're all tired of that."

Not Kanye!
posted by klangklangston at 4:26 PM on June 4, 2009


Trust me, we're all tired of that.

I see what you did there.
posted by tkchrist at 4:26 PM on June 4, 2009


wow i was worried tkchrist wouldn't show up again to explain how there's no such thing as racism anymore
posted by Baby_Balrog at 4:30 PM on June 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Gosh I don't which King of All Blacks to listen to? Kanye? Or Brandon?

Kanye? I hate your music and thug-ish behavior and yet you told off George Bush and make Mike Meyer afraid. So that's a plus.

Bandon? Hmmm. I have no obvious proof you are black. But you demonstrate better taste and humor than Kanye.

Gosh this is quite the conundrum.

Is there a tie breaker in the house for this one? We need another perspective. Maybe an Asian like Margaret Cho or David Carradine could weigh in?

Oooooh.. yeah...

too soon?
posted by tkchrist at 4:34 PM on June 4, 2009


wow i was worried tkchrist wouldn't show up again to explain how there's no such thing as racism anymore

Yes. I have repeatedly declared there is no such thing as racism. Not since Earl Warren was elected to the Supreme Court and the Jeffersons made it to the top 9 TV shows. That has been a long held position of mine.

Seriously? What kind of bullshit grudge nonsense in that? Mods? You gonna let that stand?
posted by tkchrist at 4:37 PM on June 4, 2009


MetaFilter is not ready.

Word.
posted by chunking express at 4:42 PM on June 4, 2009


Seriously? What kind of bullshit grudge nonsense in that? Mods? You gonna let that stand?

Was planning on it, or suggesting a move to MetaTalk.

As cortex said upthread, this is sort of a touchy post and topic that people were doing a decent job of keeping from turning into a trainwreck (for the most part) until you showed up with a blanket "fucking pathetic" condemnation (with bonus "obama's racist?!" eyeroll) and fighty replies to people who tried to engage you civilly. Sometimes the best way of dealing with a subject that has historically "not gone well here" is to try to share something interesting or that you're interested in, not call out someone else who is trying to contribute genuinely.
posted by jessamyn at 4:45 PM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've been going to one particular Thai restaurant for 10 years…
discussions like this remind me of a party a couple of years ago…
Every white couple I know that has recently had kids…


We need another perspective.

Indeed.
posted by applemeat at 4:54 PM on June 4, 2009


So let me get this straight this guy can out and out LIE about me saying "there is no racism" and that is fine?

Jesus H. Christ.
posted by tkchrist at 4:56 PM on June 4, 2009


"I hate your music and thug-ish behavior and yet you told off George Bush and make Mike Meyer afraid."

Kanye is thuggish? o_0
posted by klangklangston at 4:57 PM on June 4, 2009


tkchrist spilled my sea monkeys one time, too.

I loved those guys. I'd pour one out for 'em, but, well.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:58 PM on June 4, 2009


tkchrist spilled my sea monkeys one time, too.

Is that euphemism for some sort of homosexual act?

Well. You have no proof that was me. Those "Sea monkies" need to be DNA tested before you have a case.
posted by tkchrist at 5:03 PM on June 4, 2009


Kanye is thuggish?

"Thug-ish."

"Thuggish" must be something else.
posted by tkchrist at 5:05 PM on June 4, 2009


So let me get this straight this guy can out and out LIE about me saying "there is no racism" and that is fine?

Sometimes when people get annoyed about shit they're tired of, they take the low road and dish out some snarky hyperbole. That's a hell of a lot more straightforward reading of the comment you're complaining about than one that requires it to be intended as a statement of fact complete with literal quotation.

I'm annoyed at your behavior in here too, and I'm glad jessamyn managed to say fairly politely what I was struggling pretty hard not to say less politely: that the way you have engaged this thread since you showed up (a) feels predictably you-ish on your less good days here and (b) has made the thread less interesting and more tkchrist-vs-whoever-he-disagrees-with than it was before.

I kind of wish you'd lay off and let the thread go back to being about other things again. I definitely wish you wouldn't publicly call us to the carpet to do your bidding when someone is rude to you.
posted by cortex at 5:19 PM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't think anyone wants to leg-wrassle with you in this thread, dude, sorry you might want to try Sherdog or the gawker comments section.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:22 PM on June 4, 2009


Sorry 'tex that was for Tchirst.

I will e-thumb-wrestle all takers for laptop pink slips btw.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:24 PM on June 4, 2009


I definitely wish you wouldn't publicly call us to the carpet to do your bidding when someone is rude to you.

So demanding you kill him is out?

I apologize for my fighty-ness. But.

Rude is one thing. You don't it's slightly over the top to just enter a thread and lie about somebodies posting history and claim that they have declared something they have not, BTW, ALSO grossly derailing said thread?

Okay. I get your annoyed with me. I do think that is clouding that particular issue where otherwise it might not.

BTW. You told me your love was unconditional.
posted by tkchrist at 5:25 PM on June 4, 2009


Gosh I don't which King of All Blacks to listen to? Kanye? Or Brandon?

I would comment on this, but I just discovered that that pink lemonade and Pinot Grigio mix together well. 'Bout 2/3 Pinot, 1/2 lemonade and you're in heaven.

SPREAD THE WORD PEOPLE!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:26 PM on June 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


unconditional.

I believe he said "unconstitutional." I've been burned by that one before too.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:28 PM on June 4, 2009


ALSO grossly derailing said thread?

It can stop being a derail if you will stop making a thing of it here. I think you are grossly overreacting to garden variety snark, and I don't know why that is in this case, but you've already made clear in public your disagreement with Baby_Balrog's comment; you know where Metatalk is and you know how to mefimail dude, so for butt's sake please let it drop in here.
posted by cortex at 5:32 PM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thanks, BrotherCaine. Your explanation makes sense—and I trust that you're reporting the story faithfully as you heard it—but since "Chlamydia" is one of the supposed names that always pops up in the racist email forwards, I remain skeptical.

Then again, my credulity grows as this thread progresses. I didn't realize that "Marijuana Pepsi Jackson" is actually someone's name. I mean, what the hell were her parents thinking? That goes beyond flamboyant and eccentric; it's just cruel. I'd heard of the brand-name thing before, but somehow naming your kid after junk food triggers my "WTF" response in a way that "Lexus" doesn't.

I mean, I think it's tacky when people name their dogs after liquor. (Then again, I've known white trash—yes, I said it—who've named their kids after brands of whiskey. [facepalm])

I'm almost ready to believe La-a. Google shows that there are plenty of Ladashas out there (and variant spellings), and there are lots of people who claim to know (or to know someone who knows) a La-a—but it's always in the context of "HAW HAW LOLNEGROES", so I don't know.

In any case, it seems I do perceive an event horizon, past which names cease to be "unusual" and "creative" and defensible as part of a unique cultural tradition, and become "stupid" and "borderline child abuse". I wouldn't name my own children Lashawnda, Shaniqua, etc., but nor would I disdain those who do. "Marijuana Pepsi" and "La-a" are in another class entirely.

tkchrist? I usually enjoy your contributions, man, but the mods have spoken, and they're right. Relax.
posted by ixohoxi at 5:32 PM on June 4, 2009


Regarding old time "profession" names, you left out Walker (kind of like Fuller, but much nicer, in my opinion; We even named one of our sons "Walker." One of our others, Lincoln, has had in his five years of a public school, two Cairos, one male, one female, a Rachel who is an African native, a Nuru who is American born, various Lilahs and Lehlas, and a Nemo.

As a teacher I cannot remember all the exotic, often difficult to parse names I have encountered in elementary school rosters this past month let alone year.

One thing I try to do is treat them all, even if they do seem regrettable to me personally ("Messiah," last week, and two separate "Unique"s back in May--so much for being unique) with respect and attention to their correct spelling and pronunciation. In this regard their classmates are the best models. They have been together sometimes for years, and at this time of year, at least for many months. They take each others names for granted and do not hesitate to correct me if I mispronounce De'jaun'A or La'taisha, etc. Do I go home and tell my husband about some of the ones I find funny or sad or downright ridiculous? Sometimes.

Then again, when we named our third child Cyrus, one of my older aunts actually sent her condolences along with a baby gift. What's wrong with "Cyrus"? It suits him well and after all, he was the first king of Persia.

But as my husband likes to say, opinions are like, well, you know . . .

As for racism, yes I think race is a social construct, as in there is "no such thing," technically speaking. We are all one species, but tell that to anyone who has ever experienced discrimination--racial, religious, ethnic, sexual, etc. All of a sudden "racism" is "real," even if "race" per se is not.

And what about "Obama"? As a teacher in Oakland CA, I can say that seeing his picture everyday and hearing children say "President Obama" makes me happy and hopeful every time.

Not sure where I'm going--it was a long day in a predominantly Latino school in which one 20 minute segment was devoted to a video from the Teaching Tolerance curriculum--kids talking about their or their parents/grandparents experiences--Japanese internment, concentration camps, police brutality during the Civil Rights movement, the LA riots after the Rodney King verdict, migrant workers, etc. I watched the kids as much as the video.

Talking helps, and laughing sometimes too. Some of those youtube videos were not funny to me, but I was not offended on my own or anyone else's behalf. You are an interesting bunch here. I am rarely disappointed. Enough from me.
posted by emhutchinson at 5:40 PM on June 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


I can laugh at this video because I am a member of the group it makes fun of: humans.
posted by scrowdid at 5:54 PM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


""Thuggish" must be something else."

Yeah, "thuggish" is actually a word.
posted by klangklangston at 5:56 PM on June 4, 2009


"Regarding old time "profession" names, you left out Walker (kind of like Fuller, but much nicer, in my opinion; We even named one of our sons "Walker.""

According to the wikipedia link, it's the same as Fuller and Tucker.

From here on out, he's Piss-Wader Carlson.
posted by klangklangston at 6:01 PM on June 4, 2009


"I would comment on this, but I just discovered that that pink lemonade and Pinot Grigio mix together well. 'Bout 2/3 Pinot, 1/2 lemonade and you're in heaven."

Way to perpetuate the myth that black people like sweet wine.

(When I worked the booze booth at a summer festival years ago, our secret formula was whatever Kennsington Manor or Turning Leaf white wine was around, a healthy dollop of strawberry-kiwi wine cooler, and the Country Time pink lemonade from the soda fountain. HIGH SCHOOL DRUNK!)
posted by klangklangston at 6:10 PM on June 4, 2009


It's good to laugh, it's good to be able to take a joke. But no one deserves disrespect for being part of a "group".

I know rednecks that like to use humor to disrespect blacks, and white liberals who like to use it to show disdain for rednecks, Atheist who know that Christains are fools. It's all about being better "than", and it's nothing good.

Everyone should be able to take a joke, but the joke should be simply that and not a opportunity to lord it over a "other".

But some people need defending and other people suck, right? So it never ends it just goes round and round.

"I'm better than you cause I'm white" "I'm better than you cause I'm not a dumb hick" "I'm better than you because I'm not a religous tool" "I'm better than you cause your President is a jerk"

I'm no better or worse than most people and I'm happy to laugh at myself my town my race or what ever, as long as it's all in good fun.
posted by nola at 6:50 PM on June 4, 2009


Well, a couple of teenage kids are joking around with what they think is a trenchant and cutting social observation. And then they'll turn 15.

I don't think this is shockingly racist, nor do I think it's astoundingly funny. This road has been paved thousands of times by thousands of comedians, from those down at Crackers on Route 17 tomorrow night to SNL to Howard Stern to Chris Rock. The kids come up with some funny names, but whatever. It's not a surprising or new revelation in the humor world. If people haven't caught on that one of many cultural trends within some black American populations (and some white American populations) is to do creative recombinatoric naming, they don't get out of ...I dunno, rural Minnesota too often. Naming is one of those things subject to influences from culture and ethnic identity, pop culture trends, personal idiosyncrisies like a need to sound individual or a reaction to 'too-popular' names, etc. There's a lot of variation out there. I'm slightly envious of exotic names because my given name is so common.

I chuckled at a couple of 'em. But people can name their kids whatever they want.
posted by Miko at 6:56 PM on June 4, 2009


But it's okay for YOU to speak for all black people as to what they "find tiresome?" But you can't give Kanye the same lattitude or benefit of the doubt?

Man, what the fuck are you talking about? If you are going to debate me, at least debate something that I actually said. Don't just pull shit out of your ass to make some sort of lame point.
posted by anansi at 7:36 PM on June 4, 2009


OK, I'll go back on my tone on that last post. But this is an big pet peeve of mine. I don't know if its disingenuous or just someone really not parsing the essence of my argument, but I hate having my statements mis-represented. Nowhere did I say that I say that I represent all black people. I have never and will never claim something like that. I did say that there some black people that do find this shit tiresome. If this revelation that there are indeed black folks who find ethnic stereotyping to be irritating is too much for you to bear, then I suggest that you go back to burrying your head in the sand and muttering to yourself, "there is no racism, there is no racism, there is no racism . . ."
posted by anansi at 7:45 PM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


How does every racist joke start out?

By looking over your shoulder.
posted by Dark Messiah at 7:51 PM on June 4, 2009 [9 favorites]


Anasi, don't be dumbist.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:52 PM on June 4, 2009


Meh. No verbs.
posted by rush at 7:54 PM on June 4, 2009


Don't know much about the man, and not getting the hate so I checked the wiki on Kanye West.

A couple of things:

"Kanye West has appeared and participated in many fundraisers, benefit concerts, and community work that include the Hurricane Katrina Fundraiser, Kanye West Foundation, Millions More Movement, 100 Black Men of America, Live Earth concert benefit, World Water Day rally and march, Nike runs, and a MTV special that shows firsthand Kanye West helping give young Iraq War veterans that struggle through debt and PTSD a second chance after returning home."

and

"Kanye West started the "Kanye West Foundation" in Chicago, IL in 2003. Focused on helping Latino and African American children stay in school and to get a proper education through grade school, high school, and college. Kanye has contributed over 500,000 dollars to his foundation."

I know nothing about his music and little of his behavior but this is pretty productive and civic-minded for someone in their early thirties.

Far better than me in my mid-forties anyway.
posted by vapidave at 8:00 PM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


My mom knows black people. I'll handle the expert questions.
posted by Dark Messiah at 8:13 PM on June 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Top White Middle Class Middle-Aged Male Names

25. Scott
24. Dan
23. Jim
22. Michael
21. Stuart
20. James
19. Keith
18. Bill
17. Mark
16. Greg
15. Michael
14. Robert
13. Todd
12. Richard
11. William
10. Kevin
9. John
8. Mike
7. Bob
6. Dan
5. Richard
4. Robert
3. James
2. Bill
1. John

Lipstick Thespian's list was way funnier.

Because I finalized my list by crossing off the ones that were funny.

posted by zinfandel at 9:02 PM on June 4, 2009


To elaborate on anansi's first point in her excellent comment, above, not only is ghetto-naming a method of agency, but also possibly a subconscious rejection of a culture (with all its markers; ie. names) that these women do not identify with or belong to. It is mockery and ironic appeal to authenticity. It is identity work on several conscious and unconscious levels. The nuances of which cannot be easily understood by cultural outsiders, especially those just passing by.
----
My comment below is copied from another post about this same topic:

When I was at the Linguistic Society of America Conference this last January in SF, I attended a fascinating talk hosted by the American Name Society. The speaker was Kem Roper, and her session was called "An analysis of distinctive African-American names." Her abstract/summary was as follows (copied from the LSA handbook, 2009):
This is an examination of the naming practices of individuals within certain African-American communities. Drawing on Mailloux's notion of cultural rhetoric as "the political effectivity of various tropes and argument in culture," I argue that the act of naming in many African-American cultures is a response to and mockery of mainstream cultural aesthetics. Some scholars have argued that distinctly "Black" names have detrimental economic effects on African-Americans; however, I extend that conversation by offering a cultural-rhetorical approach that sees names not as arbitrary signs but "symbolic mechanisms" of power and self-determination.
She focused a major portion of her argument on expanding the scope of this Levitt and Dubner chapter of Freakonomics. She added a whole new side to the data that absolutely must be considered, the specific sociohistorical context and identity construction that occurs and is indexed by the act of naming your child in this particular community.
----

My point is, again, many of the opinions expressed here in this thread seem to reflect the viewpoint of the dominant, white power structure, and attempt to construct cross-cultural equivalencies (Colbert, 'white' names, etc.), falsely assuming that matching styles = matching meanings. One problem may be that many of us tend to assume that the non-white people that live in America and speak a dialect of English are culturally similar enough to the white, Standard English speaking people of America, and would thus make similar choices based on similar cultural experiences.

This couldn't be further from the truth. The identity construction going on in that video is based on a very different set of cultural rules and experiences. It's practically impossible for any of us here to pass informed judgement as to 'what is really going on' there. And so we are basically down to looking at it through with our own stereotypes and biases intact, even if only unintentionally so. The manner in which the boys deliver the names in the video suggests some a particular style that is probably highly contextual and socio-culturally meaningful for their particular community, of which I know absolutely nothing about. Are they trying to be funny? Are they oppressive? Are they sexist? Classist? Racist? Is the video racist? Not necessarily so. It may all sound that way to us, but what the fuck do we know? It's a very nuanced social commentary, regardless if its intended as such. Without context or translation, we're kind of stuck with how it hits our ears. Some of the people here ran it through their filters and spit out some assessments anyway, which quite frankly, sucked.

Also, this post set the bar yay high.
posted by iamkimiam at 12:44 AM on June 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


Wow, iamkimiam, I love it when you explain this stuff, because I have an intuition or an affinity for comprehending these issues, and agree with the way you've describe them. So I read comments like this of yours and go "wow, but duh, but yeah ,wait, wow!" Which I think means you're a badass explainer.

But yeah, in a nutshell, from my POV, it's amazing the unselfconscious way teens can parrot in undifferntiated, jaded tones, the ironies and sincerities of culture, and I doubt these teens are being hateful because my bias is that hate is performed by a much smaller minority than absurdity is. There's a reason they went straight for the ghetto-est stereotypical inclusions they could, and it wasn't their credulity that those things wee valid representative markers of the culture being remarked upon...
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:12 AM on June 5, 2009


and some of the real ones ARE ridiculous...don't you want your kid to be able to get a job someday?

the number 3 guy at my factory has one of those ridiculous "ghetto" names

so much for that stereotype
posted by pyramid termite at 1:12 AM on June 5, 2009


I thought the current white name trend was the archaic professions: Archer, Fletcher, Thatcher, Cooper, Tanner, Fuller

welder, assembler, packer. millwright, dietech, etc, etc, etc
posted by pyramid termite at 1:26 AM on June 5, 2009


One interesting thing about the first video is how names such as "Bon Que Que" are impossible to pronounce properly without affecting an African-American accent. There is a strong rhythmic sense and an strong accent on the second syllable that I would not reproduce in my whitebread American accent. So in a sense (of wild speculation, with my own biases and prejudices intact), it's like automatically giving your child two names: Bon que que (pronounced like the boys in the video said it, used by family and friends) and Bon que que (pronounced like a computer text-to-speech program would say it, used by outsiders)
posted by fermezporte at 4:30 AM on June 5, 2009


I hear what you're saying fermezporte, and you bring up a very good point. Not only do differences in intonational phonology between Standard American English (SAE) and African-American Vernacular English (AAVE) dialects come into play here, but also phonotactic constraints and spelling conventions. And resulting from all these aspects, are the markers of sociolinguistic variation that different pronunciations signal. A native speaker of AAVE has a full understanding of which meanings are mapped onto which type of speech acts for their community, and how to style and code switch in a contextually appropriate way for the communication goals they are trying to achieve. Conversely, when non-native speakers are unsuccessful at navigating the minefield of choices, they may or may not achieve their speech goals, but they are unlikely to receive any feedback as to what is keeping them from full mastery of that community's norms. This is partly why it takes years to be completely assimilated into a speech community, and particularly in a Community of Practice (CofP). We often assume that we *do* understand the ins and outs of communities because we've spent years among them, not realizing that we haven't actually picked up the subtleties.

We see this even within communities speaking the same dialect. They may have the same socially accepted phonological rules, phonotactics, and spelling conventions, but slight variations lead to sociolinguistically significant identity and group markers. Age, gender, and socioeconomic status markers are the biggest (and often the most subtle) examples. Other examples of this that have been extensively studied in the past are cycles of r-use and r-dropping to mark prestige (Labov), rising intonation effects (Schiffrin, Gumperz), and the use of copular 'be' in AAVE (Gumperz). Other great researchers to check out on this are Penelope Eckert, Barbara Schaffer, and Mary Bucholtz. A fantastic book I'm reading right now is "Homegirls: Language and Cultural Practice among Latina Youth Gangs" by Norma Mendoza-Denton. She goes into great detail, even down to minute differences in consonant and vowel pronunciations, between two rival gangs in one community in Santa Clara, CA. All of this is meaningful variation is invisible to outsiders. And it is this lack of understanding that marks us as such.

Point is, we constantly play with these rules, and break them where possible (Targét anyone?). We use what we know about these superfine shades of gray to make assessments about people. This person is not from here. This person does not understand what I'm saying. S/he is educated/uneducated. They don't get me. He is like us. She must have a ____ background. The problem enters when we hear a socially significant marker of another speech community (accent or stress change, vowel shift, etc.), and make a judgement based on the assumption that the marker bears the same culturally significant interpretation in our own community.

So, the name Asshole, with various spelling variations, pronounced [ˌæ.ʃo.'leː], as the conscious and subconscious rejection and disassociation from norms and conventions of an oppressive culture (while making a status claim and move towards solidarity within their own), gets erroneously reanalyzed in American white culture as ignorant black woman who don't know no better.

These people live in their own worlds, not ours. It's completely asinine to hear "how can she ever expect to get a job!?" As if black women are sitting around picking names based on which one will give their baby the most upward mobility in corporate, white America 18 years down the road.
posted by iamkimiam at 7:02 AM on June 5, 2009 [6 favorites]


the number 3 guy at my factory has one of those ridiculous "ghetto" names.

so much for that stereotype



"My grandfather smoked like a chimney and died healthy in a car crash at the age of 99."

posted by applemeat at 7:07 AM on June 5, 2009


applemeat, to prove that a kid can get a job with a "ghetto" name, all i have to do is cite one incident

besides, you've ignored the actual scientific evidence up thread

and your grandfather should have never allowed his 21 year old girlfriend to pleasure him while he was driving
posted by pyramid termite at 7:28 AM on June 5, 2009


Yeah, applemeat, you need to study some maths yo.
posted by chunking express at 7:32 AM on June 5, 2009


African-American Vernacular English: U R DOIN IT WRONG
posted by exogenous at 7:52 AM on June 5, 2009


One interesting thing about the first video is how names such as "Bon Que Que" are impossible to pronounce properly without affecting an African-American accent.

You can't say "bon kway kway"* without affecting a black accent? I can do so pretty effortlessly. I can also say it with a southern accent, a not-my-voice announcer midwest accent, or ludicrously awful over the top Scottish or Received Pronunciation accents, all without really thinking about it.

Say bon. Then say kway with greater emphasis. Then say kway again. It's really just that easy.

That's hweird.

*Or "bon kay kay" or whatever; I can't recall how they pronounced it.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:11 AM on June 5, 2009


No Little Mookie, Big Al, or Lorraine? No Leoshi?

This list needs to be a little bit taller.
posted by weston at 8:36 AM on June 5, 2009


Too bad the most interesting/controversial conversations are the ones hardest to track (because they get so long).

I threw out a challenge for someone decrying racism to try to define the word. Only one person bothered to try (Sidhedevil). That's pretty goddamn sad, people. I don't think you have the right to accuse people with a loaded word when you don't have an operating definition.

As for Sidhedevil's definition:

I will define racism in humor as follows: A racist joke is any joke that's all "OH HA HA LOOK AT THOSE STUPID {$group} PEOPLE AND THE STUPID {$group} THINGS THEY DO!"

A joke about racism is a joke about "OH HA HA LOOK AT HOW STUPID PEOPLE ARE WHEN THEY SPOUT PREJUDICED BULLSHIT ABOUT {$group}."

I appreciate your attempt, but I flatly disagree. Your definition doesn't even include the notion of RACE!!! If I were to substitute the word "plumbers" for your variable {$group}, we're obviously not talking about racism.

But more importantly, if you were to use the variable {$race} instead of {$group} (even though the latter IS more relevant to this case), you're basically saying that any joke about another race is racist. I would use the word "racial" instead of racist in such a broad case.

What I don't like about this is that the end product is that it's considered racist to say anything bad about what some members of a race are doing. Well, if that's the case, I don't think racism is always unwarranted. Fortunately, my definition is a bit more specific.

For one thing, it's absolutely critical to differentiate between biology and culture.. Why do I say that? Please, follow this logic. First of all, certain cultural traits are much more associated with one race than another. That doesn't mean every single member of the race behaves in this way. Now, along with certain cultures, come certain behaviors. And some of these behaviors may be less than ideal, or worse than other alternatives. Thus, criticism and discussion are warranted.

Let me put it this way: was it racist when Bill Cosby went off on the state of urban black youths a few years back? Would it be racist if a white person said the same things, with very similar perceptions and motives? Well, jokes are no more racist than criticism. They can be more MEAN SPIRITED, and lacking in the respect required to have an actual dialog. But that's not the same thing as saying that they are racist.

And to all you who have a problem with me saying that naming your kid "Shaqueneesha" or something like that is a dumb idea, please come back to reality. You may want to use your child's name as a means to express your personality and affinities, but that doesn't make it good for the kid. Hell, I don't care if it's due to general racism, that's going to hurt your kid's chances for obtaining a good job. Unless you're training your kid to be a future civil rights leader, who will pave the way for all other kids with made-up Swahili names, this is just your indulgence at the expense of their livelihood. That's just the reality, deal with it.
posted by Edgewise at 9:03 AM on June 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I threw out a challenge for someone decrying racism to try to define the word. Only one person bothered to try (Sidhedevil). That's pretty goddamn sad, people.

Dude. It's the internet, there's a definition of racism a Goggle search away from whatever page you're on. That's not a challenge, that's you looking to get fighty over small details while missing the big picture.

If you feel like shoveling more shit, while saying "Deal with it, I'm right" go for it, but it doesn't sound like a very interesting conversation.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:31 AM on June 5, 2009


You can't say "bon kway kway"* without affecting a black accent?

You're misunderstanding, and I wasn't as clear as I could be.

I didn't say that I am physically unable to say the words "Bon Que Que". Just that when I say it, in my accent (closer to SAE) it sounds different than the way that the kid in the video said it (closer to AAVE). I can say "Bon Que Que" with accent and intonation similar to the video kid, but to me that sounds like I am mocking Bon Que Que, her name and her culture.
posted by fermezporte at 9:34 AM on June 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also:
And to all you who have a problem with me saying that naming your kid "Shaqueneesha" or something like that is a dumb idea, please come back to reality.

Dr. Stanley Ann Dunham Soetoro would probably disagree.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:35 AM on June 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Just that when I say it, in my accent (closer to SAE) it sounds different than the way that the kid in the video said it (closer to AAVE).

Oh, I get it now. Sorry.

But the same is true for many other words in English, or even most words. It's not a matter of you not saying that name "improperly" if you speak the phonemes of that name with your normal voice and accent.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:10 AM on June 5, 2009


Dude. It's the internet, there's a definition of racism a Goggle search away from whatever page you're on. That's not a challenge, that's you looking to get fighty over small details while missing the big picture.

Gee, thanks for calming me down with your wise words [eyeroll]. Look, you're missing the point. It's not a small detail, it IS the big picture. It's precisely what people here are arguing about! Some people say it's racist, some people say it isn't. Well, it should be pretty goddamn easy to clear it up if people can actually say what the goddamn word means. Small detail? It's the fucking heart of the argument!

As for the prevalence of definitions, that's wonderful except for the fact that none of the people tossing the word around seem to comply with any dictionary definition...as if I'm looking for a frikkin' dictionary definition, like that's the final say.

Let me make it simple for you, since that seems necessary. If we're talking about "airplanes," and I define an airplane as something made of metal that flies in the air, and you define it as anything that leaves the ground, do you think that's an insignificant detail, and we should just go on discussing airplanes as though we meant the same thing? I mean, our definitions are similar...

If you feel like shoveling more shit, while saying "Deal with it, I'm right" go for it, but it doesn't sound like a very interestingconversation.

Well, nobody forced you engage in said conversation, so feel free to shut the hell up and talk to someone else. The only shit being shoveled in this conversation between you and me is your affected disinterest combined with your eagerness to discuss elsewhere a word that everyone is using differently. Go ahead, talk to someone more interesting, I'll live.
posted by Edgewise at 10:32 AM on June 5, 2009


Dr. Stanley Ann Dunham Soetoro would probably disagree.

Ah, glib anecdotes. Yeah, I guess that proves...something. After all, I did say that it was impossible for people with unusual names to achieve anything in life. Oh wait, I didn't.
posted by Edgewise at 10:35 AM on June 5, 2009


I believe I have mentioned this before

yeah you might have mentioned that your grandchild is half-black once or twice or eight thousand times i dunno
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:40 AM on June 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


And to all you who have a problem with me saying that naming your kid "Shaqueneesha" or something like that is a dumb idea, please come back to reality. You may want to use your child's name as a means to express your personality and affinities, but that doesn't make it good for the kid. Hell, I don't care if it's due to general racism, that's going to hurt your kid's chances for obtaining a good job. Unless you're training your kid to be a future civil rights leader, who will pave the way for all other kids with made-up Swahili names, this is just your indulgence at the expense of their livelihood. That's just the reality, deal with it.

Well, derisively mocking anything that doesn't fall within some sort of status quo of alleged normality for the dominant culture is pretty fucking racist. Who holds the rulebook for your reality, Edgewise?

Naming your kid Julie or Mary or William is "using your child's name as a means to express your personality and affinities" too.

Also, "training" children toward something so specific as a leader in a particular field isn't a very realistic aspiration. However, I am presuming that this was not an earnest suggestion, but instead an attempt at withering sarcasm.
posted by desuetude at 11:10 AM on June 5, 2009


"That's pretty goddamn sad, people. I don't think you have the right to accuse people with a loaded word when you don't have an operating definition."

Yeah, because it's totally worth my time to explain to you why making fun of STEREOTYPICALLY AFRICAN AMERICAN names could be racist, and it's obvious that you're just looking for a good-faith definition and not getting all wound up in trying to figure out a way to tell nigger jokes without being racist.
posted by klangklangston at 11:10 AM on June 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


The meaning of the word "event". ie. the most expensive debate in history about semantics. More on that.

Also, the meaning of "sexual relations" (in regards to the Clinton case).

In fact, the things that words mean differ more than words do. Cognitive Semantics shows us that the meanings of words are found in our heads, not in dictionaries or as objective truths to be discovered out in the world.

These subtle differences in meaning can change everything for us, even depending on your perspective at the current moment: "Next Wednesday’s meeting has been moved forward two days. What day is the meeting now that it has been rescheduled?" PDF on Fictive Motion.

Entertaining your notion of an objective truth about the word "racism", assuming there is one, and that it has been proven and is found in the dictionary in its pristine, objective form (which certainly wouldn't involve words, which tend to screw things up, as we see above), does not then grant it the power to dictate we all live by its code. Furthermore, meanings change. Dictionaries get updated. Life goes on.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:14 AM on June 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Some people say it's racist, some people say it isn't. Well, it should be pretty goddamn easy to clear it up if people can actually say what the goddamn word means.

If it was that easy, then do you think talking about race would still be such a problem?

After all, I did say that it was impossible for people with unusual names to achieve anything in life. Oh wait, I didn't.

Hey, if you want to say: Unless you're training your kid to be a future civil rights leader, who will pave the way for all other kids with made-up Swahili names, this is just your indulgence at the expense of their livelihood. and then get pissy because a handsome gentleman points out that the President of the United States has a funny sounding name, and then retreat to straw horses of "I never said it would be impossible" then you're either not thinking clearly or being purposefully disingenious.

Seriusly, go back and read what you wrote. You wade back in the thread, demand to know why no one has taken you up on your challenge, call everyone sad for not taking up on it, then proceed to tell the one peson who did they are wrong (only to say later, you're trying to figure out everyone's definition for better communication) and then offer your own definintion, proclaim it right and finish off your comment by calling those who disagree with you crazy and wrong about those funny sounding African names, throw in a subtely racist comment about how children with such names can only aspire to be civil rights leaders, remind everyone they're wrong again and then tell them to deal with the rightness of your position.

In short, you don't sound like someone wanting to talk, you sound like someone waiting for the other person to shut up the hell up so you can shout and prove how wrong they are. I suspect that's why not many responded to your challenge.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:26 AM on June 5, 2009


If it was that easy, then do you think talking about race would still be such a problem?

You continue to dance around The Point. YOU said it was easy two comments ago! A google search away, right? Well, you're coming around. It's not easy...it's IMPORTANT. How can you talk about something when you're not talking about the same thing? Someone says "this is racist"...sure, according to THEIR definition. One that might possibly melt upon seeing the light of day. Someone says it isn't...according to THEIR definition. Gee, everyone's right, so why are they arguing? Maybe it's better to establish a definition, first. Call me crazy, but I'm a sucker for the Socratic method. Define your terms before debating them.

Hey, if you want to say: Unless you're training your kid to be a future civil rights leader, who will pave the way for all other kids with made-up Swahili names, this is just your indulgence at the expense of their livelihood. and then get pissy because a handsome gentleman points out that the President of the United States has a funny sounding name, and then retreat to straw horses of "I never said it would be impossible" then you're either not thinking clearly or being purposefully disingenious.

You can characterize me as "getting pissy," but what I'm actually doing is refuting your argument. Let's think clearly for a moment. I said that it's silly to name your kid something that will hurt their employment prospects. You name one person with an unusual name who has not been a failure in life. This means what? It means nothing. It's argument via anecdote, and I'm sure you can find people with silly names who are successful. Your argument here only makes sense if I made an absurd comment, like everyone with a silly name will fail.

In discussions like this, one is often forced to spell things out to an extreme extent. So let me be quite clear: my point is that giving your kid a made up Swahili name will hurt their employment prospects, and I predict that this will be supported by statistics in the AVERAGE CASE. Finding a single counter-example does not a refutation make. Not only that, but your point is beyond moot: how do we know she couldn't have had an even better job if her name was more "normal"?

But you are right about being handsome. God, how can someone so beautiful be so wrong? ;-)

You wade back in the thread, demand to know why no one has taken you up on your challenge, call everyone sad for not taking up on it...

More pointless characterizations. I didn't demand anything. And I think it is sad for people to write so much about something that nobody has bothered to define. It may be common, but so is pointless violence. I will bravely continue to oppose them both.

then proceed to tell the one peson who did they are wrong

What, am I supposed to say they were right just because they were the only person with coherence enough to try? Sorry, but I disagreed with Sidhedevil. I won't pretend otherwise just to make you feel warm and fuzzy.

only to say later, you're trying to figure out everyone's definition for better communication

You got this part right. By the way, you used the right word: communication, not (necessarily) agreement.

then offer your own definintion, proclaim it right

Unlike all those people who make their points, and then call themselves wrong.

finish off your comment by calling those who disagree with you crazy

Huh? You mean I told them they were wrong? Boo hoo, get over it already!

throw in a subtely racist comment about how children with such names can only aspire to be civil rights leaders

Racist? Oh, SUBTLY racist. Well, if you want to substantiate how my statement was racist, I'd like to hear it. Otherwise, it's just one more carelessly flung accusation in a thread that is rife with them.

remind everyone they're wrong again

I see a theme here. You want me to tell everyone that they have a point, and that everything's going to be ok. You're worried about the bruised feelings of those who I'm disagreeing with. That's very sweet of you.

By the way, I'm not saying everyone's wrong. Just the people who are saying that this post was racist. Some people are not saying that. In fact, I thought you were in agreement with that point, earlier. So what are we arguing about? You're taking exception to my tone on behalf of the sensitive people who disagree with us? Give it a rest, find another windmill to tilt at.

In short, you don't sound like someone wanting to talk

I want to DEBATE with people who I disagree with. Last I checked, that was 50% of the reason for the internet's existence (the other 50%: porn). I'm not telling ANYONE to shut up; I'm asking them to speak up! As for those who have spoken up, I have disagreed with them within the bounds of reasonable discussion. I'm sorry that I can't invent common ground where it doesn't exist.

Why am I being harsh with you? Maybe it has something to do with your annoying "chill out" tone and your statement about "shoveling shit."
posted by Edgewise at 12:24 PM on June 5, 2009


♫ Ohhh, I'm singing that ol' sweeeeeet song...♪
♪That song about removing a threaaad from recent ac - tiv - i - teeeeeeeeeee♫

###

posted by Rock Steady at 12:27 PM on June 5, 2009


> Trust me, we're all tired of that.

So, wait, there's a group somewhere that's all the same on some particular dimension after all? Better make sure that doesn't become generally known.
posted by jfuller at 12:27 PM on June 5, 2009


I believe I have mentioned this before

yeah you might have mentioned that your grandchild is half-black once or twice or eight thousand times i dunno
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:40 AM on June 5 [+] [Flagged]


And I have (really cute and adorable) pictures to prove it!
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:38 PM on June 5, 2009


I want to DEBATE with people who I disagree with.

Yeah, that's pretty clear. If you like, you can have the last word, now...
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:43 PM on June 5, 2009


"You can characterize me as "getting pissy," but what I'm actually doing is refuting your argument."

Rebutting is not refuting.

"Call me crazy, but I'm a sucker for the Socratic method. Define your terms before debating them."

Are you really? So what, exactly, is your definition of racism?
posted by klangklangston at 12:46 PM on June 5, 2009


[Flagged]

I see what you did there!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:47 PM on June 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


how do we know she couldn't have had an even better job if her name was more "normal"?

Hee hee.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:16 PM on June 5, 2009


@Brandon Blatcher

Yeah, that's pretty clear. If you like, you can have the last word, now...

I already did, since you had nothing to say in the first place. Oh, except for "hey, don't disagree so forcefully."
posted by Edgewise at 1:16 PM on June 5, 2009


cycles of r-use and r-dropping to mark prestige (Labov)

iamkimiam, do you have any links to articles about this (preferably those friendly to laypersons)—or is there a formal name for the phenomenon that I could Google? (Searching for "labov r cycle" and similar permutations isn't helping.)

I'm an armchair geek for linguistic trivia, and this is the kind of thing I like. I'm fascinated by language as shibboleth (slang, prestige dialects, etc.), and the way the social-marker aspects of language shift and mutate as different groups strive to emulate and/or distance themselves from each other.
posted by ixohoxi at 1:16 PM on June 5, 2009


@klangklangston

Rebutting is not refuting.

Really? Because I thought the two words were synonymous. The dictionary backs me up, but I'd like to hear what you're trying to say.

Are you really? So what, exactly, is your definition of racism?

Yes, I am really. Search on my handle and you'll find it...this wasn't my first post in the thread, you know. My definition of a racist statement is brief, but it occurs in the same comment where I ask other people to define it.

Hmm, now that I search on YOUR handle, I notice you've already replied to some things I said. Sorry, it gets lost in the post volume. I'm a bit tired out by this debate, but since you took the time, I'll give it a go...

Well, derisively mocking anything that doesn't fall within some sort of status quo of alleged normality for the dominant culture is pretty fucking racist.

No, it isn't. I'm sure I can come up with plenty of examples of such that you or anyone would agree with as non-racist. For instance, girls who get together on facebook to trade anorexia strategies. That falls outside the "dominant culture" etc. etc. Again, an understanding of racism that doesn't reference race? Just strange.

Naming your kid Julie or Mary or William is "using your child's name as a means to express your personality and affinities" too.

Not at their expense! That's what's being talked about here.

Yeah, because it's totally worth my time to explain to you why making fun of STEREOTYPICALLY AFRICAN AMERICAN names could be racist

No offense, but I don't think your time is worth THAT much ;-) Seriously though, if it's worth if for you to debate a point, don't you think it's worth your precious time to define what you're debating? I'm sorry, it's just so blindingly obvious to you...guess I'm stupid.

it's obvious that you're just looking for a good-faith definition and not getting all wound up in trying to figure out a way to tell nigger jokes without being racist

I'll just go ahead and say "screw you" for your wildly incorrect assumptions about my personality. I don't think my wife or son would be very happy with me making "nigger jokes," and I would take no joy in it, within or without of their earshot. Seriously, you have no fucking idea what you're talking about if you're going to try to make assumptions about what I say "in good faith." Stick to what you know, whatever that is.
posted by Edgewise at 1:30 PM on June 5, 2009


Sorry to direct you to Wikipedia, but the 'work' section of the page on William Labov has a quite excellent overview of his groundbreaking studies in sociolinguistic variation. You'll probably want to find a copy of The Social Stratification of English in New York City (1996). Another Wikipedia page, this one on prestige and class in sociolinguistics, gives a brief overview of the Labov studies (linked above), as well as info about John Gumperz. I think you'll find his book, Discourse Strategies, particularly interesting as well. Are you a student or know any students? If so, you can log into the school's online library and get access to just about any linguistics article you could ever hope to read. I get positively lost in there.

In general, for the field of linguistics, Wikipedia is pretty damn solid. I'd start with those links and hop around. Happy investigating!
posted by iamkimiam at 1:32 PM on June 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


African-American Vernacular English (AAVE)

Is it acceptable to shorten this to verblackular, or will I seem like an asshole for doing so?
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:49 PM on June 5, 2009


Naming your kid Julie or Mary or William is "using your child's name as a means to express your personality and affinities" too.

Not at their expense! That's what's being talked about here


Yes, at their expense. At the exact same level of "expense." The effect of a name is not (no pun intended) black and white.

Again, who gets to write the rule book on whether an preference is valid? Your sneers at "made-up Swahili names" indicate that you would give this power to traditional white European names. This is a fine example of institutionalized racism.
posted by desuetude at 1:50 PM on June 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I just realized that was a straight line I should have said:

Is it acceptable to shorten this to verblackular, or will I seem like more of an asshole for doing so?
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:51 PM on June 5, 2009


@iamkimiam

Just to clarify, are you addressing me?

To comment briefly on what you have said about definitions...

I agree with what you are saying, but I don't believe that it pertains to this conversation. Yes, people have different definitions, the dictionary isn't the King of Definitions, and definitions change over time. That's all quite true.

BUT...there are two reason why it's good to get people to give their definitions of racism in this context. One is that it's entirely probable that people are actually talking about different things, and while that's OK, it means that people are unknowingly engaged in distinct conversations.

The other reason is that some people don't have a working definition, or have one that is poor enough that it would be obvious if they were forced to exclaim it. I believe that many of the racism-accusers fall under this category. Before I can even determine whether or not they have good arguments, I have to determine whether or not we're talking about the same thing. Hell, maybe they are right, and can convince me, but I have to first understand what the hell they mean. Frankly, I don't trust anyone who can't define their terms to be intellectually coherent in their actual arguments.

It often gets said that the meaning of words are arbitrary, and linguistics is descriptive, not prescriptive. I'm down with that. But if I say "tomato" and I really mean "pick-up truck," it's not very conducive to communication.
posted by Edgewise at 1:52 PM on June 5, 2009


Again, who gets to write the rule book on whether an preference is valid? Your sneers at "made-up Swahili names" indicate that you would give this power to traditional white European names.

I certainly don't. I'm being descriptive, not deciding what is good and right. Tell me that if you worked in HR you wouldn't roll your eyes if "Jumping Jimminy Cricket Jones"'s CV fell on your desk. You'd be like "what the hell?" Maybe you'd hire them, and that would be good (if they deserve it). But you and I both know that this isn't going to help them, on average, with most people. This isn't my CHOICE, it's my OBSERVATION.

As for my "sneers," I'm sorry but I'm being QUITE literal. A lot of these names are made-up from whole cloth, and are made to sound like the Swahili names that came into vogue several decades back. However, I have to confess, in some cases I probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference. Yes, I am making a small concession.

Yes, at their expense. At the exact same level of "expense." The effect of a name is not (no pun intended) black and white.

I guess I agree with this, technically, but it doesn't really change my point. Some names are going to set you back in life more than others. If you disagree, I eagerly await meeting your son named "Daffodil Rain-Juice."
posted by Edgewise at 2:00 PM on June 5, 2009


Well, derisively mocking anything that doesn't fall within some sort of status quo of alleged normality for the dominant culture is pretty fucking racist.

No, it isn't. I'm sure I can come up with plenty of examples of such that you or anyone would agree with as non-racist. For instance, girls who get together on facebook to trade anorexia strategies. That falls outside the "dominant culture" etc. etc. Again, an understanding of racism that doesn't reference race? Just strange


I was referencing race. Specifically the racism of your "And to all you who have a problem with me saying that naming your kid "Shaqueneesha" rant. You snipped your quote that provided the context for my reply. Now you're going on about anorexia or something?
posted by desuetude at 2:00 PM on June 5, 2009


As I said before, and now will say directly to Edgewise, you are talking about real people in the most hateful way possible. Can you imagine what a person whose name you might consider "silly" would think of you if they read what you wrote? Or someone who had named their children something you would call "made-up Swahili names"?

You pretend that you're being helpful by telling people not to name their kids "silly" things. More helpful than talking down to people would be trying to understand the context in which people choose their children's names, as has been brought up multiple times in this thread. Or understanding and fighting institutional racism, which is the true barrier to employment faced by African-Americans, which hostile employers are able to pass of as disliking "silly" names.
posted by hydropsyche at 2:17 PM on June 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Rebut means to argue a contrary claim; refute means to disprove a claim. If your dictionary gives them as synonyms, you need to spend more on your dictionary.
posted by klangklangston at 2:21 PM on June 5, 2009


I certainly don't. I'm being descriptive, not deciding what is good and right. Tell me that if you worked in HR you wouldn't roll your eyes if "Jumping Jimminy Cricket Jones"'s CV fell on your desk. You'd be like "what the hell?" Maybe you'd hire them, and that would be good (if they deserve it). But you and I both know that this isn't going to help them, on average, with most people. This isn't my CHOICE, it's my OBSERVATION.

I'd say "huh, unusual name." And then I'd look at their qualifications. I honestly don't go around rolling my eyes at people's names. I can't imagine why you would think that this is typical. The world is a big place, people have all kinds of names, so what? Egads, do you laugh at the names of people born in other countries, too?

As for my "sneers," I'm sorry but I'm being QUITE literal. A lot of these names are made-up from whole cloth, and are made to sound like the Swahili names that came into vogue several decades back. However, I have to confess, in some cases I probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference. Yes, I am making a small concession.

Oh, I don't doubt that you are literally sneering. But my point is that you seem to think that people's names are "names" the same way citrus sinensis is named "orange." But people's names are all made up. Some of them just were made up longer-ago.

I'm not calling you out for not being familiar enough with Swahili names. I'm calling you out for thinking that your preference for boring names is somehow imbued with any validity.

Some names are going to set you back in life more than others. If you disagree, I eagerly await meeting your son named "Daffodil Rain-Juice.

This idea that your name sets you back in life is an opinion you have, because you look down on these people. It's not a fact.

My last name isn't Rain-Juice. But okay, okay, so I name my kid something that you would find ridiculous. Why on earth do you think that this would affect their prospects? The whole of one's future is not dependent on your hypothetical HR person.
posted by desuetude at 2:21 PM on June 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


iamkimiam: Thanks! I'll definitely check those pages/books out. No, I'm not a student; I just love language, and I think phenomena like this are neat. Good to know that Wikipedia is reliable, because that's where I get a lot of my info.
posted by ixohoxi at 2:26 PM on June 5, 2009


Is it acceptable to shorten this to verblackular

No.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:26 PM on June 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


"No offense, but I don't think your time is worth THAT much ;-) Seriously though, if it's worth if for you to debate a point, don't you think it's worth your precious time to define what you're debating? I'm sorry, it's just so blindingly obvious to you...guess I'm stupid."

Your claim was that no one had bothered to reply to your demand for a definition. If that was true, then it had not been worth anyone's time to define racism to you. QED.

Since you've reaffirmed your definition, you obviously think it's comprehensive. But under your definition, someone who didn't hire black people because the employer believed they were more likely to be criminals wouldn't be racist, unless you want to argue that probability is innate. Or someone who didn't want black people living in the neighborhood because they were more likely to decrease the property values, due to the racism of society, that wouldn't be racist, as neither property values nor society's racism are innate to the subject. Likewise, disapproving of a name because it connotes race, or declining to hire based on that name, those wouldn't be racist acts.

That's a neat, plausible—and wrong—definition, since it fails to be practically applicable and fails to include examples of racism. A practical definition, which you can find even in your cheap dictionary, is discrimination based on race. By singling out names, stereotypically African-American names, for mockery, that's discrimination based on race. By arguing that your values—white values—are superior, implying inferior values to African-Americans, you're racist. And not only racist, but making a manifestly stupid argument based on some semantic figleaf.

You might as well make those nigger jokes.
posted by klangklangston at 2:38 PM on June 5, 2009


Yes Edgewise, we are talking about the same concept. And we have roughly the same meaning for it. You're just going to have to trust me on this one.

(The same goes for all my other words.)
posted by iamkimiam at 2:40 PM on June 5, 2009


Anecdotal evidence against "OH NOES LET'S PANDER TO RACIST HIRING MANAGERS WHO ARE LEGALLY NOT ALLOWED TO DISCRIMINATE BASED ON AGE, RACE, SEX, OR DISABILITY BUT ALLOWED TO KNEE-JERK DISQUALIFY PEOPLE BASED ON SILLY NAMES":

Dunkadunc told me my "obviously self-chosen, pointedly cutesy" middle name would be an impediment to being taken seriously by an employer.

However, I've gotten jobs in the exact industry I'm looking for work in with my current middle name. HR got copies of my SS card and DL with my middle name emblazoned across it in all its pink-frosted rainbow-sprinkled glory.

I might not qualify for a prospective position for whatever reason, but I really doubt my goofy name is one of them.
posted by Juliet Banana at 2:47 PM on June 5, 2009


But people's names are all made up. Some of them just were made up longer-ago.

This is an important point. Anyway, there are lots of different naming conventions used around the world. As others have pointed out, many Anglo names derive from professions. Many Greek names come from Greek and Christian mythology. India uses a whole host of naming conventions, as you'd expect from an ancient polyglot nation—same thing in Indonesia. The Sioux took names such as "Two Eagles" or "Red Cloud" or "Lame Deer"—is that ridiculous?

Hawaiians used to make up a new name for each child. And some African-Americans do the same thing, creating names that are, in the context of their own dialect and linguistic culture, pleasing to the ear.

There's absolutely nothing inherently "normal" or "ridiculous" about a particular name or naming system; they can only be judged within a given cultural context. It doesn't make much sense to judge a name from another culture from within your own cultural context, and conclude that the name is "ridiculous" because it doesn't make sense in your own linguistic tradition. This isn't some hypersensitive PC thing; it's just—dude, people have different systems for coming up with personal names. These names obviously aren't ridiculous to the people who bestow and bear them, unless you believe that large numbers of black mothers are deliberately giving their children derisive names.

As for "verblackular": heh. Doesn't make you an asshole, necessarily; it just means you're ignoring the fact that AAVE is a widely recognized linguistic term for a distinct and specific dialect of English. Many people look down on it because it isn't "proper" English, but it's as valid a dialect as any other—it has a regular (i.e., self-consistent) grammar and syntax, and it's as capable of expressing ideas as any other dialect, if you understand it.

I encourage everyone to give the Wikipedia entry for prestige dialects a read. There's certainly such a thing as poor grammar, but the fact is that most languages contain multiple grammars—one of which is regarded as "the Queen's English", for no better reason than the fact that it's spoken by rich, powerful people.

There are actually some pretty interesting historical reasons for the properties of AAVE (and I'm sure that others can explain this better, but I'll give it a shot). For example, AAVE speakers commonly voice "th" as "f"—"mouth" is pronounced more like "mouf". The portion of the brain which deals with language is quite plastic when it's young, and can readily absorb new phonemes, but after a certain age, it gets much more difficult to hear/vocalize new phonemes. As I understand it, many West African languages lack the distinction between the "th" and "f' sounds, and because most African-American children learn their vocabulary of phonemes at home, from parents who learned it the same way, etc., all the way back to the African continent, AAVE lacks the distinction too. It's the same reason that some Asians have difficulty with the distinction between "r" and "l".

I think that a lot of the non-SAE verb inflections (e.g., "I be going to the store") can be traced to roots in African languages too. (Someone please correct me if I've gotten all this horribly wrong.)
posted by ixohoxi at 3:12 PM on June 5, 2009 [7 favorites]


Hmmm...day late an a dollar short....

But didn't it strike anyone else in this thread that a lot of the names they were using were imaginary? "Obamaniqua"? It's a big country, and I suppose somewhere, out there, there may be an Obamaniqua roaming the land, though I guarantee they'd be less than 4 years old --- but to me that kind of changes the whole point of the joke. Couple that with the last name being "Courtney" and to me the joke wasn't "black people have funny names" but "adding the suffix -niqua may makes everything sound ghetto, but in reality black people often name their kids with supposedly 'white' names." It's kind of a gray area, a matter of what the listener perceives. I took it to be more meta than it seems to me that y'all are. I mean, they call out Sha-nay-nay, and Martin Lawrence was making that joke in '95. It wasn't so much making fun of real "ghetto" names but of what people perceive those names to be.
posted by Diablevert at 3:36 PM on June 5, 2009


An interesting presentation on racist humor, stereotypes, and cultural norms:

Zip Coon and Watermelons: The Perpetuation of Racial Stereotypes through Visual Imagery from the 19th and Early 20th Centuries


What does racism look like?
How are racial stereotypes reinforced and perpetuated through visual images?
How have images of a particular race been used to communicate underlying messages about status, society and cultural norms?

According to Tarver, "novels, essays and visual media depicted blacks as mentally, socially and physically different from the dominant culture. Minstrel shows pointed to blacks as buffoons; the now-infamous postcards presented lynched blacks or blacks in varied stereotypical scenes."
Therefore, it seems appropriate to compare two types of media to see how racial stereotypes were reinforced and perpetuated through visual images and how images of a particular race have been used to communicate underlying messages about status, society and cultural norms.
posted by aquafortis at 3:40 PM on June 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


...it's as capable of expressing ideas as any other dialect, if you understand it.

That's the sort of point I'm constantly arguing with my prescriptivist friends about.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:15 PM on June 5, 2009


I'm a little torn on the descriptive vs. prescriptive debate. Part of what makes a language work is the fact that we've agreed on certain conventions of syntax, grammar, orthography, etc. The more closely my conventions match yours (and the more faithfully we honor those conventions), the more precise, clear, and economical our communication will be.

On the other hand, languages are more than just grammar and syntax. Just within American English, there are thousands of spoken and written modes (I know that's not the right term, but I mean: formal address, narrative joke, technical discussion; term paper, romance novel, MetaFilter comment), jargons, bodies of slang, idioms, cultural references and allusions, colloquialisms, dialects and shades of dialects…

To the extent that two or more people have a shared understanding of these devices, and can employ them to communicate effectively, they're as much conventions as the ones in the grammar books. (My brother and I have a whole sub-language that's scarcely comprehensible to others, but we use it to convey complex programming ideas, make each other laugh hysterically, and everything in between.) And sometimes breaking the rules a bit can allow for more expressive language than slavishly adhering to them.

An English speaker of whatever dialect should be fluent in Standard English, if he expects to engage meaningfully with those outside of his birth community, but imagine the poverty of language without this stuff.

So I guess I'm both prescriptivist and descriptivist. I think it's important to be fluent in Standard English—to understand the rules, and know how to use them—but also to know when to ignore them. The "rule" in "grammatical rule" isn't a law; an edict declared from on high—it's a guide; a tool that helps us draw a straighter line. To ignore such a tool when you're trying to draw a straight line is foolish. To insist on using it when you're trying to draw a parabola or a curlicue is also foolish.

Those who dismiss grammatical rules altogether to excuse sloppy, unclear writing need prescriptivism to get that basic fluency. Then they can start breaking the rules—as long as it's deliberate, and in service of greater expressiveness; not accidental and an impediment to expressiveness.

Please stick around for my lecture on the fascinating etymologies of "plate" and "bean".
posted by ixohoxi at 6:11 PM on June 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


here's absolutely nothing inherently "normal" or "ridiculous" about a particular name or naming system; they can only be judged within a given cultural context. It doesn't make much sense to judge a name from another culture from within your own cultural context, and conclude that the name is "ridiculous" because it doesn't make sense in your own linguistic tradition. This isn't some hypersensitive PC thing; it's just—dude, people have different systems for coming up with personal names.

Yeah and the document that many white Americans claim as being a central source for their beliefs, ie, the Bible, is full of one story after another of women making up names for their children. Eve calls Cain, kain, because she 'kaniti'-ed (created) a man. Sarah calls Isaac, yitzchak, because she laughed when she heard she'd bear a child. Most of Israel's children are named according to those lines. And so on, and so forth.

So when matriarchs and patriarchs do it, it's apparently okay. Or at least, Edgewise has just far only expressed a problem with modern black people doing it, and not ancient religious/mythological figures.
posted by Salamandrous at 9:15 PM on June 5, 2009


He doesn't mind if modern black people do it, he just thinks their future roles in society are limited to being civil rights leaders for other oddly named people.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:07 AM on June 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


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