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Is my Name White Enough for you?

2 min read

People in the diaspora are not new to having their names mispronounced and ridiculed. While I understand that there is a stark difference in languages and pronunciations, I do not sympathize with the mocking and stereotyping. Sadly, there is a systemic disinterest and lack of effort when pronouncing non-Western names correctly.

Naturally, the effects are more than just an awkward moment. People feel unseen, unheard, or at worst, boycotted. It’s Western society’s gesture for never entirely accepting you as one of their own, no matter how much you try to integrate, even while you struggle to preserve your heritage.

I think it’s time we reconsider which names are mainstream and which are not. I hope we can live in a world where South Asian kids grow up to love their names. I think with a “Kamala” as their vice president, we can get one step closer to that world.

[Read Related: Say Your Name, Your Real Name- my Back-to-School Advice for Roll Call]

Is My Name White Enough For You?

Jen and me,
joined the team
on the same day
We were both new
and equally excited.
I could even be,
slightly funnier.

Yet, this is lunchtime
on my first day
at my first job
and Jen is across the hall
laughing at my colleagues’ jokes
at the falafel store next street,
while I fidget with the vending machine

Could it be because
Of my name
The one that makes even the most eloquent stutter
The one that makes me “the other”

The one that isn’t
white enough for the board rooms
For after parties
The one that isn’t
white enough
To be included.

The thought stays with me
toward the evening
as I walk home,
my beautiful street
laden with trees
and I see again,
my post was not delivered
the neighbors look at me
like I don’t belong
and they just have to
bear me, my brown presence.

I am a brown wildflower,
sticking out,
over the fence,
of a whitewashed wall.

You say,
Change your name,

I could,
But I am tired of
Melting into forms
Molding my myself
To conform to a white world.

I say,
The attitudes need to change,
Just a little effort,
Some basic respect,
Just a little
“show me how”

If you can say Aphrodisiac
you can say my name.
If you can say Lebensabschnittpartner
you CAN say my name,

No longer am I in the shadows
or in the taxi cabs
or behind IT desks
if you can see me bloom
if you can see me grow
in all my glory
falling into all the right places

living the dreams of my ancestors
while you feel guilty for the sins of yours,

honey! the least you can do,
is say my name,
for, I am exhausted of,
molding my world,
so, you can save on a syllable.

[Read Related: The First Thing I Taught My Students Was How to Pronounce My Name-Here’s Why]


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