Are Black Parents Attacked for Using “Ethnic” Names?

November 2, 2010  |  

What’s in a name? Almost everything, apparently.

During the The Black Power movement of the 1960s, folks dumped what they deemed as “slave names” and opted for the more meaningful Afro-centric ones.  Back then, blacks repossessed their names, and that was good.  But was the “new black name revolution” good for all?

Some parents just opted to make up their own names…like my cousin, who named her first child after a Nissan model she liked, “Celica”…or like moms who name their kids in a manner that pays homage to the drunken binge that helped conceive them, like Alizé or Courvoisier.  (Yes,  these are REAL names of REAL people).

Comedians joke about those names too.  Remember Eddie Murphy’s “Umfufu,” from Raw? How about Martin Lawrence’s alter ego, Shanaynay? And then there’s my personal favorite, “Boom Qui Qui,” because it instantly brings to mind a girl who wants to fight me because her man looked at me for .238792 milliseconds.

But in a day where our president is named Barack Hussein Obama, and the richest and most powerful black woman in America is named Oprah, do names really matter much?

Well, yes–and more so than we like to acknowledge sometimes. But, as jobs are tight and African-Americans have the highest rates of unemployment, some are considering more…erhm “race-neutral” names for their progeny.  According to a research study conducted by economists Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathn of the University of Chicago Business Center, so-called “white names” received 50 percent more callbacks than “black”-sounding names.

“The saddest part about it is that it’s not the individual with the name’s fault, it’s the reader of the resume’s fault… but mostly [it’s the fault of] the parent who decided to use an innocent child to make a statement…with an unpronounceable, vowel-filled name that could have either come from a car, electronic device, unholy combo of music groups… or alcohol that was being consumed the night of conception,” says popular blogger and radio host, T.J. Sotomayor III, who produces “Your World My Views.” Sotomayor recently tackled the “black name” topic on his show.

Whether you agree or disagree with him, check the list of names that received jobs and callbacks from employers, versus those that didn’t…
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