January 22, 2016


This blog is mostly dedicated to my time here in England as a grad student but in the New Year I wanted to add more posts with more meaning to me. Right now it is my job to study the media and the messages behind it so my brain is always spinning when I see content online.  In the last year it seems as though race relations, racism, privilege have been on the forefront of many discussions. It does not seem like we are getting any better at understanding each other as people. I watch arguments and comments unfold and I find myself saying wow these people do not get it, but I realize that they haven't really needed to up until now. Often when situations arise I have found many white people get super defensive or just do not  believe things like this happen because it doesn't happen to them so when a large group of minorities try and explain it to them it becomes too overwhelming. I also happen to think that people just do not want to believe in 2016 the color of your skin still matters.  I wanted to create a series of posts that talks about experiences first hand in hopes to educate people about theses situations but from a more personal level. Sometimes it is easier to feel connected to a cause when you can personally connect to it. All the experiences shared have either happened to me personally or I have been given permission to use on this blog. If you find yourself feeling guilty or put off by this, I would invite you to spend some time thinking about why, what in your past or present have you said or done that could have led to this guilt? Then I was advise you to refrain from doing those things again.

To kick of the series is a friend who did City Year with me way back when, below she speaks about a situation that happened to her at work in regards to her name. She shared this on her Facebook and then give me permission to post it here.

"This is long, but if you read this, you might learn something. Some people question what minorities are always talking about when we use the terms white privilege and microagressions. I'll explain. This morning, a white woman comes into my office and looks at my name plate. She greets me as "Keela". Many people do this, and it is no big deal to me. However, as I correct her, she laughs in my face, looks back at my name plate, and says, "That's not how it's spelled. It's spelled wrong. What was your mother thinking?" One, she assumes that I don't know the phonetic alphabet, and two, she is implying my mother, who named me, is dumb and should have known better. Whether she would have done this with a white man named Johann (Yohann) or a white woman named Calais (Calay), I doubt. Those names are European in origin and denote "culture." White people don't laugh at those names, and if they do, they show their ignorance. If I was a white woman, would my name have been laughed at and denigrated? What do you think? You might say I am reading into this, but no, just because my name isn't Watermelondrea doesn't mean I don't receive judgments on my character for the spelling of my name. I have my whole life. Most people ask me about it or just correct themselves when I tell them, but this women decides to tell me my name is spelled wrong. This could have been a teachable moment for her, this typical "basic, self-important, DC narcissist," but I didn't bother. Her implication of ignorance on the part of both me and my parents told me it would be moot. The look of condescension that flitted across her face as she told me my name was spelled wrong and the flip she gave of her hair as she walked away is called a "microagression". In her verbal and non-verbal language, she told me that as a white woman with a strong command of the English language, that my name was an affront to her and her whiteness. She communicated to me with a sentence and a turn of her head that I was not worth further addressing. If she had bothered to get off her her high horse, I would have told her that my name is not American, it is Polynesian, and it pays homage to my birth name of Sara. When I was adopted, my parents took my brother and me to Hawaii. After speaking with the native Hawaiians, my mother gave me this name. My name translates to Sara in their language. In their alphabet, E's have an A sound. So, yes, my name is pronounced Kayla. My name is also the namesake of an ancient tribe in the African nation of the Congo and also the name of a Muslim community in West Bengal India. Both pronunciations are Kayla in their languages, as well. I did not go into all that with her, because she was garbage and her smugness was garbage. Her name was Lindsey. I would have informed her that, not even 50 years ago, Lindsey was a man's name. I would have laughed in her face and told her, as she was clearly over 50, that HER parents must have wanted her to be a boy. I didn't. See, her white privilege affords her the opportunity to offend me and walk away, while I have to bite my tongue and take it because she is friends with the CEO. THIS is what people of color have to deal with on a daily basis. THIS is the pain and anger many of us carry with us. THIS is why it's 2016 and I know that when I name my children, it will matter so much more to me than it will to a white mother. Everyday, I wade through racism the minute I walk out of my door. Today was a reminder, that no matter how much education and success I attain, to someone like Lindsey, I am nothing more than a ghetto name."

No comments:

Post a Comment