But it needs to be said, so here goes:
The naming community has a challenge ahead of us.
It’s distressingly common to find black names criticized.
We might couch it in helpful terms. Shouldn’t your child’s name be easier to spell and pronounce? Something that will look good on a resume? An ambitious name, one that could belong to a Supreme Court Justice or a heart surgeon – don’t you want that for your child?
What we’re really saying – I fear – is that white names, especially white middle-class names, signal personal achievement and professional advancement. Names rooted in European languages and cultures are broadly acceptable. But others are, well … other. And suspect.
Because this is a community of big-hearted souls, generous with insight and wisdom, I suspect that we’re all a little reluctant to think of ourselves as racist.
But that doesn’t mean we’re not.
Good intentions don’t exempt us from the work of making this world more just.
So here’s my challenge – one I’m giving myself, and one I hope you’ll support: let’s lift up non-Western names. Let’s recognize that, for many families, names drawn from European languages are wholly inadequate. Let’s turn down the pressure to find that “easier” name. Let’s listen to parents talk about what they value, what their family’s traditions dictate, and the names that speak to their personal experiences.
If that means more girls named Aaliyah, and fewer called Olivia, then that’s perfectly fine. It takes nothing away from me to recognize the dignity of a fellow human being. I loved this perspective from an Australian advocate for migrant families: A person’s name is a part of his or her cultural identity … If you believe and treat a person as an equal fellow human being, then the rest will follow.
It may not be easy, but it’s necessary.
On being Serina instead of Gurpreet, or the pressure to choose Western names. If we can say Saoirse and Tchaikovsky, we can figure out – and appreciate – Punjabi names, too. Or Swahili, Mandarin, Bengali, Amharic. Bring ’em on.
Sojourn Hyssop Arise – what a gorgeous, richly meaningful name! Kate recently shared a birth announcement and the story behind this choice.
Weird Al is everywhere lately. Nancy highlighted some quotes about growing up Alfred.
How good is this update about baby Matilda’s middle name from Duana? And I’m in love with Tillie Ann as a nickname.
If you need a real distraction, may I suggest Wikipedia’s list of pen names? I was reminded that George Orwell’s real name was Eric Arthur Blair the other day … and I found myself wondering what other influential author names I’d forgotten.
As always, thank you for being a part of this community. Wishing you peace in the week ahead!