I hate my name. Susan feels like a middle aged housewife who hates her life and regrets most of her life choices. Susan is tired of feeling tired. Susan feels like everything I would hate to become. When someone mispronounces my name or bastardizes it into Sue or Susie or Suzanne, I don’t really mind. But lately, I’ve come to realize that there is a privilege in this indifference.
See, Susan is a familiar name. It’s simple and easy and generic and very very white middle class America. You see Susan in the grocery store, down the bread aisle, contemplating white or whole wheat. Susan is nonthreatening to those in power. Susan doesn’t mind being oppressed. Susan is quiet and complacent and rarely speaks her mind.
I’ve been trying to recognize the privileges I’ve been born with and realize how they affect who I am and what I stand for. Going through the American education system, I’ve noticed that my name is many’s first impression of me, even before they see me. I’m just another notch on a class list. Writing resumes has only cemented this thought. Potential employers see my name, and they have a distinct mental image. And most of the time, they’re at least partially right. My name has much different soci-cultural/economical, and even political connotations and implications than a more unique name. These videos from the Freakonomics documentary explore what a name means and how it will affect your life, I'd highly suggest watching the full film (it's even on Netflix, you have no excuse) because it makes some interesting points that I couldn't find in clip form.
At the beginning of this semester, I noticed more of my professors taking more time to ask each student how they preferred their name be pronounced. I saw this as a really valuable opportunity to build a rapport with each student and show respect within the first few moments of meeting them.
Unfortunately, the reason I was so excited by this is this respect isn’t always shown in other aspects of our society. I’ve noticed that generally, white populations have a difficult time dealing with unique names, and tend to pronounce them the way they feel inclined to or give them ‘white’ nicknames that’s easier for them to remember, without consideration from the person. Below is a great example of this from Late Night With Seth Meyers.
All in all, I was just hoping to get people thinking about their names, and the people around them's names and how to lessen our personal biases regarding what we see the connotations as. I'm hopeful that we can stop being dicks and call people what they deserve to be called.
Note: none of these clips are our own, and belong to the respective labeled sources.