I don't have a standard first name. Yes, I'm one of those "difficult" name individuals.
Growing up, people always asked me if I had a nickname. I promptly told them no.
From the moment I learned how to spell what was on my birth certificate, I've been a proponent of people correctly pronouncing my name.
I know it isn't easy but that's the name my parents chose, that's what I'm called and that is exactly what you will call me.
But please don't misunderstand me---I give people who come in contact with me on a regular basis 90 days to get it right. As I stated, I don't have a standard name so I know it takes some time to get used to forming the consonants and vowels in your mouth.
And to be totally truthful, there are others with "difficult" names that I have trouble with; especially if I haven't spoken to them in awhile. So I cut others slack the same way I'd like to be cut some slack when I'm trying to remember the pronunciation of a non-standard name.
My rationale is if you can't be bothered to learn how to correctly pronounce my name, I'm betting the farm that you truly don't respect me as a person.
There's a reason why Homer Simpson loses it when Mr. Burns can't remember his name.
As discussion and eventually controversy unfolded about Quvenzhane Wallis' name; I couldn't help thinking back to the many people who tried to find a shortcut around my name.
I always made them say it.
A wave of pride washed over me as I watched this amazing little girl make people say her name and not participate in self marginalization.
It was also almost at the same time that I realized that I'm part of the problem. I'm the person who mocks others based on their names; particularly other black people.
Right here, right now I'm making a pledge to stop it.
Living on the south side I've heard first names that literally make you spin around just to see the person who answers. Frankly speaking I wouldn't name my child Alize or Alexus but just because your parents made a particular choice does not mean that you're any less deserving of my respect.
So I'm sorry for judging you in my head.
I'm sorry for judging your abilities before I've properly met you.
I'm sorry for judging your lifestyle and your habits.
I'm sorry for running you down with others behind your back.
I haven't given you a fair shake. As a black woman who also has a "different" name I should know better.
Your name is one of the most basic things about you. It's not only a way to identify but it's also your place marker in this world, a spoken key to your humanity.
So on this last day of Black History Month I owe it to anyone with a different name, especially my black brothers and sisters, not to judge you.
And if you do have a "difficult," "different" or "challenging" name, follow young Ms. Wallis' lead. Make anyone you meet say it.
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