By Brooklyn Broad
Lupita Nyongo, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Djimon Hounsou, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Mahershala Ali. Can you pronounce these names? It’s a shame if you can’t because some of these folks are Black Oscar Winners.
You know these celebrities have gone through life with people mucking up their names. However, if you are fortunate to become a celebrity, having someone muck up your name is the least of your problems. The question is can you get a job? My government name is Siddeeqah Musakiah Powell, however, years ago I adopted my Urban Chameleon name, which was more ‘American’….Sid. It was just easier for people to pronounce and so the name stuck.
I especially felt that when I was on the hunt for a job and submitted resumes with my government birth name, Siddeeqah Musakiah Powell, I didn’t get any call backs, which is by I had to become an Urban Chameleon. I began hiding myself and changed my named to ‘Sid Powell’ in order to get jobs working in corporate America. I truly believe it made a difference. Nobody seems to want to work with anyone whose name they can’t pronounce. Nobody wants to feel bad that they didn’t invite you to lunch JUST BECAUSE they couldn’t pronounce your name.
How sad that I had to assume an alias in order to have a better shot at securing gainful employment and having lunch plans. It’s discriminatory and just plain f#cked up! I grew up uncomfortable with my name and didn’t truly embrace it until a couple of years ago and took pride in having a name with meaning,’ virtuous and upright’ is what it means in Arabic; “Arabic” another world that scares corporate America.
I can easily recall the jokes I would get with people calling me Shaniqua, or Shananay as a youngster. It wasn’t funny to me but that was what people associated my name with, what they deemed to be a ghetto chick with a ghetto name and NOT ’ virtuous and upright.’ Being given an Arabic name by my mother may have held me back in life in some ways but these days it’s seemingly more acceptable to have an ‘ethnic’ name at least in popular culture. However, not that I come across too many CEO’s of fortune 500 companies names Tyrone or Tamika.
I wonder if people like Zooey Deschanel, Charlize Theron Arnold Schwarzenegger or Zach Galifianakis ever ran into theses same discriminating problems.
Let’s be real, for people of color with non-traditional names your name is considered ‘ethnic or just plain weird’ while folks seem to not only some how figure out how to suddenly pronounce the exotic names of the lighter people of the world but also don’t ask to see birth certificates. Wtf?