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Mo-

Black stoolie with a normal first name e-mailing you from Center City and I’m hoping you can help me out; I’m sitting at work, not working (clearly) and I come across this story on cbssports.com-

“Florida A&M women’s basketball player Shannon Washington was killed early Sunday morning after an argument with friend Starquineshia Palmer, according to the Tallahassee Police Department.”

Through high school and college I was asked why black people don’t have “normal names”. I could always explain the names like, “Ebony” because it’s 100% ethnic..but nothing about the name “Starquineshia” comes across as ethnic to me.I understand trying to be unique, but half of these names are damn near unpronounceable. I’m stumped. As a fellow college educated black male with a “normal” name, can you shed some light on why some black people choose to give their kids absolutely ridiculous names? Do these parents just not give a fuck? Thanks-

Kevin

Black Stoolie sighting!! Love it.

Ahh the names thing. Kevin, this is a question that black people everywhere who grew up around a lot of white people have to answer dozens if not hundreds of times in their lives, so I appreciate you bringing it up. Here’s the scoop:

Historically, people of all backgrounds when they came to this country were forced to assimilate. Paddy O’Shea? Your name is now Pat Shay. Qwan-Lo Pak? Your name is now Steve Park. Mbundu Nnamari? Your name is now Boy. Nearly every group was a victim of this. The difference is that black people in this country lost a lot more of their culture than most other groups. Case in point I have zero exact idea what country my family comes from. Continent, sure. Country, no.

So what happened was in the 60′s when the civil rights movement was happening, many black revolutionists gave their children decidedly “black” names to emphasize their blackness, thus ensuring that regardless of what freedoms may get taken away that their name will stand as unmistakably black. Hippies did the same thing with naming their kids “Sunshine” and “Moonbeam”. These names for the most part weren’t Shaneiqua or names like it, they were more Muslim, historical, or synonyms for the word “black”. (i.e. “maurice” means “dark haired and dark skinned”. Obviously my parents signed onto ‘maurice’ wayyy before I came out with my mother’s complexion.)

Anyway, while over time many of these meaningful names have deteriorated into wacky versions of those names, “white” names, and nonsense (Anfernee), the idea for why they’re given remain the same. Black people (especially those with lower income/lower education) use the names to preserve what they believe is some semblance of black identity. “If I name my son DeSean, everyone will know that he is a proud black man.” The problem comes with white mocking of these names, and the judgement that follows (i.e. same resume with Shaniequa and Shannon, Shannon gets called back much more often). I’ve gotten into this argument with my white friends and they’ll say “then why don’t these dumbass moms just give their kids normal names?” Solid point. Am I a fan of the names? No. But I’ll always respond with “This is America, people are free to name their kids whatever they want. The problem isn’t with the name, it’s with the racist who judges the person with the name.” Even in today’s “accepting” society, a neurosurgeon could be the best in the world, but if her name is LaFawnda, the bitch is out of work. Maybe it’s because she’s a woman and I personally wouldn’t let a chick surgeon anywhere near my brain, but the point stands. Color of the skin instead of content of character. Modern day racism isn’t exactly back-of-the-bus stuff, but it’s still there.

This whole thing has been written about in the book Freakonomics, which is also a documentary you can watch if you don’t know how to read. Explains it way better than I can with data and stuff.