Parents Of Color Speak Out After Sen. Kamala Harris’s Name Is Mocked

Written by on October 21, 2020

After Republican Sen. David Perdue of Georgia butchered and mocked Sen. Kamala Harris’s identify at considered one of President Donald Trump’s marketing campaign rallies final week, folks of shade recoiled in disagreeable familiarity.  

“Ka-MA-la, KA-ma-la, Kamala-mala-mala. I don’t know, no matter,” Perdue of the Democratic vice presidential nominee at Friday night’s rally in Macon, Georgia, drawing laughs from the gang.

Democrats, together with Harris’s spokesperson, responded to Perdue’s remarks as “extremely racist,” noting that Perdue had labored with Harris for greater than three years within the Senate. Perdue’s spokesperson John Burke tweeted that the senator “merely mispronounced” Harris’s identify and “didn’t imply something by it.”

The incident sparked a web-based motion, which included Democratic lawmakers and celebrities, sharing the origins and that means behind their names with the #MyNameIs hashtag. 

For fogeys, particularly, many shared the tug of battle they skilled when it got here to naming their kids ― on the one hand, desirous to honor their racial and ethnic background and, on the opposite, dealing with the fear that their kids could be mocked like Harris if their names have been deemed troublesome to pronounce, even within the slightest manner.

“Monolingualism, normally in the US, is taken as a given, and something that’s exterior of that’s deemed ‘ethnic.’ This actually exhibits how myopic this consciousness is within the U.S.,” mentioned Mariam Durrani, an assistant professor of anthropology at Hamilton School in Clinton, New York. 

Durrani, who gave start to her daughter in 2009, mentioned she was conscious of how her Muslim daughter with Pakistani roots could be perceived within the U.S., so it was vital for her to discover a identify that was each significant and simple to pronounce. She settled on Nadine Noor, a harmonious alliteration that interprets to hope and light-weight, respectively. 

HuffPost spoke to a number of People about their journeys with their very own names and the way it influenced how they named their kids. Some spoke concerning the significance of upholding traditions. Others talked concerning the weight of their names and its ties to slavery or how doubtless somebody was to be profiled at an airport or ignored for a job. Practically everybody recalled a second after they confronted their very own Perdue, after they have been dismissed or taunted due to their names.

These interviews have been condensed and edited for readability.

Dieu Tran, 35, Washington, D.C., Advisor 

Daughter: Lê Valkyrie, 2

When Tran was choosing out names for her child, she would write down choices on a sheet of paper and go it to her husband, a white American, to pronounce. It was her manner of gauging how her baby’s identify could be mentioned by non-Vietnamese folks.

“It was actually vital to me that the child would have a Vietnamese identify. However I perceive that Vietnamese is such a tonal language, just like the inflection up and down, and it could be actually troublesome for a Western tongue to pronounce,” Tran instructed HuffPost.

Accents are used to indicate six distinctive tones within the Vietnamese language, which regularly will get misplaced when written in English ― like Tran’s identify, which she has since tailored with out the accents. Nonetheless, Tran wished to verify her baby represented her Vietnamese facet not directly. The dad and mom settled on a Vietnamese first identify, Lê, (pronounced LAY) and a Nordic center identify, Valkyrie.

Naming your baby “could be very private and really highly effective as a result of it’s who you might be. And I had my share of horrible names tales too after transferring right here,” she mentioned, including that she felt triggered by Perdue’s mocking of Harris’s identify and doesn’t consider that he simply misspoke.

Dieu Tran with her husband and 2 year-old daughter, Lé Valkyrie.

Dieu Tran together with her husband and a couple of year-old daughter, Lé Valkyrie.

Smita Nadia Hussain, 36, New Jersey, Marketing campaign Director

Sons: Zakir, 5, And Emiliano, 7 Months

Two dad and mom, a Bengali American mom and a Salvadoran American father, knew they each appreciated classical, conventional names. They wished to be sure that their sons, ages 5 and seven months, represented the cultural hybrid discovered of their households and that it was simple for the Bengali-, Spanish- and English-speaking members of the households. 

Smita Nadia Hussain, a Bengali American, with her Salvadoran American husband and their two children.

Smita Nadia Hussain, a Bengali American, together with her Salvadoran American husband and their two kids.

Zakir was named after Hussain’s father, a convention widespread in Latino tradition. Hussain’s husband has such a reputation himself. Emiliano was named after the Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata.

“If white folks can say ‘Phoebe’ or ‘Arnold Schwarzenegger,’ they might undoubtedly say a Nadia, Roberto or a Zakir. It’s not mind surgical procedure, it’s laziness,” mentioned Hussain. It’s simply computerized dismissal that you’re not regular or you aren’t accepted and, and it’s so internalized and I really feel like a few of our communities have internalized that too.”

Denny Vrandečić, 42, California, Know-how 

Daughter: Leyla, 6

Neither Vrandečić nor his spouse makes use of their actual identify. It wasn’t a lot of a alternative. Vrandečić, who’s Croatian and was born and raised in Germany, was born Zdenko, and his spouse, who’s from Uzbekistan and goes by Karma, was born Qamarniso. After they moved to the U.S., they discovered it almost unattainable to navigate their lives with actual names. So their nicknames caught.

Once they had their daughter in 2014, they didn’t need her to undergo what they went via and have been compelled to undertake a nickname.

“Who is aware of the place Leyla might be [when she grows up]. We didn’t need a identify that solely works within the U.S., that solely works in Germany or that solely works in Uzbekistan. We wished one thing that may work in all of these cultures and is pronounced the identical in all these totally different languages,” mentioned Vrandečić. 

Umaima Jafri, 37, Ohio, Mother

Daughters: Hafsa, 13, And Sumaayaah, 9

Sons: Saleh, 11, And Shuayb, 7

Umaima Jafri remembers when her husband wrote about 50 names on the whiteboard within the supply room and requested every nurse to vote on the names. Jafri vehemently was in opposition to it. She didn’t have the best identify herself, and she or he was usually taunted by different kids calling her “yo mama.”

Jafri wished to verify her kids had significant names that stemmed from the Islamic religion, even when it meant working with letters that didn’t exist within the English language. She mentioned her sons had extra bother than her daughters, with most struggling to pronounce the h in Saleh and the vowels in Shuayb (pronounced shoe-abe.)

Umaima Jafri, a 37-year-old mother, with her four children.

Umaima Jafri, a 37-year-old mom, together with her 4 kids.

“It’s a tug of battle that you’ve got internally with your self, like, ought to I simply shorten it for someone and make it simple on them, or ought to I really train everyone consciously, each single particular person you meet?” Jafri mentioned. She mentioned she nonetheless feels responsible that she typically provides a unique identify when she goes to Starbucks.

Nonetheless, she hopes she’s in a position to instill the boldness in her kids ― and in herself ― to be happy with their names wherever they go.

Manoucheka Williams, 42, Texas, Mother

Sons: Jaylen, 15, Kevin, 14, Jonathan, 11, And Cameron, 7

Manoucheka Williams by no means forgot the pauses lecturers took earlier than trying to pronounce her identify. It was a silence that causes her anxiousness till this present day. She remembers classmates turning round and watching her. It was a routine that occurred at the start of every college 12 months.

“My identify has all the time been considered one of anxiousness for me. It was like I couldn’t sleep the night time earlier than the primary day of college as a result of I dreaded the lecturers having to name my identify,” Williams instructed HuffPost.

After she graduated from highschool and from Florida State with a level in mechanical engineering, the issue didn’t cease. A recruiter as soon as instructed her that they skipped her résumé the primary time round as a result of the person couldn’t work out how one can pronounce her identify appropriately.

“I all the time cherished my identify, however I simply all the time felt like folks used it to devalue me as a result of some folks wouldn’t even try it or in the event that they mentioned it mistaken and I might appropriate them they wouldn’t even reply or attempt to make a correction,” she mentioned.

Manoucheka Williams and her husband and sons.

Manoucheka Williams and her husband and sons.

As a younger Black lady in engineering surrounded by older white males, she was consistently requested if she had a nickname or an abbreviation they might use as an alternative.

“I wished my children to have regular American names. No loopy spellings. I wished folks to have the ability to see their identify and, primary, not type any judgments or any stereotypes about them,” she mentioned. 

“We’re going to be including little Black boys who will develop as much as be Black males on this nation that we live in, and we have been by no means blind to the plight of the Black man on this nation. So I felt like giving them a reputation that removes any form of stigma was already giving them a step up,” she added.

Shireen Soliman, 50, New York, Educator And Artist

Daughter: Daleelah, 15

Son: Yaseen, 17

Even though Shireen Soliman gave cautious thought to spelling her daughter’s identify with two ee’s, folks nonetheless pronounce it “Delilah.” However that’s not her identify. Daleelah, which emphasizes the lengthy “e” sound, interprets to a information in Arabic and that’s what she wished her daughter to develop as much as be: a frontrunner and a information. 

A New York-based educator who meets and teaches a variety of individuals, she all the time makes it a degree to name college students by their names the precise manner. She’s annoyed when others don’t give her or her children the identical courtesy.  

Shireen Soliman, a New York educator, with her two children.

Shireen Soliman, a New York educator, together with her two kids.

“It’s like they’re adapting your identify to what makes them extra snug. So it’s a bit little bit of this small manner that you simply transfer on this planet is form of an act of revolt or revolution or resistance to say, ‘No, that is my identify.’” Soliman instructed HuffPost.

“It’s that colonial mindset or that imperialist mindset that claims, ’You’ll adapt to my superior tradition, my superior identify, my superior language. You can be the one to adapt, moderately than a mutual honor and respect,” she added.

Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, 37, Pennsylvania, Creator

Sons: Issa, 11, And Adam, 6

Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow remembers when she was a grade-school trainer and a few college students mocked different college students’ names or lecturers compelled nicknames onto college students whose names they couldn’t pronounce. 

“A baby’s identify is sacred in some methods. It’s valuable to them, and it’s vital for them, and so we must always worth them and make an effort as educators to say their names to be taught them and to honor them,” Thompkins-Bigelow mentioned.

As a Black American, Thompkins-Bigelow acknowledges that for many individuals, together with members of her family who have been descendants of enslaved folks, they have been stripped of their names.

Which is why she printed “Your Title Is a Music,” a kids’s e book devoted to honoring African American names, Latino names, Center Jap names and different cultural names from folks of shade.

“Once we diminish features of individuals’s tradition or folks’s identification, then we’re diminishing them,” mentioned Thompkins-Bigelow. “We predict these sorts of issues are small, however they find yourself including up and changing into big issues.

Yasmine Badaoui, 27, Michigan, Author And Poet

Sons: Hasan Wolfgang, 6, And Mehdi Aristotle, 4 

Just a few issues caught out throughout Yasmine Badaoui’s being pregnant. Like when she was pregnant together with her first baby and realized that her child moved essentially the most after they listened to Mozart. For her second baby, she realized that she loved studying loads of philosophy, each Arab and non-Arab philosophers.

“I all the time knew my kids would have Arabic names in order that they’ll all the time know the place they arrive from no matter folks in the event that they’re in a position to pronounce them or not,” Badaoui mentioned.

Yasmine Badaoui and her two sons, Hasan Wolfgang and Mehdi Aristotle.

Yasmine Badaoui and her two sons, Hasan Wolfgang and Mehdi Aristotle.

Incorporating two of these themes, Badaoui named her first son Hasan Wolfgang and her second son Mehdi Aristotle. She says it couldn’t be extra good.

Her sons have already come dwelling and requested her why folks don’t say their names the way in which she does, and Badaoui has tried to elucidate to them that even when folks don’t get it proper, their identify is their very own.

“Proper now, they don’t see themselves as ‘different.’ It’s simply unlucky, and when they get older, different persons are going to make them really feel like they’re not part of this nation. However they’re going to have the instruments to have the ability to inform them in any other case,” she mentioned.

Deanna Othman, 38, Illinois, Freelance Journalist

Daughters: Sumaya, 14, And Asma, 15

Sons: Yousuf, 10, And Hamza, 4

When Deanna Othman was pregnant, she knew that it doesn’t matter what she named her children, folks have been going to present them a tough time as Palestinian Muslim People. It’s why she determined straight away that she was going to call them no matter she wished.

“I consider that no matter how simple it’s for folks to pronounce a reputation. In the event that they see it as international, they nonetheless won’t even make an effort to pronounce it,” Othman instructed HuffPost. She mentioned her identify is a working example. Regardless of the way it’s spelled, folks nonetheless name her Diana or Dina. 

Nonetheless, she mentioned she was upset when she heard Harris’s identify ridiculed with none consequence. Particularly when an individual’s identify, with all its traits and challenges, with it being a supply of inspiration and delight, is callously disregarded as a joke on a nationwide platform.  

 Deanna Othman and her family during Eid in 2019.

Deanna Othman and her household throughout Eid in 2019.

Yasmine Ederer, 34, North Carolina, Mother And Pupil

Sons: Majeed, 14, Rasheed, 11, And Justice, 5

There wasn’t an excessive amount of Yasmine Ederer wished in her kids’s names. She wished them to be influenced by the Islamic religion and she or he wished them to be simple to say. 

Ederer and her 4 siblings have rhyming names, and she or he began off doing the identical together with her first two sons. However when pregnant together with her third son, she couldn’t discover a rhyming identify that she appreciated, not to mention one in Arabic that may be simple for many who didn’t communicate the language.

Then it dawned on her {that a} Muslim-influenced identify didn’t should be in Arabic. In spite of everything, “justice” was an idea emphasised within the Islamic religion and comprehensible to English audio system as nicely.

“All people can simply perceive what it’s and the way it’s spelled and what it means,” she mentioned, making it all of the extra becoming for an American Muslim son. Nonetheless, she says some Arab Muslims attempt to translate his identify into Arabic whereas non-Muslims count on her to have given a ‘international’ identify to her sons.

“I may nearly see it of their face. They’re anticipating to listen to a reputation like Muhammad or Ahmed or some Arabic-sounding identify,” she mentioned. On the finish of the day, she mentioned, the entire names match the targets she set out for herself: simple, significant and excellent for her American Muslim household. 


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