I am an explicit advocate of rights of all kinds. I think that the arc of the United States bends towards the freer exercise of all rights. Be they women’s, civil, gay, disabled or any number of other rights that I can’t think of now. The potential for the further flowering of rights comes from the amendable nature of a constitution that can be interpreted with increasing clarity and fairness as society becomes more enlightened.
One right that is truly inalienable, at least in this country, is the right to name oneself and one’s children. I am not one of those Black folks that will say you should name your children with so-called “normal” or “regular” sounding names, like Robert or William, Mary or Catherine. We have already been through the forced naming thing historically, when we were brought here as slaves. Once we landed on these shores, a lying, mean, parasitic, white, Christian degenerate – also known as a slave master, re-named every one of our great-grandparents “Toby." They were instructed by death threat not to ever indicate their own selves by the parent-given name of “Kunta Kinte” again.
So – apparently this naming thing is real important.
Move the clock forward to the 20th century. And we have an individual now formerly known as Cassius Clay, that lost his attachment to a name that originated from dual sources. “Cassius” was a Greek sourced name that was given to him by his parents. “Clay” (origin - English) was his surname – inherited through his family tree, originally "gifted" to his great-grandparents from their original owners. At a certain point – he decides to change his name to Muhammad Ali. OK, big deal, so what. My dumb ass, I figure if the guy wants to be called this, rather than that – what is the problem. Right? "50 cent" - right?
Well – there was a multi-part problem in this. First, the reason he wanted to change his name, was because in 1964 he became a member of a “controversial” organization that some say, “preached hate.” Also known as “The Nation of Islam.” In some quarters, that organization is still “controversial.” But you know – in this country, any group of Black people that are not fighting each other, or, horrors – trying to do something constructive, is always going to be looked upon as “controversial,” even by some Black folks.
One day, I was having coffee and conversation with four other Black brothers at an outdoor café in the Gold Coast area of Chicago. From the way some white folks were looking at us - that was “controversial.” No way to get around that.
Second – he made the choice of changing his “good – American name” to a “foreign” name. “And a Aaay-raab name on top of that!” White folks would say: “What is wrong with that NIGGER (oops – y’all know I didn’t mean that), uh, I mean guy.” “Ain’t his American name good enough for him?” Black folks would say: “What is he trying to say?” Well he was trying to say a lot – too much for me to go into on this posting. But everything he was saying, through the name-change, and otherwise, a lot of people, both Black and white, did not like what they were hearing – for a plethora of reasons.
His name – which is meant to be said, also became, letter by letter, a silent testament, to the loud and egregious injustices being committed on Black people, at that time, in this country.
Third – he made the choice to exercise sovereignty over himself, without “permission.” It is very important for Black people to put “permission” at the top of the checklist – if they plan to make any substantive changes regarding what they want to be called, or if they want to change their way of thinking, or if they want to think, etc.
"Jack!!! That nigger Leroy is thinking again!"
Doing stuff without “permission” – you can invite trouble. Many Blacks still don’t understand that our “American” surnames were never meant to convey lineage. That’s why white folks never invite Black folks to the Johnson, or Williams, or Robinson family reunions – even though they are (likely) blood kin. Those names were meant to indicate ownership (“These are MY niggers” - sound familiar?). And I suspect when Mr. Ali decided to change his name without “permission,” he did not know, he was going to evoke latent residual attitudes of ownership and white sovereignty over his Black being.
Whenever African-Americans change their surnames to monikers that are not "white-approved" – some white people feel they are losing ownership. You are messing with their "property rights." They will say: “Nigger - you need to get your name LEGALLY changed.” Even though there was no court factor involved when these names were originally “gifted” to our great-grandparents. You STILL must go through them to make that change official (ain't that a BITCH?). If you decide to make a change that may be taken as “political” in nature - you may be pointed out by whites as “un-American,” or “exotic,” or even “subversive.”
The same thing to a lesser degree is happening today in making light of the names that people in my community are “making-up” to name their children. The more “mainstreamed” Black folks are expressing different degrees of embarrassment and shame. The white folks are expressing different degrees of snickering and ridicule – and only because these names (Lakisha, Sheneka, Jaquon) do not carry any “political” weight.
I say – SO WHAT! Let white folks snicker. Let “mainstream” Black folks shame-out until their brains burn-out. Black people that feel shame at white opinions about us deserve no respect. We have nothing to apologize for or to be embarrased about - when it comes to them [white folks]. The so-called “underclass” is showing the avowed “middle class” the kind of ownership they should be showing them.
All names were "made-up" at some time or other.
The dynamics of name in America is so political, confusing, and inconsistent that Black people can be called “exotic” or "potentially subversive" for just being born with a name that is originally African (see Barack Hussein Obama). You know – the kind of surnames Black people are SUPPOSED to have. That’s like putting a Chinese man under suspicion for having a name like Kim Lee.
It seems precious few of my people think it is strange that our genetic mosaic is primarily African, at the same time we are walking around with these English, French, Scottish, and Irish names. A lot of my folks are actually proud of these names... “Ahm ah McSWEENEY!!!”
But watch the eyes roll back if a Japanese-looking person walks in and says his last name is Stotkowski. OK? So now that we have the freedom to name ourselves – I have no problem with taking ownership of one’s name. And to hell with those that can always crack their mouths open with unconstructive opinions or ridicule, but dry-up fast when the time for constructive dialogue is needed.
What I am asking for though, is a bit of order. So far I have identified 15 different ways to spell “Lakeisha.” Because of what I do for a living, I was in contact with four different “Lakeishas” all with four different ways to spell it – in two days! I got “attituded” by several "Lakeishas" because I “spelled it wrong.” Really? "What is the correct spelling?.. Oh, the way YOU spell it." (Times Four!!!) This is crazy.
It’s okay to be “unique.” But a consistent variability within a particular subset of anything, becomes a kind of uniformity that then renders the “uniqueness” of each member of the subset meaningless. The "uniquity" becomes the "ubiquity." Do you understand ladies?
AN OH NO MOMENT: I do not think the "namers" out there, have exhausted the possibilities of rendering this name. “Lakeisha” is not the only name, but it is one of the most common of this type. One characteristic that distinguishes these names is that they mostly end in S–H–A or E–K-A. All the letters that go before those three enders could go just about anywhere. And they do.
It is very confusing. So my suggestion is that all the “namers” in our community get together and have a “convention” or “conference” of sorts. It could be called the SHA-EKA Symposium. Right? The purpose would be to deliberate and come to an agreement on how all the S–H–A and E–K–A names should be spelled. Ladies – please establish a standard. It's a good thing that works. The way a whole lot of other things in our lives are good and “standardized.”
The same fries you get at a McDonald's in Chicago, Illinois, are the same fries you get in Kobe, Japan. I have been to Japan, and have eaten at several McDonald's there - the overhead menus were in Japanese (I pointed at the pictures), but the fries were speaking the same language I was.
The scientific community does “standardizing” conferences all the time, out of operational necessity. It is time our community did the same. That way the rest of us do not have to reset our brains and our computers every time we have to put another “Shaquisha” or “Sheneka” in our databases. It’s OK to name yourselves or your children whatever you like, just help the rest of us out when you do so. Please.
It is time for the “Lakeishas” of our community to unite!