In Defense of Tamisha: The Rationale of Anti-Black Name Discrimination

The logic of anti-Black sentiments
The logic of anti-Black sentiment

Blatant anti-Black sentiment is publicly frowned upon, but shows itself in many subtle ways.  Here, we have a sample of some of the thinking that is out there about African-Americans who have the audacity to have non-traditional names. Above, we have the shining example of a hiring manager who seems to have an unwarranted contempt for names that are outside of his comfort zone. Notice how, he projects his feelings upon his employees, taking care to save them from having to deal with the potential of a “hostile environment” because of a potential employees name. How magnanimous of him.

The ugly side of social media, is that it shines a light on the darkness that we know is there. The unfounded fears, the unwarranted hate, and the lack of empathy. This just further illustrates how racism is able to morph, disguising itself. Names like Tamisha, that read as Black, are yet another layer of discrimination that emerges as a roadblock to progress in this country. The sad reality, is that many people out there feel like Andrew, but will be smart enough not to put thumbs to screens to say so. It just shows how connected  power is to white supremacy.  Tamisha could be the most qualified person, but people like Mr. Moskowitz will “categorically pass over” her just because of her name.

The problem is not with Tamisha. The problem is with Mr. Moskowitz and the numerous others out there who think like him. I would say more about how I feel about Mr. Moskowitz, but I don’t want to be considered “tribal”

But I will link to others who have opined on him.

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  1. No comments? Glad to be the first. Let me start by saying that I was born with and will die with one of those “African sounding names.” Spelled exactly how it sounds, the name “Sunasia” has certainly made plenty of meetings and introductions throughout my life awkward and uncomfortable. I know why I’M uncomfortable. People (especially those seemingly “opposed” to “African sounding names”) stammer over it, making a big deal out of pronunciation and spelling, resulting in the inevitable inquiry of origin. Do they really care? Does my name really warrant such interest, or does my physical appearance not live up to the tribalism that my name represents, provoking them to delve more into my parents’ logic.

    I used to be ashamed of my name as a representation of me. I had siblings of “common” names, and the most pivotal event that validated this self-loathing occurred when I was 10 years old. My mother met [my idol] Justin Timberlake at a nightclub and managed to get his autograph. She knew he was my favorite member of *NSync, while my older sister pined for JC. In an effort to make the ordeal as easy as possible, my mother had him sign “To Tiffany.” I was furious. As a child, her logic could only be understood as good reasoning, but I wish my little self could’ve defended against this kind of stupidity.

    Young black mothers (mine was 21) have a tendency to use or create names that sound exotic to them. Suffixes -sha, -sia, -cia for girls and -te, -tay, -quan, -shaun (with prefixes Ja- De- or D’-) for boys are common choices I’ve noticed. These names are nothing more than a symbol of culture which people should embrace, but they associate them with negative stereotypes.

    Does “Shanequa” get as many inquiries as I do? Maybe if she had milky skin like I do, or articulated herself as well as I do, she would. People need to remember that we give meaning to our names, they don’t give meaning to us. It took years for me to be proud of my name for what I’ve made it connotative of. But that will never change what an employer will assume before he/she reads on to understand my qualifications. Alex M. was simply highlighting a very common form of prejudice.

  2. Good morning Sunasia. Wow. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us today. Name discrimination is not cute, and it can be a detriment to a person’s self esteem. I am glad that you are in a mental space where you proud of your unique name.

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