It cannot be emphasized enough, that we do not live in a vacuum, but in a world community where people have and exercise cultural biases, consciously or subconsciously, every day, in the execution of their professional and or social undertakings. So, what’s in a name you ask, probably your future, or that of your child, depending on the name!
Long before people had business or social calling cards, one’s name was indeed one’s calling card. And this is true, in and of all cultures, and intelligent parents, accoutre their children with the appropriate calling card, as against one that seals doors in the holder’s face, even before they are opened.
You see, names provide a window into the ethnicity of its holder, and thus, help determine the reception one gets, dependent on the access one is seeking. Many youths, mistakenly assume, that all they need to qualify for success, is the right scholastic matriculation, coupled with the ‘right’ address, to hit the gravy chain of success. And sometimes, much to their consternation, cannot comprehend the fact that even when they think they have fulfilled the requirements, they are still locked out of access to the dream job, at their preferred Fortune 500 Company that they so aspire to.
Well, sometimes, the answer is really quite simple – Your Name, can either open or close that all-important door, that holds access to your dream job and life.
Despite strides made in corporate multiculturalism, (and some companies do strive to have a United Nations representation on their workforce), some are not there yet, especially old family-owned corporations; or one of those companies, where it’s owner and or CEO is over 60, and is really old school.
And not that it’s generational, because some ‘old-schoolers’ get it. But the problem really lies in part, in socialization, and partly due to the adherence to outdated corporate modalities, that were known to serve a particular mindset and market, but has since changed, due to changing demographics; political correctness/awareness, and or new corporate, data driven sensitivity.
So, here is the thing, a young, college graduate armed with his degrees and even a Doctorate in Marketing, might not get called for a job, because his name is Kim Young-Chin, whilst a college grad, who graduated at the bottom of his class with a degree in liberal arts, will get called, because his name happens to be William Heckleford. Correspondingly, a Kimesha Blackwood might not get a call, but a Mary-Lou Clarkson, will.
And deny them tho we will, we all carry some of the baggage of our parents. Sometimes that baggage is Louis Vuitton, sometimes it’s a Samsonite. And that reality makes us predisposed to hereditary prejudices, which we see us inclined to embrace that which we know, as against that which we do not, so we end up reinforcing the status quo.
Making the change, is quite easy, really. If that head-hunter, is not given specific instructions as to what exactly his clients are looking for to fill an executive vacancy, he will fall back on his own cultural and or social references and thus deny anyone outside of his cultural and or social references, a much-needed opportunity. Unless he or she makes a concerted effort to walk away from the usual script.
Ingrained in names such as Kim-Young Chin, William Heckleford, Kimesha Blackwood and or Mary-Lou Clarkson, are presumed ethnic/racial ids, which acts as emotional switches for that head-hunter/interviewer, saddled with making that all-important decision as to who gets the nod. And while some, have the capacity to make an evaluation and decision based on merits, ie educational qualifications, experience, etc., some are incapable and will rely on ‘additional’ markers, and this is where your name gets into play, as it presupposes a genetic marker, denoting one’s ethnicity.
Let’s say one lived on the Continent of Africa, and was job hunting, a name like Mbule, or Jomo, would be commonplace and would not necessarily give off ‘negative’ cultural vibes. But if on the other hand, you are domiciled in Europe or North America, such a name(s) would immediately set off socio-cultural ‘alarm bells’, that could nullify all your experience and or qualifications, for a less ‘ethnic’ one. And the same would be true, for an African headhunter, who came across a Jurgen Johannson or a Gertrud Baumgarten.
So, if you are an ambitious young professional, on the job hunt, you might want to seriously look at your given names, to see if it’s an asset or a hindrance. And the beauty of any such introspection should reveal that you are not truly invested in that name as it is not really yours. And now, much more so than before, you have the access and power to change your name, to accord with your ambition.
It is also important that ‘new’ parents, instead of indulging in some kind of exercise in ethnic melodramatic nostalgic over-reach, in naming a child, think of where they are, and in naming their newborn, explore the likelihood that instead of that nostalgic name being an asset to your child, it could become an albatross?
While Tekesha or Lumumba, maybe paying homage to your ancestors and or homeland, it might be wise to first question, if such a name will help or harm my child. And if we as new parents really want to equip our children with all the necessary tools to help them on life’s journey, our naming them, might be the first step, to make it a successful journey!
And before, we chime in with howls of protests, remember, the practice is not new, and it has never been practiced by ethnic minorities on any large scale, but more so by members of the ‘cultural establishment’, who have been manufacturing names for eons, to rebrand themselves, for career opportunities, and social access.
If we look to Hollywood, we will be reminded of a history of assumed names, adopted to propel new stars to stardom. And if you are Black and living in the diaspora, chances are the name you currently use is not your family name, but one more likely inheritance from your forebear’s former colonial masters and or that of the Plantation on which they worked after being transplanted, and trafficked from their homes in Africa to the supposed New World.
The point is for most of us, the names we now use, are not necessarily ours but are the trappings of being branded generations ago, by those who presumed to treat people as chattel animals, and or commercial property.
The time is right for those who were disenfranchised, to reclaim their identities and or create new ones to suit up for the challenges of this ‘new world’.