“That’s ironic” is up there with “No, really. I’m 6 feet tall” and “Men are intimidated by me” on the short list of “Unintentionally inaccurate and misleading things people often say.” Because what’s often labeled irony is really just happenstance or coincidence. If two different exes happen to see you out while you’re on a date, that’s not irony. That’s just proof you live in Washington, D.C.
That said, I want to thank Raven-Symoné for showing everyone exactly what irony means. On Thursday the women on The View shared their thoughts on a recent study proving (again) that Americans associate negative traits with people who have “black-sounding” names. (A study commissioned because, apparently, the 78,328,732 other times there have been studies proving that Americans associate negative traits with people who have black-sounding names wasn’t evidence enough.)
Raven-Symoné—a woman who, remember, is actually named “Raven-Symoné”—shared, well, let’s just share exactly what she said:
Just to bring it back, can we take back “racist” and say “discriminatory,” because I think that’s a better word. And I am very discriminatory against words like the ones that they were saying in the video. I’m not about to hire you if your name is Watermelondrea. It’s just not going to happen. I’m not going to hire you.
This, my friends, is irony. It’s to “irony” what “Neil deGrasse Tyson” is to “intellect.” What “Chick-fil-A” is to “diabetes.” What “Ben Carson” is to “saying dumb-ass s—t in front of white people.” If you looked up the definition of irony in the dictionary, you’d find … the definition of irony. But if the Webster people decided today to replace the definition of irony with a picture of Raven-Symoné, I wouldn’t be mad.
It is ironic because Raven-Symoné is quite possibly the single blackest name in pop culture today. It’s blacker than Va’Shaundya Karlette Nelson (Shaunie O’Neal). Blacker than Nayvadius Cash (Future). Even blacker than Leon Jenkins. What makes it so black is the fact that it hits all three of the black-ass-name benchmarks:
1. Unique spelling of a common name? Check! I know of many Simones. I only know of one Symoné. The Raven-Symoné.
2. Unnecessary accent marks? Check!
3. Egregious use of unnecessary hyphens? Check!
Thing is, these are not bad things at all. I think it’s awesome that Raven-Symoné’s parents added so many blackness tells to their child’s name. I think it’s great that Matthew and Tina Knowles named their daughters Beyoncé and Solange; names that also could very easily be the names of planets discovered in a neighboring solar system.
It fills my black-ass heart with glee every time I watch a college football game—specifically an SEC game—and see names like La’Lebronneous Jenkins-Webb III and Tyroneasaurus Rex Johnson. I drink an entire cup of “I’m happy as hell to be black” lemonade every time I see a “Most influential people in the world” list and read names like Oprah and Condoleezza and LeBron on it.
Yet, here was Raven-Symoné, on national TV, in all of her black-ass-named glory, gleefully expressing that she’d discriminate against other black people with black-ass names. And, to add insult to injury, the hypothetical name she chose (“Watermelondrea”) could not have possibly been more Carson-esque. Only a person who associates “blackness” with “badness” would choose to disparage black names and choose to throw a stereotypical reference in there, too.
Which, again, is absurd, because neither having a “black” name nor enjoying watermelon while black is a bad thing! If fact, when I’m done writing this, I’m gonna take my black-named ass (Yes, “Damon” is a black name. Well, at least it is to everyone who sees my name but chooses to pronounce it “Damone”) to Giant Eagle to buy some watermelon. And I’m going to eat it while watching Black Ink Crew.
Anyway, thanks again, Raven-Symoné. Because the next time someone misuses “irony” in my presence, all I’ll have to do to correct them is show them a picture of you.
Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VerySmartBrothas.com. He is also a contributing editor at Ebony.com. He lives in Pittsburgh and he really likes pancakes. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.