On Saturday, CNN published a lengthy piece of award-winning journalism on white people with black-sounding names. The insanely absurd story featured a collection of Caucasians (which is more than a “pinch of wypipo” but less than a “mob of lynchers”) ruminating about how uncomfortable it is living with a negro moniker.
Yes, they literally did this.
Aside from a Lakiesha, John Blake—whose two European names might have led to the shortage that caused white parents to give their child such distasteful ghetto names—also found a white Yasmina and a man of Polish descent whose last name was African —Tim Machuga. So, for the sake of balance, we decided to speak to black people living with the scourge of having a white-sounding name.
Here is what we found.
The Root: So your name is Rebecca?
Beckii: No, it’s just Beckii, with two i’s. Beckii Ashli White. Somehow my parents even found a way to put a heart over the i on the birth certificate. It’s one of the whitest names in history.
TR: So how is it living with the name?
Beckii: It’s terrible. Wherever I go, people ask me about my name. Whenever I go to Starbucks, they accuse me of stealing coffee because the baristas have never seen a black “Beckii.” In elementary school, the teachers would all pronounce my name correctly while my friends W’thafuq and Hallielooya would never get their names pronounced right. I’ve always wanted an apostrophe in my name. Can a nigga get a hyphen or something?
TR: That doesn’t seem so bad.
Beckii: It is! I had to stop perming my hair because I got tired of people calling me “Beckii with the good hair.” That’s why I’m on a natural hair journey.
TR: But have you endured any discrimination because of your name?
Beckii: Of course! I earned a Masters of Fine Arts in dance and choreography, but whenever I send my resume in, I can’t get a job because they throw my resumé straight into the garbage. Everyone assumes that a woman name Beckii doesn’t have any rhythm but I do!
I had a part-time job as a waitress at a pulled pork smokehouse, but I couldn’t take it because ...
TR: Let me guess. They called you Barbecue Beckii?
TR: Well is there any upside to having the name?
Beckii: Of course there is. Banks love me. I don’t have a job but I have never been turned down for a loan. Most people don’t know that there is a glitch in U.S. credit systems that adds an average of 172 points to your FICO score if you have a white-sounding name. I don’t think credit card machines are legally allowed to decline a card with the name Beckii.
And we all know about the studies that show how employees turn down applicants with black-sounding names. I get an interview every time, even for shit that I’m not qualified for. I was on the short list for Secretary of Education and the CEO of General Motors because of my name alone. It’s just disappointing to see the jaws drop when I enter the room.
TR: So can you sympathize with the white woman named LaKiesha?
Beckii: Fuck no! She still gets to live with the privilege of being white! You could call me Caucasianista Crackerjack if you gave me that. Fuck outta here!
TR: Well it was good talking with you, I hope you come to grips with your name.
Beckii: It’s ok. Do you need me to pay for your parking? I’ll just put it on my White Card. It’s like the American Express Black Card, but you get cash back every time you buy kale or store-bought potato salad.
TR: No thanks.
We also spoke to a black man named Chad Brad Whitman.
Chad: So what’s this interview about, again?
TR: We wanted to talk to you about having a white-sounding name.
Chad: What about it?
TR: For starters, how did you get the name?
Chad: Shit, I don’t know, my mama named me Chad so muhfuckas call me Chad.
TR: But you must admit, that is a pretty white-sounding name.
Chad: Nigga, your name is Michael Harriot. Your name sounds like you’re a minority shareholder in a mayonnaise company.
TR: So you don’t have the opposite experience of a white person with a black-sounding name?
Chad: What do you mean?
TR: Well CNN talked to a white woman named LaKeisha who explained the difficulties of living with a black-sounding name.
Chad: Like what?
TR: Well, she said she waited tables at a Ruby Tuesday and black customers would laugh at her name.
Chad: OK, what else?
TR: Well, that’s about it. She grew up in an all-white town so no one ever really brought it up. Plus she said her name “allowed her to briefly step outside her whiteness.”
Chad: Say what?
TR: She actually said it. Can you relate?
Chad: I’m black. When you’re black, everything becomes black. A black person can never step outside their blackness. Right now, someone somewhere is calling Ben Carson a nigga. That’s why all of this is absurd.
TR: What do you mean?
Chad: Imagine living in a world that offers you so much privilege that your greatest struggle in life is having an eccentric name. They’re talking about a black-sounding name as if they lost a leg or were born with a second head. Of course I don’t know what it’s like to be white. It shows just how powerful white supremacy and racism is.
TR: How so?
Chad: Because if the difficulties of living with a black name is worthy of a whole-ass article, imagine how hard it must be to live with black skin.
TR: I get it. So what do you ultimately think about your name?
Chad: Check this out. Chad is an Old English name. No one really knows what it means. Becky is from Rebecca, a Hebrew name but it really doesn’t have a meaning. LaKiesha is an African name that was created in the ’70s because it sounds cool. All names are made up! They’re just sounds people make with their mouths.
If having a black name is a burden, you’re living a pretty charmed life. Ain’t nothing interesting or special about a white girl with a black girl’s name. CNN is reaching. That chick is just probably trying to siphon off a little speck of black girl magic. And having a white name isn’t any kind of advantage if it doesn’t come with a get-out-of-racism-free card.
It’s like Marlo Stansfield said on The Wire: