This is going to be short because it’s ridiculous and I’m trying to not spend too much time on ridiculous topics or people these days.
Recently, a tragic white woman has made the news alleging that a Southwest Airlines employee made fun of her child’s name.
Abcde, pronounced “Ab-city.”
I first heard of the issue before it was a story. I read the mother’s account of what happened along with her posting photos from the employee’s Facebook page. There was a photo of the daughter’s boarding pass with her name “ABCDE” and the employee’s Facebook friends were chiming in about how pitiful a name it is. The mother also posted photos where the employee had taken secret pics of travelers, including one with a white woman in pink Ugg-looking boots that would make Miranda Priestly spaz and captioned it something like, “Snow Bunnies starting early” (paraphrase).
Listen, I stand by a parent’s right to name their progeny whatever they’d like; even if it sounds like a garage gym where they focus on crunches and core strength moves or a fitness-inspired remix to “Rack City.” But, Abcde’s mama chose the wrong hill to die on if you ask me.
Here’s why I don’t give a damn.
I recall sitting in my AP English class in 12th grade next to a student named Yajira. From the first day, she told the teacher that the pronunciation of her name was “Ya-HI-ra” with the “r” said Spanish-style. I also recall my white teacher calling her “Ya-Jerry” (as in McGuire) all year long such that it became the running joke. Yajira managed to laugh it off. Yajira was Mexican.
Black people have been scrutinized for their names for decades. We now know, empirically, that employers regularly decline to interview applicants who are qualified but have “ethnic-sounding” names. We know that white teachers often don’t even make an effort to pronounce the non-European names of their students, no matter how young they are. This serves to diminish their self-esteem and sense of personhood because, as we all know, your name is a big part of who you are.
Until the national media starts running stories about every little JaQuesha, LaKeisha, and Deja who has been taunted by peers and adults because of their name, I don’t want to hear about Abcde’s hard
time, day, 5 minutes. Until we start having to sift through myriad write-ups in major publications about how LaQuetta has an MBA but still can’t find a professional job that does her intelligence and qualifications justice because the white manager decided her value based on how he/she felt about her name, I want Abcde’s mama to go sit down in the lobby and wait her turn. I’m sure there’s an oppression that fits her but I’ve determined this isn’t it.
The silver lining to this all is that in her attempt to…actually, I don’t know what the fuck her purpose was…all Abcde’s mother did was let us all know that she (the mom) may be functionally illiterate because I can come up with at least 3 ways to construct “Ab-city” without basically reciting the opening to the ABCs. At least JaQuesha and LaKeisha’s mothers know phonics.
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