Say My Name...Say My Name...(And Pronounce It Correctly!)
Many Blacks try not to be visual cookie-cutter types. In fact, African Americans are damn near studied and are routinely imitated because of the creativity we bring to our style of dress, manner of walking, behaviors, etc. Even in our “professional clothes,” many African Americans are still able to rock our own personalities and to maintain our personal swagger. Only a Black person can turn a wild Saturday night burgundy weave hairstyle into complete professionalism by Monday morning. Yes, the wild burgundy weave will be swept into a neat up-do hairstyle, bun or sophisticated ponytail. What’s the saying? “Let me do me!” And, many of us do—professionally.
Yet, I think nearly every Black person has been “confused” for another Black person, by someone who is White. Have you or someone you know been “mistaken” for Black coworkers that you DID NOT resemble?
Unfortunately, Blacks are often viewed and treated as an INTERCHANGEABLE GROUP OF PEOPLE who aren’t worth knowing—or remembering—on an individual basis.
So, let me break this down. A racist considers particular groups of people beneath them, as unimportant, as worthless, etc. A racist in the workplace is not going to trip off of having to remember the names and faces of Black or other so-called minority workers. A racist sees a minority as an annoyance or, best case scenario, but still offensive, as something to tolerate. But, the minority worker is still essentially invisible to the racist because the racist sees a person without value. The racist sees someone to use, but only when absolutely necessary. A racist doesn’t mind using Black workers as labor because even “massa” did that on the plantation. To a racist, that’s all Blacks are—labor. So, if they have to work with you, they will. But, they will treat Blacks as labor—like an ox or a mule. THESE ANIMALS DO NOT NEED TO BE CALLED BY NAME!
And, I don’t want to hear anything about…maybe it was just an honest mistake. That’s a load of crap. We each learn to identify other humans BY NAME as infants and toddlers. We learn that PEOPLE AND THINGS HAVE NAMES, such as Mommy, Daddy, ball, bottle, doggie, etc. So, don’t tell me a full grown human being can’t remember the face and name of someone they work with EVERY DAY!!
I started temping at a company where I was subbing for a Black woman who had been an employee at the company for a number of years. This woman went out on maternity leave and I was taking her place in Human Resources for 3 months. Her coworkers would enter Human Resources, look me dead in the face, and would call me by this woman’s name! We looked NOTHING ALIKE!! This woman was taller, lighter, had different hair color, dressed differently, etc. But, I can only assume, they believed she transformed herself into another human being—overnight. How else could they confuse me for their coworker? They’d worked with her FOR YEARS!!! To make matters worse, some people acknowledged their confusion. They would furrow their brows and say, “You look different today.” My response? “That’s because I’m not her! I’m another person. Nice to meet you.”
I’ve even heard a recent story, at a company I will not name, where a Black man was called by the name of a BLACK WOMAN, who’d just joined the company. Who called him by this Black woman’s name? HIS OWN MANAGER!! How long had he worked for this White manager? YEARS!! That’s how much he meant in her world. He could be “mistaken” for a Black female new hire.
So, here’s my thing now: you want to call me by another name? I will not answer you.
Get my name right.
You want to send me an email with another person’s name? I will not respond to you!!
Or, if I respond, it will be simply to ask you if you meant to send the email to someone else.
White people don’t have a problem letting you know that you mispronounced or misspelled their name. They will correct you on the spot—even in email. And, they will let you feel their attitude about the mistake. Blacks shouldn’t accept anything else, but being properly identified for who we are. Don’t laugh it off…CORRECT IT!!
HAVE YOU BEEN MISTAKEN FOR YOUR BLACK COWORKERS? Tell us about what happened. Post a comment.