On Oct. 16, at a Trump rally in Georgia, Sen. David Perdue purposely mispronounced and mocked Sen. Kamala Harris’s name as he launched the president. “Ka-MAL-a, Ka-MAL-a or Kamala, Kamala, Ka-mala, -mala, -mala, I do not know, no matter,” he stated, eliciting laughter from the group. The Republican senator’s intentional mispronunciation of Harris’s identify, which is straight from Trump’s own playbook, just isn’t solely extraordinarily impolite, but additionally merely racist.
For individuals of coloration and immigrants with ethnic-sounding names, this infuriating incident is all too acquainted. Perdue’s try at “othering” and poking enjoyable at Harris — who’s Indian and Black — for her Hindu identify is offensive. Figuring out she has been his colleague within the Senate for nearly 4 years reveals that it was additionally deliberate. A clip of Perdue’s remark sparked an essential dialog on Twitter and the hashtag #MyNameIs began trending, inspiring POC to precise delight for the meanings behind their very own names and share related painful tales.
My identify is Yerin. It is pronounced Yeh-rin — like Erin with a “Y” as I inform individuals — and it was chosen by my late grandfather. In Korean, “Ye” means well mannered and respectful, whereas “Rin” is outlined as brilliant, in each senses of the phrase. Whereas I now really feel so fortunate to have a wonderful identify that holds such that means, I admittedly struggled for years to take delight in each my Korean heritage and ethnically Korean identify.
I vividly keep in mind crying to my dad after numerous first days of faculty, distressed by academics who had mispronounced my identify, although not purposely, however who had been extra upsettingly unbothered to discover ways to correctly accomplish that. As a child, I vowed to provide my future kids explicitly white-sounding names, so they would not should cope with yet one more barrier to be seen as an American. I even went so far as brainstorming white-sounding names that I may undertake as soon as I went to school, a standard apply for many POC and immigrants in an effort to assimilate into America.
I am aware of the seen discomfort individuals would possibly really feel when confronted with announcing my identify or the assumptions they could make about my id.
Fortunately, my dad discouraged me from doing such a factor, and as an grownup, I’ve grown to develop into happy with my Korean heritage, and proud to establish as each Korean and American. Besides, I am aware of the seen discomfort individuals would possibly really feel when confronted with announcing my identify or the assumptions they could make about my id. Whereas some would possibly view these ideas as an overreaction, there’s actually analysis that demonstrates the affect of an ethnic-sounding identify. In keeping with a 2017 examine from Harvard Enterprise College, Black and Asian applicants who “whitened” their résumés to take away any references to their race had higher success scoring interviews.
Due to these frequent occurrences and other people like Perdue, I nonetheless typically discover myself feeling embarrassed or troublesome at any time when I am ready to be referred to as on on the physician’s workplace, interviewing for a job, and even assembly new individuals in social settings. I typically should be reminded that I am not chargeable for others’ inherent racism. What made Perdue’s remark worse was that, when met with criticism, a spokeswoman for his marketing campaign, Casey Black, defined that the senator “simply mispronounced Senator Harris’ name, and he did not imply something by it.” This gaslighting, which means that POC are those at fault for being insulted, can also be a frequent expertise we’re all too accustomed to.
I refuse to permit my identify to be related to such negativity and discomfort, and refuse to let individuals like Perdue take away my id. Harris definitely deserves the respect of getting her identify pronounced appropriately, and so do I. Our names are our identities, and nobody can diminish them.
Picture Supply: Getty / Alex Wong