Durrelliott - News Source For Teenagers
close
Trending News

Names That Are Unfamiliar to You Aren’t “Hard,” They’re “Unpracticed”


In this op-ed, N’Jameh Camara explains why it’s not her name that’s difficult, it’s the attitudes of those unwilling to learn it that are.

Growing up in the United States, I often hear that my name is “hard” to pronounce: N’Jameh (IPA: ˈndʒeɪ me or ‘njeɪ meɪ). It is a Gambian name conferred by my father, whose lyrical, West African accent rounds the vowels and punctuates the consonants into inertia. And yet, the syllables that tether my heritage to The Gambia seem strangely unable to make the voyage to my American life. The name I carry with me looks for harbor in the mouths of colleagues — even friendly acquaintances — and sometimes gets lost. My parents did not name me with evil grins and hands wringing: “We are going to make her name hard for everyone to utter!” They named me out of boundless love. In that love is a pride of culture and heritage. And yet, my name is treated like a white elephant in society — an exotic interruption to the conversation among Kristins and Emilies, whose names may be forgettable, but most assuredly don’t make a stir.

I feel the weight of others passing their inability to learn my name onto me like a heavy stone. On it is an inscription that says, “Your problem, not mine,” and I have grown exhausted from the message. It’s time to change the conversation around “difficult” names, and to explore our accountability for learning the names of those around us.

I am sometimes in situations where my name is simply not spoken after weeks of interaction with an individual. As an actor, this happens in the rehearsal room and outside of it. I do not mean that people mispronounce my name. I’m talking about fellow actors, leaders of the creative team and crew members calling me “Hey” or not saying my name at all, after several weeks. It all begins simply enough. When asked, “How do you say your name?” at the audition, I pronounce it, and those in the room say it back, in a little call-and-response repartee. Their attempts are usually correct, but, by the first rehearsal, amnesia sets in.

Too often, I’ve felt the awkward “Good to see you again” when a director didn’t commit my name to memory at the callback. Because of experiences like this, I have learned to reintroduce myself repeatedly on day one of rehearsal. The ability to be genuine and relational precedes all other obligations of an actor — of a person, really. To know and say each other’s name is an absolute requirement for crossing the limen of connection, and to a performance that channels life.

Maybe it’s excusable to forget any name at first, but after a week, a few weeks, even a month, that excuse runs out. There is a moment in time when it is no longer the responsibility of a person to teach their name. The choice made by many not to learn my name renders me invisible. It seeds disappointment and erodes my normally jovial spirit. In these moments, my mind races with questions. Should I have gone by a nickname? Should I confront them? Will I be labeled as too “difficult” if I do?

Like so much in American life, the experience of being named and known is also bound up with issues of race, class and gender. It exists in the systems of how we socialize and interact with each other. For a white person to suggest that a colleague of color adapt their name to make it easier for others in the work environment (“Oh, your name is Masahiko? Mind if we just call you Hiko?”), is an aggression that infers it is socially acceptable for one individual to put a nickname upon another for their convenience. This kind of aggression can largely fly under the radar because our country was built on the backs of people whose names were shortened or erased. The suggestion to shorten Masahiko’s name does not come from the intention of love or respect. It comes from the notion that it’s two syllables too long, an inconvenience for the mouth. If Masahiko changed their name to “Sandra,” this upholds a kind of white supremacy, displayed in ethnocentrisms, that can largely go unquestioned. If anything, it can be encouraged. This is more insidious and socially acceptable than white hoods and neo-Nazi graffiti, but communicates clearly that “white names” are easier and more desirable than names which stretch our understanding of who we — as a cast, an office, a neighborhood, a nation — are.



Source link

Tags : ArenthardNamesTeenTheyreTrending NewsUnfamiliarUnpracticed
DE TEAM

The author DE TEAM

Leave a Response

Durrelliott - News Source For Teenagers