I think that this is such an important topic, and it is something that has become more poignant to me as I embark on my own journey of motherhood.
In my field of work I come across names of young children and patients regularly, thus I have a fair idea of the ‘new age names’ and classical names I see and hear given to young people these days. Some names I come across, I have to wonder how and why parents named their children such names that seem so out of this world!
I don’t say it in a negative way and I don’t think it is particularly an argument assigned to a particular ethnic group, but I think there should be sense of responsibility given to the name given to a child that could some way have a negative impact on their future lives.
Now I know some people reading this article might be appalled by this argument, and think it is down to snobbery and ignorance that someone could be judged on their christian or first name of a child, but there is some truth behind it. I am not talking about surnames- as that is completely different, but a name such as Shaniqua or Dwayne may be seen differently to a Sarah or David and may hold different connotations for that child or anyone who may interact with such individuals who bear that name.
It doesn’t mean that a ‘Shaniqua’ or ‘Dwayne’ are in any way any less of a being than ‘Sarah’ or ‘David,’ but societal stereotypes may not see it that way. Could it affect the groups you form at school? Could it affect how you feel about yourself, your aspirations, what careers you go on to do? Could this be because as a result of your name, you are subconsciously compartmentalized into a box? I don’t know personally, but what I know is that you don’t often hear of Judge ‘Shelaniaquiakaloria Smith.’
I know it sucks, its ridiculous! You should be able to name your child whatever you like- famous people do!
Gwyneth Paltrow’s daughter is called Apple, Beyoncé names her child Blue Ivy or even the recent North West of Kimye! But these famous people are just that, ‘famous!’ They don’t live ‘normal’ or ‘average’ lives nor will their children, so they can name their children the most ridiculous-sounding names ever fully knowing that this will not harken their prospects of career or financial securities.
I recall a parent who was surprised when I identified her children from a list of names when I was doing voluntary work one summer. I was looking for two children aged 7 and 4 by the name of Kelis and Rihanna. I looked around the room and saw two girls who were about these ages and called them directly. Mum was surprised that I had looked at her and her family and called them from a room filled with other children, especially as I had never met them before. She then asked me, how did I know that it was them, ‘Is it because they are black?’.
I was a bit taken aback by this statement, as it didn’t consciously come into my mind in the slightest. I as far as I was concerned, I was looking for firstly a) 2 girls in a family sitting together and b) children about the age of 8 and 6! My response to mum, was just this.
Then I thought about it afterwards and I reflected. Did mum have a sense of guilt for having named her children names that could potentially stereotype them? (not to mention that they are current musicians names) Were they easily identified as being ‘black’ by other people/establishments based on their names? Was it that thought that caused Mum to be on the defensive?
I know that this article will cause controversy, as did an argument on ITV’s this morning where there was a discussion about children’s first names and how that may affect them:
When I was researching children’s names, there were numerous websites that actually listed names for potential Professionals, or future laywers, future doctors and achievers. It is extraordinary! So much time and effort can go into choosing a name for your child! But if you see these lists, they all filled with traditional names. Doesnt that say something?
However, then again, who would have thought Barack Obama would be the President of the United States? Or that Oprah Winfrey would be one of the most successful black women in modern times? You don’t hear of many Oprah’s or Baracks on a regular basis!
I guess for any innocent new child who doesn’t get a chance to choose their name they are given, their potential in life is much bigger than the name that is on their birth certificate. And the same can be said whether they grow up in deprivation or go to an underperforming school- it doesn’t mean that you are destined to fail. This I am certain of. But could a name given to an individual improve one’s start in life?
What do you think?