I have a “white” name. When it is put on an application without any other background information, many people would assume that I am white. I am not white. My white name does not define me just as culturally sounding names do not define anyone else. When you stereotype someone because of their name from whatever perspective — class, race, or sex included — you are ending any opportunity to get to know that person further because you have already decided who they are for yourself. People with names that are not of the “norm” face damaging consequences.
In September, the Huffington Post and Buzzfeed commented on a job seeker who dropped one letter from his name while applying for jobs (sending between 50 and 100 a day), and the responses rushed to him. He went from José Zamora to Joe Zamora. He did not change any of the details on the résumé, and his experience remained the same. However, with that name change, he effectively whitewashed himself.
Studies have shown that despite the online efforts made by digital job applications, it is exactly the opposite. Also, employers subconsciously — sometimes consciously — discriminate against names that sound black or Latino or have extensive affiliations with black or Latino companies and organizations. You’ve got to “calm down the blackness” as one person the New York Times quoted said.
“Calming down the blackness” means denying who you are, what you are, and where you came from – something that only people of color have to do. No one else has to constantly prove their worth or downplay parts of who they are. In a way, this is similar to the scene in Roots where slave Kunta Kinte is being whipped repeatedly until he said that his name was Toby – the name that his master had picked out for him.
Subconsciously or not, there is no excuse in judging someone by their name. Names are not all-encompassing to a person; they are the beginning. People have feelings. Make the conscious decision to get to know them because names do not tell you everything.