In elementary, I decided at school that I would go by the name my family calls me…Becky. This was the nickname I’m called because of my middle name. This name assisted in me also being called “white” as well. If you remember reading A Type of Different Pt.1″acting like a white girl”, I explain how I was told that I spoke and acted like a white girl. Well, my name didn’t help at all. It just added more fuel to my white flames. When my family moved to another state, I decided to go by my birth name, Katherine. This was to end any name confusion with my school records. But, oh yeah, Katherine, like Becky, is a “white name” too. It didn’t matter that I was named after my black grandmother. None of my names would ever be black enough. Not even my last name could alert anyone to my race. It was “iffy”. It was racially ambiguous; so I could be black or white or possibly Asian.
I noticed during this time that most of the names my black female classmates had seemed to rhyme… Felicia, Iesha, LaToya, LaTanya, LaTasha, Kendra, Valeria, Shayna, Shawna, LaQuander (with the silent r on the end, and pronounced la-quan-duh), Kenya, Nyeisha, Dametria, DeShaunte’(pronounced de-shawn-tay), Quanasier (pronounced quaw-nay-see-ir) etc. None of my names could compete with the blackness in those strong African-esque names. I can just smell the African Jollof being made when I say those names. I can hear the lions roaring and the antelope running in fear across the African Savannah. I can see the Meerkats, crying out the alarm that a cheetah is nearby. I can see the eyes of a giraffe peeking through the tall trees…too much? Okay, moving on…. I liked my name, but I would sometimes wonder why my mom just couldn’t name me something else. A name like the many black girls I would encounter, that ended with an -uh or an -ay sound. Again, I just wanted to blend in. My name also made me a type of different.
By the time I was a junior year in high school, I didn’t care if I was teased for my name. I had begun to find a strength in myself, and I was finally proud of wearing the name Katherine. Sadly, my grandmother’s recent passing also caused me to no longer care if my name wasn’t racially appealing or expected, by the ignorant many. One guy tried to tell me, that it was too white. My response to him was, “…and Lewis is considered just a black name? Katherine will be fine. If it’s too long for you to say, you can call me Kat”. My grandmother was lovingly called Kat, by family, friends, and associates, and I didn’t mind being reminded of her in this way. Once some friends heard my mom calling me Becky, and…let’s just say the rapper Sir Mix-A-Lot was brought up a lot. There’s a lot of irony regarding me and his most popular song. #insidejokes Most importantly, none of these classmates cared about my name. They dug me for me.
In college, there were times when I told my name to some people, and I could see the look of surprise on their face. I’ve only seen this with my vanilla brothers and sisters. They try to hide it, but it’s always in their eyes…. I remember back in 2005 when I was student teaching. I decided to meet the teacher I would be mentored by early, so we could put face to name before our first day together. I went to the school and introduced myself to her. “Hi, I’m Katherine ________. Nice to meet you!” Her eyes and her face gave it away. She hesitantly responded back, with a polite hello and name introduction. Inside I laughed at her shock of finding out that Katherine can be a black girl’s name too.
About a year later, I was working at a credit union. One of the loan officers was named LaBlenda. Every time she would assist someone, they would ask her if her parents made her name up. She would politely say “yep” and proceed with asking the customer what they needed. She was a white lady whose name wasn’t Sarah or Jennifer or any stereotypical “white name”. She wasn’t supposed to have such a, let’s just say, “creative” name like LaBlenda. That was for someone that looked more like me right? One day, I jokingly told her, “The way society is, we should switch names”. She laughed and told me how she always received stares when she would reveal her name. She told me how some would be bold enough to say, “Wow, your parents didn’t care about you when they named you did they”. She would reply back saying, “Actually they did care and wanted to give me a name they knew no one else would ever have and would never be forgotten”. Her name is one of the few names I remember from working there.
Now that I am married and use my husband’s surname, I still get those surprise looks. People expect a 90 year old white lady to be smiling and shaking their hand, but nope. It’s just me! Bronze skinned with my kinky, curly, coily hair reaching high into the heavens. My name is no longer racially ambiguous…It really doesn’t “match” the skin I’m in, but apparently it never did. I will never hear my name in a song about all the pretty girls being invited to a party or in Mambo #5, because Katherine is also not a commonly popular name, but that’s okay. I just add it to those songs on my own. Like my name and my namesake, I’m classic and beautiful. No matter anyone’s ignorant assumptions about what my name should be. I am wonderfully, a type of different.
Oh yeah, Thank you Na-Na for forcing, I mean, strongly encouraging my mom to name me after you. Thank you mom and dad for complying with it. This has made me a type of different.
Thank you for reading my post. Please like, comment, and subscribe to be notified of my posts.
Click below to Read Part 1: A Type of Different “acting like a white girl”
Click below to Read Part 2: A Type of Different “black bitch”
Featured image from CNN.com