The simple question: What is your name? can be so charged.
Having a name like: Mariflor Llanes Medrano made roll call a nightmare at the start of any class. At this point, I usually dream of having a name like Anne Smith. It usually goes down in three different ways:
- I know my name is next on the roll call because whoever has the roster will pause, take a breath, and start sweating. I know they don’t want to butcher my name, but years of conditioning tells them that the likelihood of doing so is high.
- There’s an announcement that they’re going to butcher my name and apologies in advance. Then they don’t try to even say it correctly. Buddy, how did you get the “g” sound in there?…there are no letters that might accidentally get you there!
- They get it right. (And we’re all surprised)
At thirty-something, introducing myself to a bunch of teachers will still bring up that same anxiety. Some individuals with the best of intentions still end up saying some weird things that leave me irritated. Once, I was at a conference with a purpose of creating a more balanced learning environment, especially for students of color. The keynote speaker informed me that I was pronouncing my name incorrectly. The speaker told me to be proud of my Hispanic heritage. I had to give him a quick lesson that Hispanic meant that the country was colonized by Spain. While the Philippines was indeed colonized by Spain, that did not make me necessarily proud of my “Hispanic” heritage, and that I will continue to pronounce my name as my parents intended.
Today, I had to convince a fellow workshop attendee that I was NOT from Mexico. She asked if I was the one from orientation who talked about being from Mexico. I informed her that I could not have been her because 1) I’m not from Mexico and 2) I did not attend orientation. Yet, she insisted that because my skin was brown and that my name is Spanish sounding that I must be from Mexico…because where else could I be from?
History of the Philippines– here’s a quick Wikipedia link.
Anyway, my point is that educators need to be constantly aware of their own cultural biases. If this happened to me, as an adult, I’m sure students experience equally demoralizing conversations. Because let’s face it, no one is asking where Anne Smith is REALLY from.