Lyndon Narita, Novato, CA. After assisting a customer over the phone, they commented that my name, Lyndon, was a nice and uncommon name. They asked if my family was originally from Europe. When I explained that I’m Japanese-American…well, you know what they said. I still don’t know what a typical Japanese-American is supposed to sound […]
Sonja Racquel Bradley, Flagler Beach, FL. When I was a child, I confess that I hated my name. Of all the ‘s’ names my parents could have picked, why this one? Why not Sabrina, or Sasha? At the very least, they could have utilized the “normal, American” way of spelling it: Sonia or Sonya. But […]
Lise (rhymes with ‘please’), Austin, TX. My 6-word essay was originally “What kind of name is that?”– a question (both the polite and impolite versions) I’m regularly asked. My answer is something like this: “Well, my last name is Indian (yes, like from India)–sort of. My father’s family is from India, but the name changed […]
Lyn Franklin Hoyt, Nashville, TN. I’m on a search, a journey for words, to figure out how my family heritage can be used for good to heal atrocities, rather than become a memory of evil. Not to hide that evil, but face it head on as recognition slavery was wrong and to talk about what […]
Stephen Yarger, Reynoldsburg, OH.
Victoria, Salem, OR. As a biracial person, people often ask me, “what ethnicity are you?” – aka what race can I define you as? People who first meet me will ask me this question without ever asking for my name. They seem to only care about what I am not who I am. However, I […]
Dave Hall, Brooklyn, NY. I get my name from my Yankee (English-American) father, whose ancestors arrived in Boston in 1630 but I get my complexion from my Arab-American mother. People do a double take when they first meet me after only hearing my voice on the phone. And new friends quickly learn that I am […]
Malcolm Gin, Berkeley, CA. My Dad is Chinese and 86 years old. He was stationed in the Pacific Theater during World War II, fighting on the United States’ side. Nearly got his butt shot off several times for looking and being Asian, by our own side. Lately he was talking about his experiences in the […]
Serena Serrano, Eugene, OR. I grew up in a hispanic house hold and I remember whenever someone would ask me what my name was and I would reply. But when I would tell them my name they would stare for a second at me then my mom and say “oh like the tennis player,” …no […]
Shoshana Snyder, Eugene, OR.
Jack Herrera San Mateo, CA
Karen Plascencia, Los Angeles, CA. Our last names have a lot to disclose about our identity, but often times it is a gateway to preconceive notions of what we should look like and who we must be.
Lashawnda Sanders, Opelika, AL.
Tyrell Joe Grisel, Fort Collins, CO.
Dahway, Submitted via Twitter: @ShadesOfWei.
Mariah Kerry, Auburn, AL.
Ricky Sanchez, Sanger, CA. My full name is Ricardo Juan-Ignacio Sanchez. I go by Ricky because I am afraid of people judging me for my name. When someone calls me by my full name at the DMV or somewhere else, I get a lot of weird stares and looks at me. If people look at […]
Keryann Ladouceur, Elmont, NY. Monmouth University
Blanca Soto, Hemet, CA. I grew up in a community that was composed of mostly white people. Every time someone would ask my name they would go on to say doesn’t that mean white? Yes! I would reply. Mostly likely laughs would follow and the oh so unique question of “why would your parents name […]
Dwayne Lee Fries, Columbus, OH. My name is Dwayne, and I’m white. Hi Dwayne! I was unwittingly named Dwayne. Two weeks before my taking over an inner city restaurant as a General Manager, my name was on a schedule. I heard all the stories of how everyone was like, “finally, we got a brother in […]
Kyle McDonald NC A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I got in an argument about race and sensitivity that started from watching football, of all things. I mentioned something about the fact that, if you think about it, the team the Washington Redskins is pretty offensive. His thought was “who cares?”. “People these […]
Harmony, Titusville, FL. Having been born in the 70’s, my parents gave me a pretty groovy name. I love my name! But people make a lot of assumptions about me because of it. Mostly they assume I’m going to end up being either “Overly black” or “Overly white” because of it. I’ve had people conducting […]
Maggie Trela, Denver, CO. I was visiting California for Christmas when I was about 5 or 6, when I asked my grandma why we called my great-grandmother “LoLa”. She then explained to me that my LoLa was what they called great-grandma’s in the Philippines. I knew what the country was but I didn’t know what […]
Rafael Rosato, Berwyn, PA. This is my college graduation picture from 1988. I received a bachelor of arts degree from an Ivy League University and a short while later was traveling to New York to join a management training program at a prestigious Wall Street Bank. There were 34 of us in that class and […]
Brenda Villa, Salt Lake City, UT.
Walter T. Pearson, Jacksonville, FL. I’m a black man, of many various ethnicities, Fifth American generation, from a family of military veterans,including my children who are currently serving in the Afghanistan region wars. I have no relatives from Africa (that I know of),so I wonder WHY must anyone that is not white, have to be […]
Debby Carter, Loomis, CA. I knew the word was meant to annoy or anger me, but it just sounded silly. His face changed from angry to unsure, and I exited the elevator, laughing all the way.
Larry Taylor Webster, TX Six words which could have saved a young man’s life.
Rebecca Robrahn, Holland, MI. No matter how much I try to learn and read and participate in conversations, I’m told I can’t understand, will never understand, that my privilege blinds me. I know I can never truly feel the experience of living in America as a black, Asian or Latina woman, but I *AM* trying. […]
Latoya Baerlocher-Turner, Newport News, VA. It’s fun watching people attempt to imagine my face from my name. My first name is notably of African American origin, but my last name tells a different story, so people don’t know what to expect. And it’s always the same vice versa when people who’ve met me, learn my […]
Raed Abdel-hadi Charleston, WV Everyone’s afraid of the other SIDE.
Anyssa Strauss, Temple City, CA.
Kevin Browne , Submitted via Twitter: @drbrowne #TheRaceCardProject “Black Boy” for Michele by: Kevin A. Browne I was grateful; granny was prophetic, almost making me out of clay, caressing my tar with old love. black before it was a color. we come from an oily family, our skins sticky to the touch. we, who gushed […]
Xochitl Tovar, Riverside, CA. Growing up, my name was my worst enemy. Not only did my fellow schoolmates give me a hard time about it, but my teachers made it difficult for me as well. I became accustomed to spelling it out and pronouncing it for the comfort of others, which would turn into a […]
Edvige Kromayer Barrie, Clinton, NY. Growing up in the ’50s, I was unaware that most people had no idea how to pronounce my name and were therefore reluctant to call on me in class or say hi to me on the playground. At the beginning of kindergarten, one kid even asked if I was a […]
Kimberly Jackson, New York City, NY, Most people do not associate the name “Kimberly Arlene Jackson” with a half-Vietnamese, half-White American person. The surprise is often hard to hide.
Alex Weitz, Lakeland, FL. It is because I play soccer (that’s also six words)
Eve Lopez, Arcata, CA. When I tell people my name, they don’t hear it. They hear “Eva,” because of the “a” that is often at the end of Latina first names. This only happens with white people. And even after I’ve met someone multiple times, sometimes they will still call me “Eva” when they see […]
Trish Broome Baltimore, MD My father is white and my mother is Korean, so I grew up with my father’s last name, Smith. On the first day of teaching orientation they called my full name, Patricia Smith, so I raised my hand. I clearly remember the woman sitting next to me say, “You’re Patricia Smith? […]
Dov Kawamoto Woodbridge, VA
Jill Damatac, Brooklyn, NY.
Anonymous Kennewick, WA Being Latina, with a white name, but in knowledge of my Latino surname. I try to be supportive of my friends with their biracial and transracial adoptions, but it is so hard. I have suffered and struggled so much with my identity. People have such good intentions, but the children suffer. Then, […]
Nina Martin Phoenix, AZ I am quietly proud of my multiracial background: my mother is Chinese, and my father is half German, half American. I also look absolutely nothing like my mother, save for straight hair and slightly tanner skin. While never a negative issue, this has led to some interesting situations since the time […]
Jose, Sanger, CA. My name is Jose im 17 years old as a child growing up in school I was called by Joe by my peers. Ever sense kindergarden my teachers and friends called me Ioe I never knew why until now. I’m a Mexican-American but my skin color is more on the lighter side. […]
Vicki Parrish, San Jose, CA. My engineering graduate student from India had the family name, Mohammed. He is in the top of his software engineering class but couldn’t get an internship although all his Indian classmates did. I suggested that he only put his first and middle name on his resume. Within a week he […]
Shonda Kay Purvis, Green Cove Springs, FL. I have had to rebrand myself and change my name because “Shonda K. Purvis” (and her “BLACK” resume) doesn’t get job interviews, but SK Purvis (and “his” “WHITE” resume) does. (By the way, I am a Caucasian female. You thought I was black, didn’t you?)
Duryan Bhagat-Clark, Aberdeen, NJ. My father is an immigrant from Bombay, India. He moved here to go to college and graduate school. He is Muslim. While working at Rutgers University he met my mother; she is Jewish. They were married within a year. As I often joke, I know there will never be peace in […]
Fiona Hinkulow, Renton, WA. and I’m not adopted!!!
Lonna Jo Bowen-AlMoctar, Louisville, KY. I am from a clan of hillbillies in Eastern Kentucky. My family has a swath of land, called Bowen Farms, near Red River Gorge. As long as I can remember, the old cemetery on my family’s land has been called the “slave cemetery”. My Uncle has always kept up with […]
Pablo Chauvin, Portland, OR. My name is Pablo and I’M WHITE. I grew up in a small town in Southern Oregon on a 40 acre commune. My parents are college educated and my Dad was a philosophy major with a never ending thurst for knowledge. So why the name Pablo? Growing up in a small […]
Caitlin Salovich, Kissimmee, FL.
Wendy A. Merritt, Omaha, NE. I heard Jamaal’s story this morning on my way to work and could see the similarities as an African American woman with a “white” name. Not so much anymore, but as a child I was teased for talking and acting “white”, as well. After attending a PWI (Predominantly White Institution) […]
Lora McManus, Altadena, CA. Being transracially adopted (by Caucasian parents) comes with a plethora of advantages and challenges. One of the most common misconceptions that I face on a daily basis is the assumption that I was raised in an Chinese family and speak Mandarin, when actually neither of those are true. Stereotypes are one […]
Anonymous, Canton, MI. As a conscious black man in America, I’m aware of the institutional racism that still exist. I am an educator in the urban community and have seen some names that will hinder some of my students from getting picked out of the pile of resumes. I’m thankful my parents named my brother […]
Andi Ray Bartnek, Canada. I grew up in a household with 4 generations of females and have spent my whole life having to justify my name and my sex. Part of me liked being different, the rest of me hated having to argue over who and what I was. That hasn’t changed after 67 years.
Nell Haynes, Chile. Sometimes it’s hard being the person that always stands out in a crowd, especially in an impoverished city in the middle of the Chilean desert (the driest place on earth). I get catcalled daily. I’m charged more for public transport and at the market. But I’m always surprised when people ask if […]
Kristina Ogilvie, Arlington, VA. It just struck me, I guess: on paper (i.e. a resume) I am for all intents and purposes a white girl. My name couldn’t be less ethnic, and I’ve had the privilege of getting an amazing education and having experiences that my father (Afro-Panamanian) could only have dreamed of. But I […]
Annie, IN. We just got married about 3 months ago. I am Hmong, and he is white. During some sweet talk, the subject of my surname came up. My husband said, “It’s not [your last name] anymore,” with a smirk. I cried. It was the kind of tears that just came, the kind you cry […]
Jordan Jenkins, Madera, CA.
Yolanda Brantley, Minneapolis, MN. Growing up as a mixed race child in a predominantly white neighborhood in the ’60’s was scarring. I knew I could appear as only “Caucasian” but my name gave me away. So I changed it to hide from everyone.
Jamaal Allan, USA. Listen to Jamaal’s story on NPR’s Morning Edition What’s in a Name? The Poetry Question-Discovering the Relevance of Words As a white male, a majority of majorities, I can’t talk about race. I’m not qualified to. Race isn’t an issue for me, right? Life is easy; things are handed to me. My cup […]
Emily Alfonso, Summerville, GA. Everyone thinks because of my last name, that I am hispanic. But I’m not, I am Italian, Irish, and French.
Danielle Fernandez, Trumbull, CT. I’m Indian, but born in Zimbabwe. I always greet the question of “what is your background?” with a little sigh, and then gear up for the long explanation. Thankfully, in my area, the response is usually “that’s cool.”
Lynea Ramse, Nashville, TN. My name is pronounced La-nee-a. I have been grouped with black girls all my life in settings where people haven’t met me, just seen my name and where I’m from. I didn’t realize until college when all of the girls with “black names” ended up as roommates… People have also asked […]
Susan Riker, Washginton, DC. Freshman year on the 4th floor of the International dorm at Mt Holyoke College.
Scheri-lyn Makombe, IN. My confidence increased when I got married, even more when I graduated from Medical school. I never thought that the addition of ‘Dr.’ and the changing of my name from Green to Makombe would present as a hurdle.
Jamaal Allan, USA. Listen to Jamaal’s story on NPR’s Morning Edition What’s in a Name? The Poetry Question-Discovering the Relevance of Words As a white male, a majority of majorities, I can’t talk about race. I’m not qualified to. Race isn’t an issue for me, right? Life is easy; things are handed to me. […]
Chaka Babarovich, Anacortes, WA. I went to a job interview and the person said, “Wow, you look nothing like what I thought of from your name.”
Athena Scavo, Hornell, NY. I often get this question due to my name being of the Greek mythology background. Often, people assume that I am not Greek, but my parents liked the name or thought I was going to be tough or had some reason why I was named Athena. If you look at me, […]
Emily S., Baltimore, MD. A phrase in Haitian Kreyol which means, literally, “I’m not called ‘White’” or “My name is not ‘White”. It was a phrase I became accustom to shouting back to calls of “Blanc, Blanc, Blanc” everywhere I went, by Haitian children and adults alike. I almost hadn’t noticed my skin color up […]
S. Dews, Northampton, MA. Smith College, Otelia Cromwell Day 2014
Katherine, East Lansing, MI. My last name is very unique. It is a Croatian last name and my mother’s maiden name is Croatian as well. Whenever people ask me about it, it makes me happy because no matter how many times it is misspelled or mispronounced I realize that those aren’t things that matter. My […]
Brian Batayeh East Lansing, MI
Nicole Bodenstein Milwaukee, WI I’m allowed to have a German last name.
Bassey Etim-Edet Washington, DC No, my name is NOT unique or interesting. You’re world is just very small.
Keosha Varela Washington, DC
Patricia Osborn Grand Rapids, MI People are always surprised when they see me. My last name doesn’t. “match” how I look. Although my parents are awesome and didn’t think twice about any of their children’s spouses race , my aunts and uncles made so many comments ranging from me not wanting to be a true […]
Karen Bentwood, TN with me about what her name really was, as opposed to how the professor said it. She would say her name, the professor would butcher it, she would continue to make her points in the class discussion. After class, I decided to talk with her about the interaction. She graciously took the […]
Virginia Avanesyan Silver Spring, MD
Ashley Stefanowicz Hampton, VA
Brooke Cobbin Jacksonville, FL For years, I have been pleasantly surprising people because when they read my name Brooke (Morgan) Cobbin they expect to see a white girl. When they read my essays, my emails…they think I am white. It’s funny to me because of how names are trendy. How many Madisons do you know […]
Inchara Carmel, IN Whenever I met someone new, the first two minutes of our conversation was how to pronounce my name and what it meant. I dreaded roll call when there was a substitute teacher. At times, they’d skip my name entirely, making me feel left out. Both non-Indian and Indian people had trouble pronouncing […]
Elena Rodrigues Houghton, MA Living in a small town in the UP of Michigan and having a fairly Hispanic name can sometimes bring out the worst in people. Sometimes it shows how some people view a person from a different background in a negative way and other times it can be positive. I have been […]
Bang Ang New York, NY People often make jokes about my name. They would ask “did your parents drop pots and pans or something?” or “Did your mom drop her spoon at the hospital to name you that way?” This made me very depressed and feel bad about being Chinese.
Maria Smith San Jose, CA It’s a bizarre little problem to have. Especially in California.
Kelly Grayson, Tukwila, WA. I recall my years of education, all my teachers would call my name and then overlook my hand when I raised it. Repeatedly, they would call me until I said, “I’m right here.” Shocked to see a Black girl with my name (Kelly Grayson), they would treat me more differently than […]
Keenan Manpearl Santa Barbara, CA
Jennifer Lopez Salt Lake City, UT Don’t match your assumptions, that is. It certainly doesn’t help to have the same name as a famous Latina, either. I’m a pale freckled gal from the south, and for a while, south Texas, which was interesting. My dad is from Cuba and my mom is from East Texas. […]
Johnathan Neufeld Canada Throughout my entire life, people have judged me because my last name is German and Jewish. People have simply assumed that I was Jewish, so they always inquired about my religion, even though I’m an atheist, and German, so they’ve inquired about my family history dating back to the World Wars, even […]
Janice Ng Nashville, TN “How do you pronounce that?”
George Joji Hamamoto Colorado Springs, CO
Samantha McFadden New York, NY I grew up outside of New York in a city that was definitely more urban than suburban. I spent the majority of my childhood being referred to as “that white girl” by my classmates. As one of a dozen Caucasian people in my graduating class in high school, you would […]
Michael Decker Austin, TX In Texas, the dominant ethnicities are German and Mexican. Over the past two hundred years, these two have mixed greatly — along with the other ethnicities. It surprises me that more people are not open to the idea that your last name does not define your complete heritage. My last name […]
Kaushik Pattamadai Cherry Hill, NJ I don’t really have many bad experiences with my name or my race in general. I have just noticed this question comes up a lot in interracial interactions even with names with easy syllable arrangements. Interestingly enough for me this question comes up only when I meet someone in person. […]