L'quisha. Ebony. Jamal. Tyrese. What do these names have in common? Well, they're stereotypically "black" names. Or, as some people refer to them: "ghetto."
Another thing names like those have in common? They're subjected to racism.
A man in California conducted an experiment where he dropped one letter from his name on his resume, switching from "José" to "Joe," to see if he'd finally get interviews. He did. And it wasn't an accident — racial bias derived from a person's name is very real.
Despite black names usually stemming from cultural roots, those with them face an uphill battle. While she was pregnant, New York Times writer Nikisia Drayton worried about whether she should give her son a traditional black name. She wrote:
As an African-American woman, my personal experience with my own name makes me fully aware of the "black name dilemma." My first name, Nikisia (more usually spelled Nikisha and pronounced Nakeesha) originated in India and means "beautiful." But at a young age I learned that my name was more synonymous with "black girl."
Instead of slinking away from these names, artist Sha'Condria "iCon" Sibley wants to reclaim them. And she wants other little girls with "ghetto names" to do the same.
In a video, shot by Warren Dossman Jr., iCon turns the notion of "ghetto names" on its head using a slam poem.
"This here poem is for all the little black girls with big names. The -shas and -ishas the -anas and -iquas who are told to never write their name on applications."
"Because we live in a nation where a name can tell your race or social status. 'Cause they think only dumb Ghetto folk overuse the alphabet."
"They chalk it up to literacy never creativity or maybe even history."
"I guess as long as people continue to judge and discriminate against others based on names (and not just "ghetto" names, but "different" names altogether ... names that make certain people cringe) this poem will continue to be relevant," she wrote in a Facebook update.