My excitement for receiving an award for “Best Editorial” was too real when our Editor-in-Chief first announced it via our Facebook page. I was too juiced to even do any work on my master’s Research Project for that night.
Once the category for “Best Editorial” came up at the California Collegiate Media Awards (CCMAs) on Feb. 20 , I received an Honorable Mention for it. So, what’s the problem here?
It was the moment when the announcer couldn’t pronounce my name. In my mind I was thinking, “Okay, that’s fine. This happens all the time.” But the pause was about 10 seconds too long, and they decided to just say “…and the award goes to….The Campanil.” I immediately took the award with my RBF (Resting B—h Face) and went back to my hotel room.
I wanted to tweet the hashtag “#ACPSoWhite” after that moment so badly, but I couldn’t really back what just happened as overt racism at all. Maybe that announcer wanted to save face and not have his tongue and vocal cords work together and butcher my name. At the same time…it was still wrong.
Having a name like mine, mispronunciation and confusion comes with the territory. Since I was five, I’ve gotten terrible pronunciations of my name, nicknames resulting from its “difficulty,” and people actually changing my name because they couldn’t pronounce it. Even my first professor from my Italian classes changed my name to “Camilla” because it was just too difficult for her to just try and say my name.
My name follows a long fight about African-American names, diversity and assimilation in the United States. Even my chances of getting a job after graduation are probably slim to none with a name like mine. According to a 2009 article in the New York Times, research showed that people with supposed “Black” names even get fewer callbacks than those with “normal” names (i.e. Alice, Paul, or Mary), even with great credentials and potential.
Because of studies like these, it fuels such problematic issues for Black people such as internalized racism, insecurities and a continued “racial caste system” that even fuels stupid debates about Black names on Reddit.
So what does that say about me or anyone else in my position?
Because of the flack that comes with my name, I’ve fought with myself about giving only my initials on resumes and even changing my name to something more conventional since I was 17.
Now that I’ve had time to meditate on these decision, I refuse to change it. I will correct someone who incorrectly pronounces my name, and if there is someone that wants to completely change my name or not even attempt to say it, I will walk away then and there. For those with beautiful names like mine, hold it with regard.
Hold it with the same love like in this line from poet Warsan Shire: “Give your daughters [or sons] difficult names. Give your daughters names that command full use of the tongue.”