What a difference a name makes

I watched Michelle Obama’s speech at Tuskegee University, which was so moving, and inspiring! You could feel her passion. Her words just resonated with my soul! It was perfect, she was perfect! The whole speech was incredible!

The part that inspired this post was where she spoke on names being wrongfully being used as the deciding factor in whether you get a job or not, which ultimately segway’s into whether you eat well or not > whether you can provide sufficiently for your family or not > whether you have good health or not > whether you die or not.

The preconceptions / stigma / stereotypes attached to something as simple as a name, especially if it is a black ‘ethnic’ sounding name, is just plain ridiculous and narrow minded.

Why can’t someone name their child Akpofure?

Just because you lack the worldly knowledge to know, or are so comfortable in your privileged that you’re not even bothered to find out that the name is rooted in culture and means “life is peaceful”, little Akpofure will not get a chance! This should not be the case, they should not have to be punished and overlooked because of your ignorance.

My mum made my name up Shelleze (Shel – like a sea shell & leze – rhymes with please) people often ask me if it’s French and combined with my white,  ‘English’ sounding double barreled surname, there is enough mystery for them to actually continue reading my CV and that is terrible!

I currently work in the city, for one of the top 5 reinsurance companies in Europe. Great! and my boss is wonderful! BUT luckily for me, I came through a recruitment agency and thus did not have to interview, so all they had to go on was my white English / French sounding name, my gentrified regenerated post code, which could suggest again that I was white  well off and thus unwittingly read my CV and actually had to take what really matters into consideration – how well my CV was suited for the position!

My first day POW, there I was, in all my blackness. When they saw me, they tried so very hard to hide the shock on their faces. Fake smiles through clenched teeth, as if they wanted to say “Hi, you tricked us! You’re black!” or “Are you sure you’re in the right place?” Later on, it was mentioned that my name intrigued them and they thought it sounded like I was sane / normal??! My name made me sound like a normal person??! What name sounds like a not so normal person??!

A little side note: There are 2 black women (myself incl) and 3 maybe 4 black men working here in a company that spans over 4 floors #justsayin

Since starting as a temp on a 2 week assignment, I have been promoted, had a role created for me and been here almost a year because they can see my work ethic. Now imagine, had I had a different name, they would have just ruled out my CV and missed out on all this awesomeness!

Post codes are also an issue, a few years ago (pre area whitewashing, gentrification, regeneration), I was advised to take my post code off my CV, so people would have less to discriminate on #dafuq

After I finished college, and was trying to join agencies in the city. I was met with institutional racism.

1: After being asked what area I was from, I was told they did not recruit from my area, then he hung up.

2: Mum bought me a suit and took me round agencies in the city, most told me to email and never got back to me. One in particular gave me a list of agencies in my area and told me perhaps I should try those :O ridiculous right? I know! And as a 18 year old with good grades, passion and having seen jobs on the website that I was more than qualified for, I was devastated!

This rhetoric that is spewed about society running on meritocracy and ‘those who work hard WILL succeed’ or ‘I did it, so he can’, is less true for some as opposed to others. How can it be applied, when some are stopped at the first hurdle. Where ever you go, they say, send in your CV but what do you do when you are an intelligent, driven POC with an amazing CV but it is deleted before being read because of racism, racial bias.

My name / area  / skin colour  should not dictate what jobs I can and can’t apply for, neither should it somehow diminish the hard work, late nights, sleepless nights and tears (yes literal tears) that all went into graduating with honors! It should not detract from the amount of varied experience that I have spent years building up.

And just a lil FYI for those looking at CV’s and judging

Here are the names of some of the worst criminals in history!

Jack the ripper

Charles Manson

Adam Lanza

Mark Bridge

Steven Wright

John Wayne Gacy

John Dillinger

Ted Kaczynski

Jeffrey Dahmer

Aileen Wuornos

Harry Roberts

Robert Thompson 10 years old

Jon Venables 10 years old

Donald Neilson



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