I’m Not Racist…Really!

I was brought to remember a joke by one of my favorite comedians, Bill Burr, today.  I can’t remember it verbatim, but here’s the paraphrase, “Have you ever noticed how the most racist things you hear, are usually preceded by the phrase, ‘I’m not racist, but…insert radical xenophobic rant here’?”

I thought of the joke because of an event, which I will detail after I make my point, I looked to the girl who works near me and said, “I don’t mean to sound racist, but that’s not the person I was expecting when I heard the name Tanecia.”

At that moment, I realized…I sounded pretty damn racist; mostly because of the bewildered and trapped look the poor girl gave me as a response.  Like she wanted to agree, but was afraid that magical podium Bill Burr always talks about would come out of nowhere and she’d be defending her job, because she’s white and therefore can’t be racist in today’s society.

So without getting into the whole racism vs. reverse racism issue, I will just display my story now…

A gentleman came into the building today and I checked him in, he said he was here to meet with a Ms. Tanecia Brown [real last name withheld].  At this point I, having never met Ms. Brown, so when I called her on the phone to inform her that she had a guests, I had subconsciously created expectations of the person who would come down to receive said guest.

Five minutes later, when a small-framed brunette that looked, at darkest, like a Northern Italian came out and shook his hand saying, “Hi, I’m Tanecia,” I was at a bit of a loss, mentally.

Now aside from the fact that my spell-check is coughing up blood from that last run-on paragraph, we come to the racist bits.  I heard the name Tanecia, and I imagined a black woman.  I heard her voice and I imagined a small-framed black woman.  Instead, I got a small-framed white woman.

It got me thinking about other names that are very ethnic.  Some of them are unjust, but some of them are good examples of stereotypes gone right.  If you hear a guy named Stanislov, you’re going to expect a guy with a Russian accent.  Likewise if you walk into the German embassy in Washington D.C. and shake hands with the ambassador, you’re going to be very confused when he says, “Guten Tag, my name is Ushigi Hachiro.”  And go ahead and do a Google Image Search for Tanecia Brown, tell me what you find; I’ll bet it’s a bucnh of blakc women and one white chick.

Let’s take a look at one celebrity in particular to cause this phenomenon: Queen Latifah.  Now when she became a prominent black actress, comedian, singer/rapper Latifah became a popular name for black people to name their daughters.  This is why I find it hilarious when black people hate Muslims.  Latifah is a traditional Muslim name for a girl.

We can also go back to the crusades where my name first became popular and famous…the King of England was named Richard…Richard the Lion-Hearted.  Actually it should be Ricard Couer de Leon; he wasn’t even English, he was French.  But because it was the King of England’s name, they adopted it.  Since the French Ricard, spelled without the ‘h’, is pronounced Ree-shard, the English bastardized it to Ritch-Hard and spelled it as thus: Richard.

So we arrive at a group of people who hate the French and have begun naming their children a semi-popular (at the time) French name.  There ended up being more English people named Richard then there were French people named it, before the Coeur de Leon came around.

I’d thought of some other ethnic sounding names, too; without getting into the debate about putting ‘eesha’ on the end of things to make it sound like a black name.  Y’know, like the parents who named their daughter Toprameneesha, because they were loved Ramen Noodles?  Look at the name… Top Ramen Eesha.  Tyrone for a black man, Rodrigo for a Latino, Hung for a Chinese guy, and Hamlet for a Danish prince.

All of those names sound ethnic, but I’ve seen them in non-ethnic forms.  I went to school with a white guy name named Tyrone, he goes by T.J. (his middle name is John).  I know a black man named Rodrigo, and the weird thing is he doesn’t have any Latin ancestors, his parents just liked the name Roger and wanted to give him something ‘special’ for a name; as expected he goes by Roger.

I know a white man who goes by the name Hung, and not because of Chinese ancestry, but because he thinks having a name like Hung (his real name is Howard) will let him get laid more often; but he actually signs things as Hung Lastname, instead of Howard Lastname.  The sad thing is that his last name isn’t Johnson, because Hung Johnson is a porn star’s name, no matter how you look at it and that would have made his paycheck endorsements hilarious.

And finally Hamlet…which is a black girl’s name.  Her father loved Shakespeare and when she was born, he named her Hamlet.

So remember, stereotypes are right sometimes, but wrong others.  The important thing is to be open-minded and hate all people equally because of justified paranoia, like germophobia or greed.

Or y’know…love all mankind or some hippy crap like that.

~RCS

By the way, funny moment of the day was editing this to find I’d accidentally called Queen Latifah a singer/raper in the first draft of this post.

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