At least that’s what I think Betty Brown’s request to the Asian-American community was. Shorten your names, she says, so it’s easier for the rest of us to pronounce. How about learn to pronounce their names, Betty? It’s not as though American names are necessarily easy to pronounce if the people trying to pronounce them weren’t raised among people with those names.
I was born and brought up in New York, and in every single year of schooling, had to deal with a handful of colorful attempts at pronouncing my name. I didn’t give myself a nickname, though most of my friends did (and many were longer than my real name), and I didn’t Anglicize any part of my name (even though going from Saroj to Sarah isn’t a huge jump in letters). I love my name, I love what it means, I love its distinctively Hindu flair, and I won’t change it for anything just like I won’t change anything else about myself to meet someone else’s inability to pronounce my name and/or compromise with my cultural background.
Changing one’s name, especially from say, something Chinese or Sanskrit to something European, may not be a big deal for some people. Some people choose names that aren’t necessarily “part” of their culture, because the name sounds pretty or the meaning of the name is deep. That’s fine, since it is after all, a voluntary decision. Yet for me, being forced to change one’s name is akin to cultural castration. For me, it’s more than a change in name, it’s a change in identity. How would I be viewed if my name was forcibly changed to Sarah, and how would I view myself?
Betty, how about I ask you to change your name to say…Bhagyalakshmi. It’s certainly easier for some Indians to pronounce, and I know Texas has a lot of Indians. Your district also has a fair percentage of Hispanic people, a name change to Beatriz would certainly be appreciated by them. Perhaps, Bao-Zhai or another East-Asian name, to appease the Asian-American population not just in Texas, but around the country, that you have so offended.
Do you see how a name change can change more than just a few letters on a driver’s license or another piece of ID? Try learning to pronounce the names of your constituents, diverse though they may be, and take another step towards fully appreciating the melting pot that is American society.