Thinking about names again (it seems to be a theme at the moment), last week Laurie Taylor interviewed @NasarMeer (Professor of Race, Identity and Citizenship at #EdinburghUni) on #ThinkingAllowed on #Radio 4 about what he calls ‘micro-aggression’. How should one respond to that seemingly innocuous (but actually somewhat offensive) question: ‘Where are you really from?’ And what do you do when you, a black (British) person are congratulated on your English, or when someone seems to have trouble pronouncing your unfamiliar but fairly straightforward name?
This was highlighted quite starkly at a conference I recently attended. An acquaintance of mine, not born in this country, was interviewing an author. After several preliminary meetings, interviewer and interviewee had put together a more or less mutually acceptable set of questions. And then, during the live interview in front of an audience, the author asked his interviewer, just as they were about to begin: “Oh, sorry, just put me straight please. How should I pronounce your name?” Thus instantly making it quite clear that while he was British born and bred, his interviewer was most definitely a foreigner, an outsider. This despite several preliminary meetings at which he could easily have clarified the issue.
On the other hand, as I said in my previous post about ‘unusual names’ and my previous workshop participant Harshine Wikramanayake, having an unusual name can make you memorable. And that’s no bad thing in our overcrowded lives. It’s by no means simple. You can hear the Radio 4 programme at http://bbc.in/2pnaLQs