//Before I go ahead with the rest of this article, I’d like to highlight that this blog is tracing my thought process from the beginning to an indefinite end. This specific post follows my initial thoughts on the subject, most of which came from a bias that English names were oppressive. While my take on this has changed after speaking to countless people, I do still think it is important to share my initial thoughts on the topic. //
I sat outside on a rare sunny day on a bench in Main Mall with a diary and a pen and scribbled some arbitrary thoughts. I had a lot of questions.
- Why were people from a specific area required to change their names? It was almost as if someone said, “Yeah well, I know you have a name, but it’s really inconvenient for me to pronounce. So why don’t you get a new name?”
- Imagine this: if you (someone from North America) went to an East Asian country, would you change your name? Probably not. Why is that?
It’s because you’re not expected to. So why is it that people from certain areas are expected to change their names to fit into another society? My issue was not that people were adopting English names, my objection was with this one way expectation— that they were expected to do it. This expectation reflects an internalized attitude and inherent power dynamics.
- In my understanding, a name sits at the core of one’s identity. Isn’t expecting someone to adopt a new name sort of changing that identity in some way?
- I have an analogy. You’ve probably heard of micro aggressions. An example of racial micro aggressions would be: “Wow, you’re really pretty for a black girl” or asking someone “But where are you originally from?” These micro aggressions take place all the time, and while some people might not see these comments as a problem, they can be extremely offensive to others.
In the same way, let’s think of a micro oppression. I have some examples: “You play football like a girl” or this, for example:
Little comments or actions like these can be extremely oppressive and reflect an internalized power dynamic. It reveals a colonial attitude of ethnocentrism and superiority, where one party (the more powerful one) attempts to force the other party to conform to the former’s ideals and in a way makes them feel like they are not good enough. One of my anthropology professors once said that the central tactic of colonialism was to diminish people by attempting to “correct the essence of their being”. While most people may not see the micro oppression behind English names, I definitely feel there’s a power structure at play.
// These were some of my initial thoughts on the topic, and like I said, I approached this with a bias that these names were oppressive. However, as I did more research and spoke to more people, I realised that the situation is complicated and not as one-sided as I initially thought it to be. More content to follow! //