Since I wrote my memoir, Kinky Gazpacho, it's no secret that growing up I was called all kinds of names by other Black kids who questioned my authentic Negro experience. I was called Oreo, I was accused of acting/talking/dressing White all the time. It annoyed me to no end and took the better part of 10 years to figure out how my life experience fit into THE Black experience. But by age 30, I was feeling pretty Black. I was comfortable in my Black skin and I defied anyone to tell me that just because I couldn't use the verb 'fixin' properly in a sentence, that I wasn't really Black.
So imagine my surprise, as I approach the second half of my life, I am told that I have a White girl name. Yes, now I have been informed that my name, especially the way I spell it, is very Caucasian-like. Black girls aren't named Lori, apparently. Is this true? Have I finally made peace with my African heritage only to discover that my name doesn't mesh with my ethnic identity?
The funny thing is, the reason this name thing came up is because my Whatrugear.com business partner is named Tesia. That's pronounced Tee-sha. Rhymes with Keisha. Even before she met me, Tesia had been accused of having a Black girl name. Tesia is White. And now that we're business partners -- spreading the word about identity politics no less -- people have informed us that our names should have been reversed. People meet us and assume I must be Tesia and she Lori. Even after they meet us, they still call me Tesia and her Lori. Then they laugh as if we had planned this funny joke with our names. This has happened on numerous occasions to the point that I'm now wondering, did my parents give me a White girl name?
Not wanting to jump to conclusions, I did some research on official African-American girl names and, sure enough, Lori was nowhere on the list. In the "L" category, names like La-Teesha, Latoiya, and La'Wanda appear, but no Lori, not even a Laurie. You can see for yourself here on the official list.
So, what to do? I suppose it's not too late to head down to the courthouse and apply to change my name to La'Wanda. As a child I did always yearn for a more exciting name than Lori. When I was nine, I thought Oswald Davis was an awfully cool name, but that probably wouldn't help me now. And of course since I've written three books under the name Lori L. Tharps, I suppose I should keep that name for professional purposes. Oh, well.
What do you think Meltingpot readers? Is there such thing as a Black or White name? What does a name do for you as far as identity branding? Have any good stories of your own?