Not Being Able To Pronounce My Name Is Racist
RACE 10/06/2039 12:08 PM ET
Not Being Able To Pronounce My Name Is Racist
by Nitya Mukhopadhyay

CC BY 4.0 "Rajkishuri, Nirmila, Chadana and Kamla" by Find Your Feet | Writer image: CC BY 4.0 "Isn't She Beautiful ???" by Vinoth Chandar | Images were cropped. Images used for illustration purposes only. Image changes released under the same license as the original.
They are worthy of having their names pronounced correctly.
It happens every time work sends me to a seminar.

You know, one of those tedious conferences where you're expected to pin a little name tag to your clothing, in case people forget the phrase, "Hi, I'm blahblahblah, what's your name?"

Without fail, whenever we break for lunch, a colleague will pull me aside, and the following exchange occurs:

Colleague: Nitya, there's someone I'd like you to meet. He works for fascinating company X.

Me (squinting at name tag of employee of fascinating company X): Hi, Mr Smith.

Mr Smith: Pleased to meet you Ms Mukka- I mean, Muk-opa...er, Muk-pod. Yay.


I've had Mukoday, Mupakdoy, Mukkapakkay, Mudokap and one not-so-hilarious elderly white CEO who decided it would be humorous to settle on "Nitty McDonaldsYay".

I always correct these people even though they're 82.4% male and almost always white. The women try harder than the men, perhaps in a perfunctory effort to be considerate to their gender.

But they almost always end up butchering my last name in such a way that suggests a) cultural and ethnic ignorance, and b) indifference.

I mean, it can't be that difficult to read syllables.

I have little direct experience with Russian culture, but I like to read and I don't just mean Geoff Stormwood. So I read Dostoyevsky. Pushkin. Tolstoy. Lermontov. Bulgakov. I watch foreign films, including those from Russia. There is a Russian who runs a bakery near me, and I make a point to ask him about where he's from.

So boom! I have some experience pronouncing Russian names.

From my experience though, white people don't generally have the same inquisitiveness. It just doesn't reach past their own culture. If you're not a Jones, Roberts, or Schneider, they just don't care enough to be able to pronounce your name correctly.

Oh sure, they'll go to Indian restaurants (but even then the sheer butchery that occurs when they try to read the menu...), but try to get a white person to go to a Bollywood movie and just hear the cries of torture. Or try to get them to listen to an Indian radio station online - it's like you asked them to pull their own toenails out.

The only conclusion I can draw from my experience is racism. Let's all face it - it is a trait of white people to enforce their culture, rather than permit other cultures to grow and thrive. If white culture comes into contact with another, the other must be crushed until it can be fit into a box about as big as your local take-out.

White people: when was the last time you asked the waitress at your favorite Thai restaurant anything about where she was from? When was the last time you read a book written by a Kenyan woman about her country? When was the last time you asked the man running the halal butcher about how his religious beliefs intersect with his adopted country?

White people live in a racial bubble that allows them to only see a small portion of the world as relevant to them - somewhere north and west of Austria (and its derivate culture here in the US). Small allowances will be made for Italians and Spaniards, after all they do look like you. A little.

But ask a white person to go further than that and you're being unreasonable. Well, I'm tired. I'm tired of spelling out my name to every John, Bob, and Tony who can't be bothered paying a little more attention to my name - which is after all, pretty important to me - because their version of diversity involves having a Guiness instead of a Bud.

I'm tired of the intolerance that minimizes my heritage, my culture, and the name my parents handed me.

Non-Hispanic white people are declining in this country (they currently comprise 55.4% of the population) and by next year's census they will be close to occupying an absolute minority in the United States. By 2050 they almost certainly will have slipped under 50%.

What this means is that white culture will have to adapt. It will have to learn to absorb other, non-white cultures and tolerate the fact that their Anglo-German social needs are not paramount in this nation of immigrants. They'll have to learn that non-white people matter.

They'll have to learn to pronounce my name.

(For the record, it's Moo-Kor-pahd-yay.)
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