Continually mispronouncing someone’s name is lazy at best and malicious at worst. And too often, the names that are regarded as “too difficult” to learn belong to people of color.
This is one of the most ridiculous articles I have seen in a long time.
My first name is Michael. I am quite light-skinned but not “white” — nobody is. I invite any so-called “whites” to go to a paint store and hold your finger up to a color chart. Nobody will ever be totally white, just as nobody will ever be totally black.
With that out of the way, let me say that – and I will use the term “white” only for convenience – “white” English speakers in Australia, England, Scotland, Ireland, and America will not pronounce my name the way I pronounce it as a Canadian. This is due to cultural differences.
Now, when I was a grad student in India, my name Michael was pronounced and even spelled by most non-“white” Indians another way:
Mikel (pronounced Myy-Kel).
Did I take offense that the spelling and pronunciation differed from my own Canadian usage?
Of course not.
I actually found it endearing.
Later in the 90s while doing my doctorate at the University of Ottawa (very near the province of Quebec), many students and staff from Quebec with French as their first language had yet another take on how to pronounce my name. Sometimes they just said “Michel” (pronounced Mi’shell).
Did I mind?
Again, of course not.
Today in Canada 2020 I hear my name pronounced a variety of ways. This is because Canada is so far ahead of most other countries with regard to immigration, I interact with non-“whites” pretty much on a daily basis. And believe me, the pronunciation of my name varies as much as the different countries from which immigrants arrive. Sometimes the entire English language is pronounced so differently in Canada that it makes simple things like making appointments or sorting out income tax issues challenging.
Do I freak out?
I simply try my best to communicate, realizing that language is a very fluid, flexible thing.
So the kind of one-way hypersensitivity that I see in this CNN article to me, I hate to say, seems like a total joke. Actually worse than that. It is racist because it singles out one apparent group instead of understanding that almost everyone speaks a little or a lot differently.