I recently had a thought…”Why don’t I use my first name?”
As I continue to ponder on this question, I thought about how the entire 24 years on this earth, I have never embraced my first name. There is a part of me who wants to embrace it, but I have also never really used it.
My first name is Que’Nisha. It is a more unique name. It does not have any particular meaning or family history behind it. My aunt did name me, and I think maybe she said it came from a dream.
My family does not call me by my first name. I don’t recall my grandmother ever using my first name, and I am unsure if she is able to pronounce me. My sister and I both have unique names, and she has a hard time of assigned which unique names belongs to whom.
In elementary school, I used my first name, and it wasn’t a big deal. However when I reached middle school, I purposefully started telling others to call me Sha. I remember being annoyed as fuck that they (white people) would mispronounce my name. In many of my classes, I was one of the few, if not the only black girl in my honors classes. I was surrounded by all of the Kaylas, and Danielles, and when they got to Que’Nisha, they would stumble. Were they doing that as a micro-aggression? Yes!
At that age, I did not fault white people for it because nobody in my life ever used my name so it was ok that preferred to call me Sha. I even remember being told that my first name was ghetto and being hurt by that but brushing it off because I never used it anyway.
As I continued on my education and even in my professional life, EVERYONE call me Sha. I make a joke, that if you call me Que’Nisha, I probably owe you money.
So I am having this feeling that I am neglecting my first name, but I am unsure of how to fix that. I don’t want to start going by my first name, because I already have name that I like, attached to my identity, but also give my first name the love and respect it deserves.
I think that most of my feelings are stemming from guilt because I did not like my name for some time because I felt that it did too much for no reason. There is an apostrophe and a capital “N” with no real explanation. I feel like I fell into this trap of stripping myself of my unique black name because white people told me it was too difficult for them. I feel some guilt for that. I remember this clip where Uzoamaka Aduba said when she asked to her mother to call her another name and her mother’s response being “If they can learn to say Tchaikovsky and Michelangelo,…then they can learn to say Uzoamaka” I wish I would have seen a clip that like in middle school because that obviously would have changed things for me.
But now, when it comes to my first name, I am going to have to treat it as a middle name. In the sense, that many people go every day without using their middle name but if someone asks; you tell them. I will continue to love my unique name, apostrophes and capital letters and all; and check people who mispronounce it.
My first name is very black and unique, but that does not mean that is it ghetto. The conflict and guilt I have with my first name, are something I will continue to work on internally. The conversation of white people trying to make black people more palatable with micro-aggressions is a continued issue but a conversation for another day. At the end of a very long day, I have two names that make up my identity. (four if you count the middle and last name also.)