Dear Raven-Symoné, I am not my name

Photo: @ravenysymone Instagram
Photo credit: @ravenysymone Instagram

I don’t believe Raven-Symoné can say anything to surprise us at this point. This is coming from someone who was a huge fan of hers growing up and when she resurfaced on the scene as an adult. As of late, she’s been doing more talking and less acting. I’m pretty convinced that she does and says a lot of things for shock value and to remain the topic of conversation. She does that pretty well.

“The View” recently aired an episode where she and her fellow co-hosts discussed study findings that revealed that Americans discriminate those with nontraditional names. Raven-Symoné didn’t waste any time sharing her thoughts. She made it clear that she would not hire anyone named Watermelondrea, for example. That name was a bit much. Still, she wouldn’t hire a person based on their name being nontraditional or otherwise, “ghetto.”

This stance is the primary reason I stopped using my first name. I was tired of correcting people or being annoyed each time it was mispronounced. On top of that, I feared that it would be difficult for me to get a job with my given name on my resume. I’m not alone as many  have done the same. On the flip side, I know many with nontraditional names who proudly use them in their careers. It’s all about personal preference.

My first name is Chanetha, pronounced Sha-nee-the, I’ve been called everything from Chante, to Shanetta to Shantice. When you have a nontraditional name, people struggle to pronounce it. I went from defending the pronunciation of my name to hating it altogether. I still don’t like it, but I’ve learned that the name doesn’t define who I am, or who I will be in life.

My parents gave me this name long before they knew or cared who or what I’d grow up to be. I’ve carried this name through elementary school and excelled without a problem; in high school when I tested into, and graduated from one of the top high schools in the city of Chicago. It remained the same through undergrad, graduate school and although I don’t use it professionally, it’s still my legal name to this day.

I made the choice to omit my first name professionally, but no one should be forced to do that. Whether my name is Carol or Carashika, I should have the same opportunities as anyone else who meets the qualifications of a position.Raven-Symoné has a nontraditional name. Her views on the matter are disingenuous. I honestly feel that hyphens and unnecessary accents don’t belong in names, but I wouldn’t skip over a qualified candidate because of it. Like many, I am not my name and never will be.

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