Names are one of the most personal outlets for expression that people have. But anyone who’s had a teacher stumble over their name during roll call knows having an uncommon moniker or one that’s spelled in a non-traditional way can be frustrating.
Black names bear even more of a burden, called out for otherness and drawing discrimination. Resumes with traditionally white names appended get twice the job interview offers than the same resumes using traditionally Black names, multiple studies have shown.
Even technology exacerbates the divide. Spell-check systems in Microsoft and Apple products include most white names, but many Black names are either autocorrected or flagged as misspelled. A new initiative from The Escape Pod is hoping to correct this, by encouraging people to tweet their names to tech companies to add them to online dictionaries, using the hashtag #AddMyName. It’s something individual users can do themselves, but that wouldn't stop someone else’s device from underscoring a Black name as a "misspelling," as will potentially happen when a potential employer opens a job application, for example.
And with the global reach of tech companies often based in the U.S., it's a problem that crosses borders. In 2018, a the #RightMyName initiative from M&C Saatchi Abel in South Africa compiled a downloadable database of non-traditional names and promoted it with a newspaper partnership that underlined those names that apeared in an edition of the paper.