An Odd Heiress: Thoughts from a black girl with a strange name.

Weird. Adj. Different from the standard or norm. Atypical; freaky.
I’ve always been “different.” The outcast. And finally… after many years and tears; my heart, mind, body, are all on one accord with my name. Eris. The name my mother gave me in honor of my father. Eric. Growing up… it wasn’t an easy road to be an Eris, especially when I had a lisp and could barely pronounce it myself. Getting mistaken for a boy, or being called Erica, Paris, Eric, Harris, Erin, Iris, or Edris, I’ve had to toughen my skin. And even to the day… my co-worker calls me “Air-ez” …sometimes I grow weary of correcting people. But the Ashleys, Jennifers, Nicoles and other “normal” names… don’t come up against those barriers (With their first names at least).

A few weeks ago, I patronized a restaurant… while signing in I simply spelled my name to decrease the chances of having my name butchered… “E-R-I-S”
The hostess named Jessica asked me “How do you say that?”
I reply: “Eris.” (Pronounced air-is) She says… “Oh… that’s weird.”

So here I am again, twenty-eight years old and all of a sudden feeling small; small like the 6th grader that was the ass of a joke when I first found out that Eris is also the Greek Goddess of strife and discord. The teacher and the students all turned to me and shared a hearty laugh while I sulked deeper into my chair and fought back tears. My mother taught me that I wasn’t allowed to cry in front of other people no matter how bad I felt.

What I did I do? I brushed it off for the moment. I couldn’t be angry… I’m black. That’s not allowed. I couldn’t cry… I am an immaculately dressed woman on a long awaited date with the person of my dreams!

My partner and I enjoyed our meal. When it was time take care of the check I asked the server to send the manager over. I informed him what happened. He offered his sincerest apologies and a complimentary dessert, we both declined. But I felt that his apology wasn’t enough. Apologies don’t shift paradigms of an organizational structure. So I wrote to the corporate office to let them know what happened. When I received a letter back from the manager, I posted a picture of it on Instagram and one of my followers replied:

“You’re kidding me, right? I sincerely hope that you didn’t cause this person to lose their job over this. Were you really that offended by someone calling your name weird? I am negatively surprised by this. I realize that I don’t know the whole story, because there isn’t a whole lot to go on, but damn… it doesn’t seem like this person questioned the content of your character, just made an observance about your name.” –middle aged white woman

This wasn’t just about me and my name… the issue is greater than that. Was the content of my character questioned? No. Was my mother’s? Yes. This hostess’ “observance” of my name showed that in her training at this establishment, she wasn’t taught how to deal with diverse populations. And as the person who is on the front lines of that restaurant she is the first impression for all patrons.

My name, albeit eccentric and esoteric, is still my name… and very much a part of my major identity markers.  When we think about the perils of white privilege …NAME privilege is quickly becoming something that is being tossed into that invisible knapsack. Of course we have Barack, Oprah, and Condoleezza now, but when the intersections of race, class, gender AND given name collides, the propensity of having a long difficult road personally and professionally is almost always guaranteed.

Zora Neale Hurston said “If you are silent about your pain, they will kill you and say you enjoyed it.” We must refuse to be silent. We must speak clearly, concisely, and constructively if we are to truly pursue an equitable existence for people who by societal standards are stamped as “weird.”

In the true spirit of practicing what I preach… I need to get off my ass and teach my coworker how to pronounce my damn name correctly.

-eZv

This piece was also published on http://www.forharriet.com

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My President is black…

this post has a lot of visual aids… follow along. 🙂

I suppose I’ve ruffled a few feathers. Those who follow me on twitter and facebook know that daily, even if i post nothing else, i write “Its morning. We made it. #GiveThanks” The day after the election, I posted the same thing with a slight amendment…

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I did have some pushback… a friend from college said “I am loyal to our president no matter what color he is.” Which… I completely understand. Doesn’t change the fact that he’s a black man. Moving forward to yesterday, I shared a picture that a friend posted on facebook.

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Not long after posting this picture, I received an inbox message…

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To this message… I replied:

no worries. i’m not offended. it’s admirable that you don’t “see” people for their color… but when I look in the mirror everyday… i “see” my color. I didn’t post anything against white people… i merely quoted lyrics to a song. our president is indeed a black man. he has a black wife, and two beautiful black daughters. and i am proud to say it, type

 it, sing it, write it.”reverse discrimination” in theory, and reality… is oxymoronic. people who have access to power (earned or unearned) can’t be abused, belittled or hurt because of said power. it just doesn’t work that way. statements like “I appreciate how far you have come…” never get said to white people… because they’re expected to “go far”

but as i said… i’m not offended. our facebook identities are merely a small fraction of who we are, and what we represent. as a queer woman of color… its important that when i can and while i can to tell my version of the truth.

think peace. be peace.
eris

“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” -audre lorde

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There was so much more that I wanted to say. So much more anger that I wanted to express. The idea of someone “not seeing color” is outrageous to me. Do we not see color when we look at the sky? Do we not see the color of changing leaves in autumn? Do we not see our favorite colors? The colors we chose to paint the walls of our home… the sun, the sprinkles on ice cream sundaes.

When someone says they don’t see color… that makes me feel like they don’t see me. Never have I heard a man say “I don’t see gender” …its blatantly obvious. It would be very difficult to un-see my 38DDs.

The thought of “reverse discrimination” is ridiculous. I as a black woman have never been discriminated against… in reverse.

To move towards a “post racial” society (whatever the hell that may be) we can’t do it by “un-seeing” the things that make us uncomfortable. It begins by telling the truth. No matter how uncomfortable the truth may feel being spoken from our lips. We can start with statements like this:

“The United States of America was founded by white men, for white men, via the systemic oppression of Africans, and the genocide of Native Americans.”

“The LGBTQ people of the world don’t care what heterosexual people do in their bedrooms, and why they get married… I shouldn’t either.”

“The President of the United States of America is a black man. And has been elected to his position by the people of this country because they feel like he will do the best job.”

“Even though Race & Gender are both social constructs… the ramifications of these constructs increase or decrease privilege depending on your major identity markers.”

“There is no such thing as “reverse discrimination” any thoughts or feelings that may make someone believe such is due to my own guilt and lack of comfort.”

“Just because my family did not own slaves doesn’t mean that I haven’t received access and privilege because of my white skin.”

This is only the beginning. But to move forward, you must first acknowledge where we have been. And be willing to SEE people… and all of their beautiful colors.

-eZv