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Subject: Re: more on same article topic (?) - edited
Author: chazda   (Authenticated as chazda)
Date: October 19, 2004 at 8:58:46 PM
Reply to: Re: more on same article topic (?) - edited by Chrisell
Yeah, you explained that a lot better than I could have.

upsets a middle class convinced that the goal of the welfare class is to attain middle classness (ie assimilate with their cultural norms).

I mean, yah it's sort of distant and theoretical, and is based on just a guess, but it makes a lot of sense to me too.. Even if it's not deliberate, sometimes I wonder if maybe, by 'disturbing' members of the white middle class (and thus inducing them to reveal their sense of superiority).. Well, you said it better than I can.

Although I kind of doubt that the names are given deliberately just for that reason. I'm not totally comfortable with this idea as an explanation, because it is too centered on my own world view: it says that the trend is a reaction to white culture, rather than having any primary meaning of its own. Not to be PC, folks; I'm not saying it has to be meaningful out of context. I only mean: maybe it's just my own paranoia talking, when I wonder if maybe Sirloin is laughing at me because I'm laughing at him...(since no one who's into these names has ever said anything about it being 'giving the finger' to anyone). It does make a lot of sense though, in an abstract way.

I was thinking this: how is the trend similar to the way humans generally choose names for their kids? Most names seem to come from ancestry, birth circumstance, or symbols/words of power, beauty, whatever is important to the culture (like all the Germanic names with the war & battle elements, which would be truly strange and possibly offensive if we had a practice like that now).. and 'white' names in America tend to reflect values based on white, European history. It's possible that from the most disadvantaged black Americans' perspectives, even choosing an African-origin name does more honor to 'white' middle class cultural values than to their own. Since for most Americans of any race, our ancestry in the Old World is something we have to look up, not something we feel deeply connected to -- yet the mainstream middle class judgment is that the only legitimate names are tied to those traditions.

But it's no more objectively legitimate for me to name my kid Sophia, than it is for someone to name their kid Ferrari. I'm even more disconnected from the name Sophia and its meaning (wisdom -- haaha -- that was not deliberate but it turned out funny) than a struggling black person is from a Ferrari and its meaning, in a sense.

I guess you could apply that idea to anyone who's 'marginalized' and doesn't feel that honoring mainstream ideals is an expression of self-respect; not just blacks. It's been noted on these boards that certain names suggest 'trailer trash' (which usually refers to poor whites); those are the names that don't follow the "rules" of upwardly-mobile taste (history & spelling in particular). The 'black' and 'trash' names do mostly fit with the usual human reasons for name choice; just going by totally different rules than I'm used to. I can almost imagine what sort of thing I'd need to be thinking to proudly name a child Ferrari or Bimbo, if I think of it this way... even though I can't imagine actually doing it, and still being the person I am.

Anyway, as you say, it's all just theorizing and armchair sociology. Probably, I'm motivated to understand the 'black' name trend for 2 reasons - one just being that I'm intrigued by naming practices, the other is knowing that the unpleasant, knee-jerk reaction I've had to many of the names must be coming from me, since a name is just a bunch of letters on my computer screen.

About Native Americans: Well, this is how I understand it, but if anyone knows better please jump in... The answer is, as far as I know, basically that the genocide and assimilation was that extreme; as well as the fact that the US government designated some fairly small and remote pieces of land as Native American tribal property ("Indian Reservations"). So large concentrations of people of mostly/entirely Native American descent (who actually immerse themselves in and pass on what's left of their culture) are socially and geographically isolated. In fact there are great numbers of people with significant Native American blood, who are aware of (and may gather to honor or practice) their Native culture, throughout the country -- but among those people there has just been enough dilution of the Native race that they are rarely distinguishable by an untrained glance, the way other races usually are. The reservation system seems to have failed to really save Native culture and keep it separate, especially since economic conditions on reservations are generally very difficult. I think most of the languages and large parts of the oral histories are lost since the death of the last elders who'd have lived the Native way, and it must be hard to keep a culture alive when your kids' best economic chance is to get the hell off the res and assimilate. And I think that's what happens - they are relatively rare, and become essentially indistinguishable.

Another thing is, that denigration of Native Americans in the mainstream urban culture is basically over, except for stereotypes pertaining to those living on reservations. I went to a government run school and was taught as a child to respect Native American culture - my whole generation was. So the 'affirmative action' type need to include token Native Americans in pop culture (as a way to counter racism) isn't felt so much, except perhaps for people who live in proximity to the reservations. I haven't lived near a reservation, so I'm only peripherally aware that the stereotypes exist. Even then, my awareness of the stereotypes comes mostly from literature intended to discredit them!

So yeah, they're going about their daily lives in the suburbs and there's basically no pressure on pop culture to make reference to them. That's my impression anyway.

Uh oh, this got long. Apologies.

- chazda

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