Folashade – that is my last name, seems easy enough to say on paper but in person it is a completely different matter. Because I am not a native of this country, I have a name that is considered “foreign” by American standards; a name that people rarely utter correctly. I have come to accept the idea that whomever I meet that is not of my same cultural background will inevitably butcher my last name. The butchery of my last name is one of the few inconveniences I encounter while living here in America. But it is something I believe in because it helps me to appreciate and embrace my cultural heritage. The fact that I do not lose pride in myself and my heritage whenever people mispronounce my name proves to me that I am not ashamed to be that Nigerian girl with the foreign name. Furthermore, I believe in the butchery of my name as it strengthens but at the same time tests my security and devotion to my heritage. Sure I could easily live my life hating my heritage and desiring a less complicated last name, because frankly when I was younger and naïve that is what I wanted. I wanted to be more like my American friends with a more American sounding last name. However I have come to appreciate my unique name because it is what helps to make me my own distinct individual. I am proud of my name and proud to be me. So I believe in the butchering of my name!
I do not take offence when others mispronounce my name because my situation could be far worse. For instance, because I am living in a country that I am not a native I could face discrimination or experience racist taunts but I don’t. I will admit that at times I do get occasional, ignorant remarks from people such as whether Africans live in trees and walk around naked. However, I would rather deal with these little issues as opposed to facing any discrimination or racial violence. I am very fortunate that I don’t have to face any of these adversities; the inconvenience of having a mispronounced last name is something that can be tolerated and that has made me more prideful of my heritage. I am proud of my name, I don’t hate my name and I don’t want to change my name. I just appreciate it for its uniqueness.
No one wants to be the odd one out in a crowd. No one wants to be the one that possesses the awkward last name that the teacher can’t seem to pronounce while doing roll call. When I was younger I certainly did not want to be that person. However, I am that person, whenever I am in a new environment most people cannot pronounce my name. When they do attempt to it usually is not a pleasant sound to hear. However this does not make me ashamed of my name and my heritage. Rather it does the opposite and strengthens my patriotism and pride. I take it with a grain of salt when my name gets butchered or made fun of. My name symbolizes my heritage as a Nigerian. My heritage is my sense of a concrete and unique identity. An identity that cannot be questioned or taken away from me. My heritage is not my driver’s license. It does not expire, it cannot be misplaced, and it is not something that everyone is in possession of. It was given to me at birth and it is what sets me apart from the crowd. My name, my country and my culture are all in my blood, they make me who I am, and they are the essence of my being. Therefore, I believe that no matter how much my name gets butchered or botched I will never be ashamed of it because to do so would make me shameful of my heritage, an act that I will never do.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.