Column: Do you know my name?


Photo credit: Drawing by Daisy Marmur (23')

This drawing illustrates the “facelessness” many others, including myself, may feel when addressed by the wrong name, especially if it stems from the basis of race. It is overall so impersonal and disrespectful when you are mistaken for someone else multiple times, and it can feel as if you are not being seen for who you are.

By Sydney Frank , Columnist

Names say a lot, give or take a few letters. A name makes up who you are because, well, that’s what it is. Your name. They serve as doorways into our lives and each room within leads to a different story. Identity, race, culture, gender, sex. You name it, it’s there.

But when did I learn to respond to a different name? Someone else’s name, someone else’s identity. Not mine.

I have been called the wrong name more times than I can count. From teachers to coaches to classmates to strangers. If you identify as a person of color, you know what I’m talking about. It’s really not uncommon.

One time a teacher walked by and asked if I was sisters with the only other Asian girl sitting next to me.

One time my friend was walking down the hall and was addressed by the name of another Asian girl in our class.

One time that friend and I were in class together, and it took our teacher 10 minutes to realize that she had flipped our names when someone else in the class spoke up about it.

We don’t even look alike.

I think that Andrea Bian put it perfectly in her column for The Daily Northwestern when she said, “In all of these instances, I wasn’t just forgettable. I was confusable.”

It’s sometimes hard to determine if I was the problem here. Was it my fault? Yes, I got called by someone else’s name, and it hurt. But did I stick up for myself? Did my friend? Did I immediately correct my teacher the first time it happened? No.

But what’s the big deal if someone got my name wrong once? It’s not like it’s really their fault. What if they didn’t mean to?

This is exactly the problem.

One time leads to two, and two to three, and so on. This can get uncomfortable. This is when there becomes no room for these kinds of excuses. When people continually misname those of the same race, they are effectively erasing their individual identity and replacing it with another, which is extremely invalidating. It sends the message that they either did not want to or care to take the time to differentiate two people of the same ethnic background. It makes us feel replaceable.

Just because I am Asian doesn’t give you the right to see another Asian person in class and immediately come to the conclusion that we look exactly alike. We don’t look alike, and if you would take a minute to look, you would see that we have completely different-colored hair. And you know what? If you are going to confuse me with someone, why not my actual twin sister? Now that I think about it, I have been confused more with my Asian peers than with my twin. At this point, there is really no excuse.

To clarify, I do not believe that any person who has called me or others by a different name to be inherently offensive or has malicious intent, but it is clear that they are propelling certain microaggressions that feed on the internalized biases within our society. It is crazy to me how the community I am surrounded by every day expresses itself as “diverse” and “inclusive,” and yet its predominantly white community still perpetuates these microaggressions.

When I asked my friend why she didn’t correct that one teacher in the hallway, she told me that she did not want to deal with them apologizing to her. When I ask myself why I didn’t correct that one teacher in class, I think that it’s because I didn’t want to seem like the problem.

Do you want to know what my teacher said after she finally realized she was addressing my friend as me?

“You know I know your name.”

I. know. your. name.

Do you though?