My name is representative of my culture. I was born to Black Muslim parents who eventually split (and my mother then went back to Christianity), but I wear my name with pride.
My Arabic name Yasmine Jameelah is one that I didn't always embrace, but as I connected with my family, I saw the beauty in their choice of what they named me. The fullness of my name, considering pronunciation, culture, and who I was named for, is wrapped up in love.
While initially, I never disclosed my middle name to people due to shame and assuming it was ghetto, as I unlearned, I saw more. Talks with my parents revealed I was named after my uncle Jameel, who named his son Jameel too and we were born one day apart. Additionally, my name Yasmine means 'flower', it is the Arabic version of Jasmin, and Jameelah is the feminine meaning of 'beautiful woman', which comes from Jameel, the masculine version which means beautiful man.
When I walk into this world daily, I keep those reminders with me but in white spaces, in a matter of minutes, the beauty of my name is often dismantled.
From the keychains that never include us, to the teachers in my class who often squinted their faces at the sight of my name, I never felt comfortable to speak up and say, "This is how you say my name." It wasn't until I was nearing middle school that I met a five-year-old Muslim girl who broke her name down in syllables every time someone mispronounced it. Old, young, it didn't matter, she let everyone know to put respect on her name and she empowered me to follow suit. Still, unlike her, I often find myself in white spaces with adults who butcher my name, and it's important to me to correct people, all while keeping my cool.
So, if you're looking for ways to set your pronunciations straight while not going full Birdman, follow these steps.
Allow them to introduce themselves first.
When I walk into a room and say hello, I often say to people, "Because I'm big on pronunciation, please let me know how I pronounce your name" and then I respond with, "Hi, my name's Yasmine." Going in with mutual respect for each other is a practice I've found helps set a precedent of respect from the door.
Correct them every single time.
I've often found that when people respond to their names being mispronounced, they've usually let it slide multiple times and they're pissed. But I'd suggest addressing the first offense respectfully, and not letting up. Last year, one of my professors for about the fifth week in row (in a class of less than 10 students) would call me "yazmin" to a room of people that knew that wasn't how you said my name. It had become a running joke in my class of my Black classmates saying, "How many times are you going to have to correct her?" So, I finally stopped her in the middle of her sentence and said, "Before I present today, please pronounce my name correctly. This is the fifth time you've said my name wrong." She never mispronounced my name again.
Don’t explain the origin of your name if you don’t want to.
I've had people who want to know why my name is pronounced the way it's pronounced, if my parents were being "extra" when they named me, if I am Muslim, and/or why I have a Muslim name even though I'm Christian. While all of those questions are valid, you don't owe your co-workers a response to why your parents chose the name you have. However, you are owed what you ask of and that is your name being pronounced correctly. That's it.
Place your name pronunciation in your social media handles.
We live in a world where we are often friends with our co-workers on social media, and I always leave the phonetic pronunciation of my name up so that anyone who approaches me, be it professionally or socially, knows how to say it. So, there's no room for error, and no room for anyone to feel uncomfortable, especially me.
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