A few days ago going through facebook I came across this article a Chinese friend of mine had posted and it made me think of us ‘Iranian-Americans”:
On Tuesday April 07, 2009 Texas State Rep. Betty Brown said that Asian-Americans should change their names because they’re too hard to pronounce:
“Rather than everyone here having to learn Chinese — I understand it’s a rather difficult language — do you think that it would behoove you and your citizens to adopt a name that we could deal with more readily here?”
Brown later told [Organization of Chinese Americans representative Ramey] Ko: “Can’t you see that this is something that would make it a lot easier for you and the people who are poll workers if you could adopt a name just for identification purposes that’s easier for Americans to deal with?”
Brown has resisted calls to apologize. Her spokesman said that Democrats “want this to just be about race.”(Houston Chronicle)
Now as an Iranian-American my first impression of this was to take offense and get mad (who are you to tell me or anyone else to change their name; a fundamental basis of respect for one’s family and heritage, to make things “easier” for you.) furthermore many of you will agree as I do that her comments were racist and ignorant, however; my name and that of a million other people in Los Angeles is “Fred” which Stands for Farid and could stand for just to name a few: Farshad, farahad,farzan, faramarz, fereydoon, farboad and just about anything else that starts with the letter “F”.
Again using myself as an example; I was born in Iran and immigrated here a little before the millennium, I’ve worked in sales for most of this period and decided in order to seal my name onto peoples memory it would be practical for me to use an American name which unlike my actual name is not changed into what people think my name is (Hi may I speak to FABREAD, or FORIIID) a system which has worked very well for me. I’m also fairly young and involved in the club scene and I can tell you from experience that your odds are drastically changed when you’re trying to let some generic American girl know your name over the sound of Lady Gaga: hi my name is Ghaa-zaan-faar or Siii-aaa-maaa-kkkk.
So then what is it about Rep. Brown’s comment that has bothered me? I have willingly changed my name, everyone around me is aware of my Persian roots (the hair always gives it away) and last night a group of my American friends joined me at a local Persian restaurant to eat “GAYMAN(gheyme)” and “hard-rice”. To make matters more confusing I’m engaged to a non-Iranian and we have started thinking about names for a child and I am dead set on giving my child an Iranian name, perfectly knowing what the end result of that could be. It is then safe to assume that I do not think my cultural identity is dependent upon my name, nor are my family values and heritage.
What has then bothered me about her comments is the implication of free will, I can as many Asian-Americans, Arab-Americans, Indian-Americans etc… change my own name whilst forgetting about my cultural identity and values, but don’t tell me that I have to. In the twentieth century many Irish while under the rule of the British government were forced to adopt English names, which ultimately was a campaign to destroy Irish culture and identity. I am not implying that Brown is attempting a solo campaign to ethnically cleanse the Asian-Americans, but once one group is suppressed for the simple benefit of another then people rebel and takes things more seriously and sometimes too seriously.
Now my question is; have you changed your name and if so why and how do you feel about it?