Uptown Bourgeois is an arts, news, and culture blog created by New York-based freelance writer Jefferey Spivey. UB explores universal themes through a black, queer lens. 

The Problem With Raven

Raven-Symonè has come under some pretty considerable (and deserved) scrutiny for comments she made about “black-sounding” names.  In a segment on Friday morning’s episode of The View, the topic of discussion was about whether people were judged because of their names.  Raven outright declared that she would not hire a person with a stereotypically black name and, in a mocking tone, created one on the spot: Watermelondrea.

There are so many problems with her statements I don’t know where to begin.  First things first, her name is Raven-Symonè.  The non-traditional spelling of Simone and the hyphenated extension of Raven is not all-American or normal.  As a black woman with a kind of crazy name, how can she feel comfortable discriminating against other people because of their non-traditional names? She seems pretty comfortable being a hypocrite.

Second, Raven is a person of color on a national morning talk show.  She is a symbol of diversity in an industry that still has mounds of work to do when it comes to equal representation.  In choosing to hold this post on The View, she has a tremendous responsibility to express opinions that don’t promote racism, discrimination, or race relation setbacks.  Her statements on Friday were reckless, inconsiderate, and disappointing.

The children who possess “black-sounding” names did not name themselves.  They were named by their parents, and they shouldn’t be denied a fair shot at any opportunity because people don’t like their names.  Just because Raven doesn’t like these names doesn’t mean that the people possessing them aren’t proud of their names and the heritage associated with them.  It’s unfortunate that we live in a world where we need to be concerned about name-based discrimination.  I would never want my future children to be affected by this, and I’ll keep the state of affairs in our country in mind when I choose their names.  I’m pretty sure my parents had this in mind when they named me.  But just because I’m aware of this and would choose my children’s names based on this doesn’t mean it’s okay for me to treat others with “black-sounding” names with disrespect.  I think there’s enough racism and denied opportunity in this world for black people without another black person stirring the pot.

It seems that Raven may have some internalized racism issues.  Just last year, in an interview with Oprah, she shared that she doesn’t classify herself as African-American.  She is simply American.  She later clarified that she calls herself American because she doesn’t know anything about her ancestry. Her ignorance does not give her clearance to abandon her race.  It feels as though she’s separating herself from black culture and people.  There’s some underlying hate in the statements and jokes she makes.  And working through this isn’t something she should be doing on a national platform.

I would hope that Raven uses her position on this widely viewed program to educate, inform, and support others instead of bringing them down.  Hopefully, she’s had some time to reflect over the weekend as black Twitter has unleashed its fury on her.  I’m expecting some type of heavily scripted, deep apology on Monday’s episode.  But it’s going to take more than two minutes of Hot Topics to fix this one.

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