The Problem with Raven-Symoné’s Comments About Black Names

Emanuella Grinberg, CNN, October 10, 2015

Various studies have found black people experience negative treatment based not only on the color of their skin, but even their names.

Those findings got an unexpected endorsement this week from a black celebrity with, as one columnist put it, “quite possibly the single blackest name in pop culture today.”

In a segment on “The View” about judging people based on their names, co-host Raven-Symoné said she would never hire someone named “Watermelondrea.” Her detractors said the comment, coming from someone with a unique name, smacked of hypocrisy and perpetuated the idea that it’s OK to treat people poorly based on their names.

The segment on the ABC show was based on a new study about racial bias toward “black-sounding” names. UCLA researchers found people envisioned men with stereotypically black names as bigger and more violent.

During the segment, a clip was played from the popular YouTube video, “Top 60 Ghetto Black Names,” in which “Watermelondrea” comes in at number 12.

After the video was played, Symoné opined it’s not “racist” to judge people based on their names, it’s simply “discriminatory.”

And, she continued, “I am very discriminatory against words like the ones they were saying in those names,” she said, referring to examples of names in the video.

“I’m not about to hire you if your name is Watermelondrea. It’s just not gonna happen. I’m not gonna hire you.”

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Symoné’s comments caught fire. On social media and in opinion columns, people were quick to say the comments from a black woman with an accented, hyphenated name embodied irony and hypocrisy.

In one such column, “Raven-Symoné Rips Black Names, But Forgot About Her Own,” EBONY senior writer Jamilah Lemieux pointed out the implications of dehumanizing people based on their name.

“The whole world is trying to tear us apart and you want to discount the value of some other black person because she, TOO, has a black name, Raven hyphen alternate spelling of ‘Simone’? You got the nerve,” Lemieux wrote.

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