Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Yesterday, Daniel Cubias made an interesting observation at his blog The Hispanic Fanatic, about what may well be another example of the primary target of my own blog.
My primary target is what I've come to call "common white tendencies." The tendency that Cubias points out is that of using first names for non-white people in certain contexts, and full or last names for white people.
The context in question for Cubias is baseball, and in particular, the media's recent discussion of Manny Ramirez's fifty-game suspension for performance enhancing drugs:
What I found interesting is that when the news broke, it was “Manny” this and “Manny” that. It reinforced my observation that white sports stars tend to be referred to by their last names. Hispanic and black athletes, however, are often called by their first names. . . .
I first noted this about a decade ago when Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa were in their epic homerun race. The references to “Sammy” were ubiquitous, while I don’t recall anyone calling the St. Louis slugger “Mark.”
Similarly, in debates of greatest pitchers of recent history, there’s a lot of talk about Clemens, Johnson, Maddux. . . and Pedro (as in Martinez). Even when the white athlete has an uncommon moniker (I’m looking at you, Chipper Jones), he usually gets the last-name treatment. That’s not always the case with, say, the very troubled Ramirez (as we see here).
Having had this pointed out to me, I can quickly think of other examples. LeBron. Tiger. Ichiro. But I too find it difficult to come up with white examples.
Cubias also asks, "If this is true (and the evidence is only anecdotal), is it a sign of disrespect or a display of affection? Does it mean anything at all?"
I suppose it could be both. But even if this naming practice springs from affection, I still find it belittling.
Like nicknames, first names are more commonly used for and among children; that's the main reason why using them for non-white adults, especially in contexts where they're not used for white adults, strikes me as belittling.
Now I'm trying to think of other circumstances where this happens, in order to decide whether this differential naming practice really is another "common white tendency."
I've recently noticed, for instance, that one of this blog's regular commenters, Thordaddy, uses belittling nicknames during his exchanges with certain other commenters. During such exchanges, here and elsewhere, when he uses the names of other commenters who appear white, he types out their actual names (he calls me, for instance, "Macon D," and he's typed out other apparently white names correctly as well, such as "Steffie").
However, in his exchanges with at least two other commenters, who self-identify as black men, Thordaddy has come up with belittling nicknames.
In his discussion here with a person who comments on my blog and others--Nquest--Thordaddy substitutes a name that as far as I can tell, he came up with on his own: "ye ye." And in his discussion here with a person who served as a guest poster yesterday, for the post below this one--Big Man--he uses another, more literally belittling name: "lil' man."
I don't normally see a reason to discuss particular commenters in my blog posts. However, in this case Thordaddy is worth identifying, because he may well be displaying a common white tendency.
If so, that tendency would be the one that Daniel Cubias posits in his post, that of using belittling names for non-white men and last (or actual) names for white men. And, I would add, for white women.
Cubias identifies what appears to be a racial differential in the usage of first and last names, but I think the resultant belittling of non-white people can happen with nicknames as well, and that it is happening in Thordaddy's case.
What do you think? Could such differential naming practices be a common white tendency--that is, the use of actual and/or last names for white folks, and the belittling use of first names or nicknames for non-white people?
If so, what's up with it?
And can you think of other examples?