Friday, July 13, 2012
Playing the name game
Sometimes I play games with my readers. I’ll say something so outrageous that even I don’t believe it’s true. It’s my way of making a point within a point. It’s like saying, that’s stupid, but isn’t it similar to what you just said?
I played that game when I changed Mitt Romney’s name. I called him Nick. The funny thing is it took close to 24 hours for a reader to bring it to my attention. I waited patiently for my correction. The correction would be the point. It has to do with calling people out of their names.
It’s a game we used to play on the playgrounds back home. We gave people nicknames. Sometimes they were given out of respect for some achievement. Like greyhound for someone who runs fast, or thunder and lighting, the names we gave a pair of running backs. I had my share of nicknames. They called me “see no evil” in middle school due to the thick glasses that made me look like a skinny Clark Kent with an afro.
There are times names are given to communicate deep discontent. They often come with bad words or some messy suggestion. Many were called “know it all”. Girls were called “stuck up” as the prefix to the profane word that followed. Get the point?
Yesterday I played the name game. I called Mitt Romney Nick as a way to add further meaning to the boos offered at the NAACP annual convention. For me, the boos served as payback for all the name changing and name calling being dealt during the campaign. Names other than Nick came to mind, but I went with Nick to keep it clean.
Name changing is one of those unspoken issues that disturbs black people, and makes it difficult to move past the burden of the past. It’s why the boos were so empowering. It was a chance to give back what has been taken for centuries. It was in common to saying, “hey boy, not in this house.” Boy is a name change. So are coon and, you get the point.
It’s powerful taking a person’s name away. Doing so implies the stripping of identity and remaking in a way that gives pleasure to the one who gives the name. It strips the person of their individuality and cultural upbringing. It forces those names to become the reflection of the one who gives the name.
So, why rename Nick, I mean Mitt?
It’s because of what I felt when I heard those boos. I thought of the pictures of Obama that made him into a monkey. I thought of the references of Obama as the incarnation of Hitler. I was reminded of all the cartoons and assertions about his faith. I couldn’t stop thinking about those who question his citizenship. It’s like changing his name. Like he’s not American enough.
I considered Morgan Freeman’s comments about Obama not being black. Haven’t we heard enough of that? He’s not American enough, black enough, Christian enough to lead our nation. He’s more monkey than man and is an undercover agent plotting to overthrow the government. He’s a socialist cultivated in the teachings of Saul Alinsky. He’s a liar and an opportunist who will do and say whatever it takes to get a few votes.
It’s like changing Obama’s name. That’s what I felt when the boos came, and, in response, I changed Mitts name to Nick to give those protecting Romney’s honor a taste of how it feels to be forced to be called something other than what your parents call you.
Yes, it’s disrespectful. Yes, it’s unacceptable. Yes, I should be ashamed of myself. I’ve thrown my sticks and a few stones. My mama taught me better than that.
So, I changed his name back to Mitt today.
Maybe they’ll stop calling Mr. President a Nazi.