Don’t Judge A Person By Their Name

In The Stone Sky, the people of Syl Anagist who created the stone eaters, or tuners, at the time, gave each stone eater a name ending in the suffix -wha. Once I noticed this, it got me thinking— what rusting reason could there possibly be for labeling a comm’s minorities as such? The only one I can think of is passive segregation, as a silent yet insistently present reminder of what rather than who the stone eaters are.

Based on the stone eaters’ behavior during their outing with Kelenli, the novelty of the world as they have never known it causes the stone eaters to stick out like sore thumbs and attract quite a bit of attention, mainly negative, from Sylanagistine passerby. The stone eaters have not been equipped in the slightest to even attempt assimilation into society, and although assimilation can be quite culturally stifling, some people may choose to pursue it to avoid unpleasantries related to discrimination. As if this isn’t bad enough, the stone eaters have also been labeled as outsiders through their name endings. So, even if they had gained the social skills to interact with the rest of society and been given the opportunities to blend in and have a bit more freedom, their names would have always given them away and served as a constant reminder of their subhuman status. They never had a chance.

Houwha, Gaewha, Tetlewha, etc. forced me to consider the taxing tribulations that immigrants must go through upon coming to the United States, and while these trials are many, I seek to focus solely on names. A good friend of mine who is Bengali has a name that was made fun of throughout his school-age years, in addition to his two older brothers, Shahed and Mahbub, respectively. Shahed was teased as “shithead” by his peers, while Mahbub morphed into “my boob”. As crudely amusing as this is, Shahed and Mahbub were bullied because of their names, even though they are common in Bangladesh. I would argue that this makes some immigrants feel averted to the idea of giving their children names from their home countries at all, because the immigrants know that their children might be teased and bullied to the point where it affects other pieces of life like college admissions and job opportunities. My friend often introduces himself with a common American name rather than with his Bengali name, because he has grown tired of the jokes in addition to the connotations that come along with it.

One article from The Washington Post, “The soft bigotry of having to change your name. Because somehow Tchaikovsky is easier.”, details the story of a Korean American, Gene, whose parents gave him an American name, refraining from giving him a Korean name at all, because, in his words, his mother “…figured that because I’m not white, I’d have a tougher time getting a leg up in life, and giving me an American name would help.” Not only this, but the article also enumerates several stories of people from other countries whose non-American names have held them back in one way or another. It is unfair and unfortunate that immigrants have to mold their thought process in such a way that shrouds their culture in order to afford both themselves and their children more opportunities.

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