I respond to Naija Annoyance over my annoyance about Nigerians and my name
Saw this on the Internet. You should click through for the entire thing. My response is below.
If you can’t understand why Nigerians feel overprotective of a name like Baratunde then…oh boy.
I am so tired of the people saying “I just want to connect to Africa” and not realize that by doing so they will ruffle feathers.
No one is required to feel flattered by your desires.
For the record, I don’t expect dances or flattery, nor did a ever say that’s what I deserved. The full explanation of my name is outlined in my book, and based on your post, it seems like you actually read the chapter. If not, I urge you to. If you have, I would ask that you read it again. Regardless, I made several large points
1. I did not name myself. I was given this name. I have worn it and love it, but it was not MY decision.
2. When I was a young child, around 12 years old, I met a Nigerian man who went off on me about my name. He was the father of a friend of mine named Babatunde. He went into a tirade about how black Americans aren’t real Africans, never would be, and were lost etc etc. It’s crazy for a grown-ass man to go off on a little boy bashing African-Americans, and it’s an unforgettable experience for me.
3. SInce that time, and especially online, I regularly meet Nigerians who hear my name and initiate a milder form of the same lecture. I may be the first “Baratunde” they’ve met, but they are the umpteenth Nigerian I’ve met and it gets a bit exhausting, predictable, and a bit comical at the same time.
4. You emphasized: No one is required to feel flattered by your desires.
This is the part of your note I have the most issues with because that is not my expectation, and my name is not a function of “my desires.”
I don’t expect love or praise or hugs. I never asked for nor implied that. But, neither do I expect vitriolic rage, condescending lectures and disownership over a decision that wasn’t even mine to begin with. As for “desires,” you seem guilty of the same dismissive attitude you accuse me of when you wrote ”if you can’t understand why Nigerians feel overprotective of a name like Baratunde…oh boy”
By couching my not-quite-Nigerian name as simply “desires” you completely ignore the context of that desire among my parents and a generation of black Americans. They weren’t simply cultural misappropriators fiending for an African name at any cost for no good reason. It wasn’t discretionary like a “desire” for designer jeans. If you can’t understand how black American people, stripped of their history and miseducated to the point of self-hatred, would opt for a name closer to that of their ancestors, EVEN IF MISTAKEN, then… oh boy.
Here’s a proposal.
Let’s both put down the self-righteousness and the idea that our annoyance is unique and privileged and above criticism or varied interpretation. Let’s not put words into each other’s mouths, especially when those words are spelled out in detail in a book chapter. (sorry, that’s a swipe, but that’s part of my annoyance in this case).
Let’s instead focus on the reasons behind the expectations and the protectiveness and the “desires.” I’m not going to change my name. It’s a part of me now. However, I really would love to know, since you put it out there, your thoughts on why “Nigerians feel overprotective of a name like Babatunde.” You never actually explained.
You and eclecticspectrum make really valid points. I don’t know who you are Baratunde nor have I read your book (I don’t live in the US) but personally, it’s not fair you received such negative backlash by a grown man when you were younger.
You didn’t name yourself; your family just wanted to have a genuine connection to Africa by giving you a Naija name (that’s been edited a little) but they unfortunately didn’t realize that editing an original Naija name is see as really rude by a lot of people. Im not sure if they spoke about this with Naija people before giving you the name because now you’re unfortunately burdened with the hostility you receive :/ (or maybe they did but Naija people have differing opinions on editing names)
The thing is, Black Americans get defensive about their history and culture when met with hostility by non-US Blacks. In the exact same way, non-US Blacks also get defensive about their histories and cultures when they feel their cultureS are turned into a sort of gimmick. Unfortunately due to America’s past, there’s no way for AfricanS to express their dislike of their cultures being misappropriated without being called arrogant (due to Black Americans history of not knowing their original cultural identitieS)
But I will say a lot of Black Americans & Europeans aren’t aware of the concept of Western Privilege, which automatically puts POCs and white westerners’ voices over those of POCs coming from the South. I’ve lived in the West half of my life so I have it too and must be careful how I put things across because I might unintentionally be stifling the voices of fellow Naija people back home.
Lack of awareness of Western Privilege coupled with America’s sense of not really knowing about other countries/People, makes discussions of Blackness really America-focused. This is where a lot of Southern POCs clash with Western POCs (it’s not just black people that face this, a lot of AsiaN people from the West and South clash this way too: Because Western Privilege is something Western POCs don’t acknowledge as they think being a POC mean they can never be oppressive towards non-wesern POCs. they unintentionally suppress these POCs voices).
As a Nigerian living in the West, I don’t mind the name change but I know a lot of Naija people (especially from back home) will feel confused about why Babatunde needed to be changed innto Baratunde in the first place. It feels disrespectful. Like the original name isin’t enough for Westerners.
That’s nothing to do with you, that’s something your parents should have forseen. That’s your name and no one can take that from you. I actually like the name but Im just here to post why it can be seen as extremly disrespectful to Nigerians who have lived in Nigeria for a long time. it isin’t to challene you, it’s more a question of… “why the change?”
AfricanS historically and currently have enough aggro with white people changing AfricaN cultures to suit their western ethnocentric standards- we don’t need western POCs doing it too. A lot of AfricanS also struggle with feeling inferior due to colonialism, so a lot decide not to give their childrenn AfricaN names because they feel they’ll fare better in soceity. I guess, knowing that black people are editing their names is like a slap in the face. hence where part of the hostility you recieve comes from.
The other part is that of our voices not being heard when it comes to ther own past history of struggles and Black Identity. This isin’t just a tumblr thing but it hapens in real life; whenever there’s a talk of Black Identity, some African Americans always seem to dismiss these importat conversations by reminding people of their own struggles (slavery, loss of identity), as if that’s something that can be easily forgotten. As if Black Identity and Black struggles are only important when it concerns America. Completely erasing the real history of Black Europeans who also have slaves as ancestors. This history that they too have to deal with. Dismissing the histories of AfricannS who grow up feeling inferior to both white people and western POCs.
I know it’s not easy to learn about these stuff in America due to it’s sketchy education system but it’s no reason to not want to engage if there is a chance to. They never seem to want to learn about Black people’s identities from other places, it’s almost like it’s a threat to their own concept of blackness.
So black AfricanS stay silent because they know how the game of Western Privilege works. That’s where half this hostility comes from. We are always told to know about Black American’s history (by Black Americans) but when it comes to the reverse, we’re supposed to feel greatful when black americans want to connect, without wanting to learn about these places.
. and if we try to tell them why it’s important that anyone have to learn about the various AfricaN identities that exist (both in the west and in the South) we’re given the usual “but Black Americans have gone through so much struggles” , sucessfully dismissing the very real identities of other Blacks, and centering the conversation around themselves (America) once again.
AfricanS usually enjoy it when people want to engage with their cultureS, it just becomes an issue when people who seemingly want to connect, will ‘edit’ or misappropriate said culture, even things such as names then dismiss AfricanS feelings on it.
That’s not to say there aren’t ignorant AfricanS who think they are better than Black Americans of course.