Thursday, October 20, 2016

Inch One Hundred Forty-One: What's In A Name?

The co-chair of the working group kept addressing the other co-chair by the wrong name throughout the entire teleconference. The former was white, the latter was African-American. (I know this because I have met both of them.) The white woman has a Ph.D. and was addressed as "Dr. Susan" by the moderator. The African-American woman, Shelisa, is from a small Ohio county and is court staff, as are several of us in the working group.

Dr. Susan called Shelisa "Shelist" and "Shelista" and "Shelizza." Not once in the call, which lasted 50 minutes, did she pronounce Shelisa's name correctly.

I doubt that Dr. Susan intentionally mispronounced Shelisa's name. But she certainly did it carelessly. Shelisa did not correct her, but did make a point to say "This is Shelisa..."whenever she spoke during the call.

I wondered after the call whether I should have spoken up and said "Look, can you call Shelisa by her  right name?" But I was too polite and the moment and the call passed. Shelisa, without confronting the issue directly, made sure she introduced herself clearly each time she spoke. She handled the situation in her own style.

I have a saying on my refrigerator: "Speaking up is a choice. And yes, standing on the sidelines is a choice."

During the teleconference, I stayed on the sidelines. Next time I need to choose better.


Anne said...

I wonder if Shelisa would appreciate a quick note, letting her know that you noticed it, ask if it bothered her, and maybe offer to contact the co-chair. You can still address it, and doing it during the meeting might have been embarrassing for Shelisa.

Anonymous said...

Implicit Biased article

Darla said...

Hard to know sometimes when to speak up and when to let matters work themselves out. As you say, Shelisa handled it by clearly introducing herself when she spoke. It was rude of the co-chair to be so offhand about it but I don't think you were remiss to stay out of the situation.