Why Blacks Name Their Kids Such Weird Unusual Names

Why Blacks Name Their Kids Such Weird Unusual Names

We’ve all heard names like Shanika, Nashema, Imani, Aaliyah, Tariq, Malik, Rahim, Dakarai, Ajani, Jamal, Shaqeeqah, Rashida, Tanesha, Knowshon, Jermajesty and Anfrenee.  Once you hear the name, many feel that they are reasonably sure of the race.  These names cause many to question why black parents select such peculiar names for their children to carry throughout life.  What are the reasons for American blacks insisting on these often ridiculed names?  We’ve discovered and will share three reasons for this practice.

First, in some cases, less than common “black” names are the result of religious prophets, names and books.  Many people embrace their faith, and naming their child a religious name is a way to honor their religion.  Nashema (wise blossom) and Rahim (merciful) are two Muslim based names, just as Matthew (gift of God) and Sarah (lady, princess) are Christian based names.  Children are given these names at birth as a way to honor the religion and the child.  Sometimes adult religious conversion to Islam causes a name change.  The world witnessed Cassius Clay become Muhammad (praiseworthy) Ali (noble) in the 1960s.  Since Christianity is the dominant religion in the USA, names like Jacob and Mary are more familiar than Muslim names like Shaheem (intelligent)  and Shaqeeqah (real sister).

A second reason some blacks name their children “different” names is because they choose African names to connect with their African heritage; and alternately, some blacks intentionally reject traditional names and adopt more African sounding names as a way to protest past enslavement.  The African names have meanings that they hope their children will incorporate as charactersistics such as Jamila (beautiful) or Dakarai (happiness).  Many ethnic groups included in the white classification name their children names from their ancestral origins.  These names are not common names, but they are generally accepted ethnic names like Salvatore (Italian), Jacque (French), Wolfgang (German) and Seamus (Irish -pronounced Shay-mus).  As some whites have chosen, some blacks also choose to divert from the mainstream and adopt an ethnic perspective in naming their children.

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Another reason for the common name departure is that some Blacks are tired of the common, often repeated, names like Allison or David.  They long for more unique names for their children.  Blacks are not the only segment of society which has opted to rebel against popular names.  Just think about celebrities like Tom Cruise (daughter Suri), Nicolas Cage (son Kal-El), Gwen Stefani (son Zuma) and rock music legend Frank Zappa (3 children: Dweezil, Moon Unit and Diva Thin Muffin).  They chose uncommon names for their children.  Blacks will sometimes create a name for their children using a combination of names like football player Knowshon Moreno.  Knowshon’s first name is reportedly a combination of  Knowledge, which is his father’s nickname, and Varashon, his mother’s name.  Jermaine Jackson named one of his children Jermajesty, which appears to be a combination of Jermaine and majesty.  Other blacks choose a name which is memorable or unique in its spelling like Uneek (unique) or a different pronunciation of a common name like Anfernee Hardaway (basketball player), which is assumed to be a variation of Anthony.  Many blacks choose these rare names to show their creativity and independence from the mainstream.

In the naming of their children, some blacks use religion, ancestry or creativity to produce unusual names by American standards.  Sometimes the names produced sound ridiculous and stereotypical to whites and blacks alike.  Many blacks are opposed to this process because they find the practice unfair to the child, who is often ridiculed or prejudged due to his or her name.  A study suggested its data supported the assertion that those children receiving “black” names have a worse life outcome than those receiving more traditional names.  Since there has been much speculation about the effects of uniquely black names on children, that will be discussed on this forum at a later date.  Please sign in and leave your thoughts or comments on “black” names.  I will attempt to include your feedback in the upcoming article The Effects of “Black” Names.

Comments, observations and suggested topics are welcome.

1 comment
Chelsea - May 30, 2010

I hate to hear these names. Don’t the parents know what they are saddling their kids with? I understand it a little better with the African origins, but I think it is unfair to kids since many people scoff at the afrocentric names and think it is stereotypical.

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