The Politics of Willfully Mispronouncing a Name Like "Kamala"

Ashley Hendricks October 23, 2020 16 No Comments

The Politics of Willfully Mispronouncing a Name Like "Kamala"

In that this op-ed, Mehar Gujral clarifies that the politics of mispronouncing a title later Sen. Perdue mispronounced Sen. Kamala Harris’.

My title is Mehar. It means kindness, blessings, and elegance. If you are interested in undergoing any of these things, I would suggest a title besides Mehar when growing up at the United States of America.

At a campaign rally in Macon, Georgia, on October 16, Senator David Perdue (R-Georgia) mispronounced the name of his colleague of many years, Senator and Democratic nominee for Vice President Kamala Harris. He known her as “KAH’-mah-lah? Kah-MAH’-lah? Kamala-mala-mala. I don’t know whatever.” 

Watching the video of Sen. Perdue mocking Sen. Harris’ title, I was reminded why I desperately wished to get an “American” name growing up. Along with being the initial Black and South Asian candidate for Vice President, Harris can also be the primary offender with the identifiably Indian name. There are additional South Asian-American politicians on the national point, specifically former Governor and U.S. Ambassador into the United Nations Nikki Haley and preceding Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, however their anglicized names were not fodder for insult. Apparently, you can not make fun of titles such as Bobby or Nikki, however Kamala is apparently acceptable game. 

Perdue’s words struck a familiar chord in me. All my entire life, I have heard Americans such as him unable or reluctant to pronounce my name correctly. But amazingly, I recognized myself Sen. Perdue’s “I don’t know whatever.” Over years, I have said something very similar to a number of individuals when they ask how to pronounce my name correctly. Tied upward within my willingness to allow people mispronounce my name wasn’t only my urge to belong, however, the premise that I did not simply because of that I am. But maybe not anymore.

As an immigrant, it was not until very lately that I thought that I should correct someone if they mispronounced my name. I had been five years old when I transferred into North America from India. I recall walking into my kindergarten class a couple of days late in the college year. The teacher only looked in the notice from the main office, sat me down, and continued the lesson without even introducing me into the remainder of the course.

The remainder of this calendar year, a fellow kindergartner whose title is long forgotten educated me at each turn, “Mrs. Noble didn’t even introduce you, you’re not supposed to be here.” Timid and perplexed, all I did in reply was turn my head . He was only being a bratty kindergartener but his words rang in my head. Thinking ago, exactly what I needed to say would be “You’re wrong, I’m supposed to be here.” But it caught in my throat, and sometimes still does. Am I?

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