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Multiethnic baby with Arabic name looks "white" and...

post #1 of 37
Thread Starter 
I'm white, my husband's Arab. My daughter has an Arabic name unfamiliar to most Americans. Strangers or acquaintances who meet me and the baby without my husband around give me looks and comments if they ask me her name or I tell them for some reason:

"Well, that's a mouthful..." or "What an unusual/interesting name..." or "What's that from?"(often said with a look of disdain)

and sometimes they don't give me looks and just say nice things:

"What a pretty name!" or "how unique!"

Sometimes I feel compelled to "explain" her name, and I say it's Arabic because my husband is from Lebanon. This usually gets me even more disdained looks from those who were originally unhappy. The others say things like, "Oh, wow!"

When Shadia was six weeks old, I took her to the library to sign her up for something. The librarian was being so friendly to me. And then she saw Shadia's name on the form, and she stopped being nice.

As a white person, I've rarely had to contend with racism. (Once my husband and I experienced housing discrimination and had to file a complaint to be able to stay in our apartment.) It's a new experience for me. I realize that by giving Shadia an "ethnic" name, we've made it impossible to hide her heritage. I don't regret that, but I do feel sad that she will likely experience some discrimination as a result.
post #2 of 37
Your daughter's name is beautiful. I understand how you feel. People hear my name, and while not as uncommon, usually make some hasty generalization. I have a friend who is an American living in Lebanon married to a Lebanese man. They have five fabulous children. When they came for a visit, every time we called one of the children's names, people did double takes.

I just go about my business and who cares what other people think. For every moron out there, a good and rational person exists.
post #3 of 37
I think it's a beautiful name.

She may experience discrimination, depending on where she lives. But I think things are changing. There's a big difference from when I was a kid to my children's generation. They are going to grow up with global communication and friends IRL and online with all sorts of names and ethnicities as part of their norm.

Our kids have ethnic names as well. I always have to spell them. Sometimes I just lead with "I'll just spell that for you". My grandmother and some in her generation sometimes have done the snotty attitude thing , but most haven't given it much attention once they have the pronunciation down. A lot of people have expressed concern that they'll offend me if they proncounce it wrong.

Maybe you'd feel more comfortable sticking with explaning the meaning of the name? When I tell people my youngest son's name means "Blessed", the response is always "Aw, that's sweet". All kinds of white folks pick all kinds of interesting names and spellings , so you're not that unusual, really.
post #4 of 37
I have a weird name that gets all those responses, too. It took me until I was in my thirties to learn that nasty people don't deserve any explanation. If someone wrinkles his/her nose at me and asks about my name disdainfully, I look them straight in the eye, smile, and say, "Why do you ask?" Of course they're asking because they are rude and trying to act superior, so my question brings that fact to the surface rather quickly.

Usually the person is someone I just met, and I know right away they aren't someone I care about befriending someone who acts like a jerk right away.
post #5 of 37
I'm also the white mom of a biracial baby. It's hard to see our babies on the receiving end of racism, isn't it?

We gave our daughter a first name that works in both languages, but is really common in the US. Our last name, though, is...surprising to English ears. I like the idea of telling people it's meaning, mostly because I think it will confuse them even more (and I'll get a kick out of it). I can just imagine their faces when I say "it means Sheik Ahmed in Russian!"

When we were trying to decide how to name DD (like if we wanted a Kazakh name, or a name that reflected my background, and if we wanted to follow Russian tradition and give her a middle name based on my husband's name), I asked my SIL for her input. SIL was born and raised in America, but has a traditional Kazakh name. Her first name is an Arabic name that's common in Kazakhstan, but most Americans who see it without meeting her guess that she's black. Her middle name is a patronymic, so it's "FIL's first name-ovna." SIL said that as a kid, she sometimes wished she had a more "normal" American name, but as an adult she cherishes her name. SIL's opinion was what ended up convincing me to give DD a name that reflects her Kazakh background. I know that DD's name might put her on the receiving end of racism, but in the end it was more important to us that she has that tie to her Kazakh background.

I think Shadia is a GORGEOUS name.
post #6 of 37
My Asian DH insisted on giving our kids traditional English names -- their names are a little off the beaten path, but still traditional English names with traditional spellings. My DS1's third grade teacher couldn't even spell his name, and several family members can't spell it correctly. So you can't win even if you go with an Americanized name!

Shadia is a beautiful name, with a rich history and lovely meaning. Your DD can be proud of a name like that!
post #7 of 37
Man, some people are messed up.

( I had a cab driver once who thought it was cool I knew my what my dd's name meant in Arabic. Her name is in lots and lots of languages which is really fun for me.)

ETA:People tell you that Shadia is a mouthful?? I must not be saying it right in my head, I'm only getting 3 syllables. Elizabeth and Isabella are both 4 syllables and no one ever has a problem with them.
post #8 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by sky_and_lavender View Post
I'm white, my husband's Arab.

I realize that by giving Shadia an "ethnic" name, we've made it impossible to hide her heritage. I don't regret that, but I do feel sad that she will likely experience some discrimination as a result.

Same here.

DH insisted on not having arabic first names, as his surname is very arabic, so that people would know that our children are bi-racial and he has his reasoning about it but I do think that it is sad that our children have to face racial descrimination every day.
post #9 of 37
I just wanted to say that I think Shadia is a beautiful name! I have never heard it before. One of my favourite girl names of all times is Amina, and I am going to have to add Shadia to the list now. I love Arabic names. I fear naming a daughter that though because we are not Arab, we are white. I worry that she would experience racism from non Arab people, and that she would also experience hatred from Arab people for cultural appropriation. Its tough. I feel compelled to pick from more tradional "white" type names rather than the soft, flowing ones I love. Its a shame that people judge others based on names, or any other such triviality for that matter.
post #10 of 37
Shadia is beautiful name and it is not at all difficult to pronounce!

But yes, sadly it is not very in to be Arab these days.

I find Arabs are the one ethnic group that even politically correct people feel okay about bashing.
We gave our son 2 names, a Latin one from my side of the family and an Arabic name from my husbands’ Lebanese side. At the moment DS (12) wants to only use the Latin sounding name. This is not because he is ashamed of being Arab, but because the Arab name is more difficult to pronounce. We are also very concerned about him encountering racism.

I have a girl friend who gave one of her sons an Arabic name even though neither she nor her partner is Arab. They actually got pulled off the plane once and questioned because the airline freaked when they saw the name!
post #11 of 37
We get a lot of confusion over DS's name. He looks very white, but has an unmistakably Asian lastname. On top of that we gave him a very unusual (though it's actually New Jersey Dutchie and we live in NJ, so from the place and culture of the area, but it hasn't been common since my great-grandfathers generation.) We generally just get lots of confused looks though. People generally come to peace with the Asian last name on their own after a moment peering at DS, but they tend to want an explanation of his first name. A short explanation of, it's Jersey Dutchie after my great-grandpa works fine.

Interestingly, Shadia doesn't seem like a very unusual name to me, but there are a fair number of Lebanese people around this area.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cappuccinosmom View Post
She may experience discrimination, depending on where she lives. But I think things are changing. There's a big difference from when I was a kid to my children's generation. They are going to grow up with global communication and friends IRL and online with all sorts of names and ethnicities as part of their norm.
Though in general racism has been waning for years, anti-Arab/anti-Islamic racism has been growing. Also, the election of Obama has made a lot of people, who were suppressing their racism, loose control of it and start being more overtly racist again.
post #12 of 37
Thread Starter 
Thanks for your thoughts and stories about this. And thank you for complimenting Shadia's name. It's a family name and one that I just like a lot.

I have gotten into the habit of saying, "Her name is Shadia--it means "singer" or "one who has a beautiful voice" in Arabic." Sometimes this seems to quell the negative vibe, and sometimes it increases the questions. I guess I don't care that much either way, but it's an interesting thing to go through.

I do think that the next generation will include many hybrid names and people with seemingly out-of-place names. We can only hope that our kids' cohorts will be more tolerant that some of our own!

Interestingly, Shadia's middle name is not really ethnically correct--it's Greek, and I'm not Greek. In the US, it's not unusual but Lebanese people ask, "why did you give her a Greek name?" (Not to mention that in Lebanon people don't generally choose their middle name--it's usually the first name of the father!)
post #13 of 37
her name is beautiful. it is always interesting when we get to take on the role of ambassador with cultural issues. i think you are handling it well. i agree that as time passes due to the nature of multiracial families becoming more apparent reality our children's friends will grow up in a multicultural world where our relationships and backgrounds don't need to be as readily explained.
post #14 of 37
I'm so sorry you're experiencing that. I think Shadia is a beautiful name and it should be really easy to pronounce, as it's spelled phonetically. But then, when people comment on my children's long Persian names, I say, "But unlike my four-syllable Hebrew name, xyz, their three-syllable names are spelled phonetically."

If they ask what "phonetically" means, I usually feel mollified that it's not my kids' names... it's the fact that they just can't read, period.
post #15 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fay View Post
My Asian DH insisted on giving our kids traditional English names -- their names are a little off the beaten path, but still traditional English names with traditional spellings. My DS1's third grade teacher couldn't even spell his name, and several family members can't spell it correctly. So you can't win even if you go with an Americanized name!

Shadia is a beautiful name, with a rich history and lovely meaning. Your DD can be proud of a name like that!
Same here. We really tried to make a point of picking a name that could be easily said in both languages (and didn't sound bad in either languages, I just cringe when a name I like in English turns into a name that sounds like a girl's name to me in his language ) AND be easily spelled (DH has A LOT of hang-ups about his name and insisted on an "American" name or one at least familiar in the US).

I really can't imagine why people would say that, it's such a beautiful name! I can understand being curious where it comes from but a mouthful? Hardly!

A FWIW, we constantly get people mispronouncing DD's name even though it's been a really common name in recent years!
post #16 of 37
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by EdnaMarie View Post
If they ask what "phonetically" means, I usually feel mollified that it's not my kids' names... it's the fact that they just can't read, period.
Quote:
Originally Posted by physmom View Post
I really can't imagine why people would say that, it's such a beautiful name! I can understand being curious where it comes from but a mouthful? Hardly!

A FWIW, we constantly get people mispronouncing DD's name even though it's been a really common name in recent years!
Thanks for the supportive and stories of other people's kookiness. You would be amazed by how many people look at "Shadia" and want to pronounce it "Shay-Dee-ya"! The other way people pronounce it is "shaw-dia."

It's weird how we Americans tend to think "foreign" languages don't have the "'a' as in racket" sound. (I wonder if it's because we're most used to Spanish, which doesn't use that sound [much?].) I pronounce her name with that 'a', and so does my husband and his family. But almost none of our friends do. It doesn't occur to them, even after hearing us say it constantly!
post #17 of 37
i totally understand what u r going through. my hubs is from palestine, but lives in lebanon. i am white.

well my first born son is mahmoud, and he is sooo white, looks white, well as soon as people asked what is his name and i said Mahmoud they go oo what a weird name how did u pick it and i say it is my father in laws name, then they say oo well cute baby but the name is hard to say. we we came up with a nick name for mahmoud, which was Moody and people could say that no problems.

my sec baby names was Kareem not so hard, and the boy is dark like his baba and looks arab, so the middle eastern name fit him really well, and was very easy to say, they just ask oo so u named him after the basketball player, hahahaha no my husbands aunt acually named him cause me and hubs were fighting over a name, and she got tired of us fighting so she said kareem is his name now u both shut up, ahhhahahaha

but now living in lebanon with both kids i dont have to call mahmoud moody anymore i can acually call him mahmoud, and not get weird looks, soo much better
post #18 of 37
I never post over here, but I have a friend whose husband studies Arabic and Arabic American relations regarding his work. They named their second son Kahlil. It is really cool--they're very non-Arabic; just have the interest in the culture and loved the name.

Sad to hear people even **CARE** what you choose to name your kid. There's plenty of eccentric spellings of names like Kaylee/Kailee/Kayleigh/Kalie/Kaley/Caley etc., or people who use Y's wherever they can. No idea why people say such crazy things. How hard is it to ask the name to be repeated or spelled, so that it's just pronounced correctly?
post #19 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by sky_and_lavender View Post
Thanks for the supportive and stories of other people's kookiness. You would be amazed by how many people look at "Shadia" and want to pronounce it "Shay-Dee-ya"! The other way people pronounce it is "shaw-dia."
So how do you you pronounce it? I rhymed it with Nadya in my head, which makes it "Shah-dya" (like Nadya in Russian).
post #20 of 37
My children have arabic names and people often ask where I picked them out. I simply look them in the eye and say "We are Muslim, and my son's names are the names of God" I do not shy away from my choices as a person and the names I have chosen to represent my love of our family as a whole. If people don't like my response they can eat it. I have yet to hear a bad response or negative comment/ see anything. Though I am a no nonsense kinda person, and I think people get that vibe too. Knock on wood it stays that way.

My mom hated my dd's name saying it was too long too. Ummm, my name has 3 syllables as well, so.... I wonder what it will be like for my children being very light skinned with their given names and others reactions when they get older. It will be interesting for sure.
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