The beauty in a name is not just what we call someone. A name has power, meaning, history and most of all, a proof of existence. A name says who I am, where I’m from and it carries lofty expectations as well as dreams and aspirations. It is the first proof of existence and the last identifying factor in your demise.
Names give us heroes as well as villains. They give us pride and a sense of purpose. But now, names have become synonymous with injustice, with an abuse of power, with the untimely demise of too many men and women whose only problem is that their name is attached to a black person.
For a country founded off the principles of liberty and justice, the name UNITED STATES is the furthest thing from the truth. Why? Simply because it lacks unity and empathy. For every George Washington, there’s a George Washington Carver. For every Benjamin Franklin, there’s a Benjamin Banneker. All of them were considered great men throughout history depending on who you ask. All of them had dreams and visions of making America a better place. Only two of them would be killed for having the audacity to dream and change their unmitigated circumstances.
The constitution says liberty and justice for all, not liberty and justice for some. Now hundreds of years later, these same injustices are being played out in front of our very eyes. Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Botham Jean, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, George Floyd and countless others. All these names will be remembered because of the ignorance of another being who cut their lives short.
A name should never only entail a person's last moments. A name should speak to the character of a person to the plight of his triumphs and the realness of his tribulations. A name should celebrate accomplishments like Barack Obama, the first Black president, or Thurgood Marshall, the first Black supreme court justice, or Oprah Winfrey, the first black female billionaire. Let’s make sure that Kevin Smith in Compton is treated the same as John Smith in Beverly Hills. And that Shaniece Jackson from Harlem is protected the same way as Mary Walters in the Hamptons. Again, I ask you. What’s in a name? Go ahead. Tell me. I’ll wait.
And when you can tell me, then we will no longer need to have this discussion.