Kerryn Boogaard Kerryn Boogaard
Beverly Goldsmith Beverly Goldsmith
Zoe Bingley-Pullin Zoe Bingley-Pullin

José or Joe? Maha or Mary?:

A recent video highlights how people can be discriminated against because of their name.
By Sue Evans
Date: September 20 2014
Editor Rating:

I saw a video recently on YouTube posted by a man in the USA named José Zamora. 

José was searching for a job online and had sent in dozens of applications and résumés, without getting any interviews. So he decided to try a little experiment by dropping the “s” and the accent mark from his name, becoming just “Joe.” The résumés and application information he sent as Joe were identical, except for the name. As the video explains, he almost immediately started getting responses from potential employers. 

This got me thinking about the discrimination towards people based solely on their name. 

I think Australia still has a long way to go to become discrimination-free when it comes to names. When I was still teaching, it was clear that if a child has an unusual name the judgment can be harsh and hurtful, and this can carry through to adulthood. 

My neighbour, whose parents were from Lebanon and is Muslim Lebanese, says he also had a similar experience. At school in suburban Sydney many years ago, he quickly learned it was better to use an 'Anglo' version of his name - Ray instead of Rafiq. While he has never changed his name formally, and now introduces himself as Rafiq, he nonetheless gets called Ray by nearly everyone other than his parents and siblings. 

And me. I call him Rafiq because it's his name; it's what he prefers; and it's a nice-sounding name which is simple to say. 

While this isn’t an instance of blatant discrimination, as Rafiq made this choice for himself, a less obvious confused reaction might be more welcoming and the capacity to inquire how it's pronounced and to get it right is both professional and polite.

But while names are an important part of each person's identity, after learning someone's name and what they like to be called, the important thing is to get to know the person behind the name.

Perhaps José Zamora’s video will remind people to look to the qualities of the person, not just their name. Take a look at it here. 


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