ED GORDON, host:
Black Americans sometimes choose some unusual creative first names for their children. Commentator Robin Washington says the choice of a name is a big deal. In fact, he says a name can shape a destiny. Take a star from the NFL draft, for example.
Mr. ROBIN WASHINGTON (Editorial Page Editor of the Duluth News Tribune): Whether you're a football fan or not, you better get used to the name D'Brickashaw, spelled D-apostrophe, and the rest just like it sounds. D'Brickashaw Ferguson is a top pick in the NFL draft.
Okay, I know what you're thinking. Where did his parents come up with that? And with the D-apostrophe business, you know they've got to be black. Well, they are.
Mr. and Mrs. Ferguson, Edwin and Rhunette, with an R-H, are a perfectly middle class couple from Long Island. And they didn't just make up their son's name; it comes from the character of the priest in the novel, The Thornbirds: Father Ralph de Bricassart.
Call the kid brick for short, and you're probably going to raise a football player.
The Ferguson's story sounds like that of the Rice's. By now, everyone should know Condoleezza, the Secretary of State, is named for the Italian musical notation, con dolcezza, or to play with sweetness. She lived up to it. Not only did she grow up to be a diplomat, but a classical pianist.
Not all unique black names have so much thought behind them. I knew someone named Vandy Bill(ph), that had little explanation other than his parents didn't know how to spell Vanderbilt. And a whole lot of Oprah's traumatic childhood can surely be traced to the transposition of the R and P in the biblical name Orpah. Now, everyone thinks the name in the bible is misspelled.
A lot of people have made fun of black names like that. I'm guilty of it. When I worked at the black paper in Boston, a few of us used to vote for an unofficial community name of the week. We had so many to choose from that Lashamicka(ph) or El Demetrius(ph) didn't even make the cut.
Some people have worried that obviously black names could hold someone back in life. But not so, according to a study a couple of years ago called The Causes and Consequences of Distinctively Black Names.
Researchers Roland Fryer and Steven Levitt found a high probability that a woman named Kiara(ph) or a man named Deshaun(ph) would have a more difficult life than a Kaitlin(ph) or a Brett. But, they said, the name was only an indicator of a person's life circumstances, not the cause. Any number of Shamickas(ph) and Antwone's(ph) have done just fine.
That's obviously true of D'Brickashaw, too. And at 6-foot and at 312 pounds, I'll call him whatever he wants.
GORDON: Robin Washington is editorial page editor of the Duluth News Tribune, in Minnesota.
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