United States immigrants are often pressured to choose an “American” name in place of their non-American birth names. This common practice stems from many reasons including easier pronunciation, less chance of discrimination and appreciation for their nation of refuge.
Whether it is to assimilate into American culture or to avoid xenophobic acts, people should not have to alter their authentic names in order to fully experience American society.
A popular reason people choose “American” names is because their birth name is perceived as too hard to pronounce. Emory University student Harry Yin Jiang Xiong explained, “Personally, I prefer my English name because no one can pronounce my Chinese name correctly … but if I’m with my Chinese friends or someone who is capable of pronouncing my Chinese name, I’d definitely prefer that,” according to The Tab.
This is an unfortunately common sentiment across many immigrant and minority communities. America is a diverse nation and therefore, its citizens should make an effort to embrace all cultures, starting by learning to pronounce one’s authentic name.
One should not have to change their name out of fear of discrimination. Although discrimination in the U.S. has drastically decreased over the decades, it is still a prominent issue in the hiring process. In a Harvard Business School study comparing the success rate of a minority’s authentic credentials versus an Americanized version, racial biases were shown.
According to the study, 21 percent of Asian applicants received call-backs if they used “whitened” resumes, compared to the 11.5 percent of applicants who used resumes that referred to their racial background and received call-backs.
One of the methods of “whitening” was for Asians to document an “American” name rather than their birth name. For America to truly withhold their non-discriminatory reputation, sentiment changes in the workplace must be made to evaluate an individual on their qualifications, not their race.
Individuals should not carry the sentiment that one needs an “American” name in order to succeed.
“When one changes their name, they potentially lose a part of their identity. [Names] represent us, not only as unique individuals but also as a cultural group,” Hye Jin Kwon said, according to The Tab.
Just because an individual resides in a new country shouldn’t mean they must conceal where they came from.
Some immigrants choose American names in order to move on from the hardships of their past by adopting a new identity. If one desires a name change without the pressures of American society, they should do so, but they shouldn’t be compelled to do so.
A person’s name should not define whether they are a true American citizen or not. We as a nation must strive to accept individuals of all cultures, and the first step is to acknowledge their authentic names.