We’ve all heard about the role ethnic or “black-sounding” names have the potential to play in biasing employers against hire. But unusual names are often raised as a topic of interrogation or ridicule because of how they’re spelled, how they sound, or what they may inadvertently imply.

U.S. Volleyball Olympian Destinee Hooker recently told TMZ that she was teased about her name as a child. Though the TMZ piece was unclear on whether it’s the spelling of her first name, her last name, or the two together that caused the taunting, the writeup does mention that Destinee’s father is credited for the unique spelling of her first name:

“Since I was a blessing, [my father] spelled it uniquely. So I am thankful to be here and glad my dad gave me the name.”

Though Hooker had no problem with being asked about her name’s origins, TMZ’s motives deserve to be questioned. Since they’re in the business of putting folks on blast and mercilessly mocking people for their appearance and other superficial reasons, it’s probable that they asked in hopes to get her to admit that she regretted her name or that it caused her some sort of psychic damage. It’s great that Hooker responded so positively:

“When it comes to my name, I honestly find nothing wrong with it. I love my name.”

This isn’t the first time a prominent black athlete’s name has been questioned in interviews. Dwyane Wade, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, and Anfernee Hardaway spring immediately to mind. In each case, there’s the implied, “What were your parents thinking?!” or the unspoken (or blatant) mockery about spelling or pronunciation. But taunting someone’s name or questioning their parents intellect or motives as a result of it says more about the person raising the name as an issue than it does about the person who bears the name. In Destinee’s case–and in many others, where an adult has the option of legally changing his or her name or its spelling–her father’s love for her and the care he took in giving her a name that had meaning to him are the only things that matter. And that’s just as it should be.

What do you think? Was TMZ trying to mock Destinee? Is her name even unusual enough to inspire comment?

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  • Jess

    wow Barbara, first of all, what defines a “Black” name? Are you saying that we should name our kids African names? Because many “Black” names are Biblical, foreign, or originally white names (like Rodney and Tyrone). And Destinee is a nice name – it hasn’t stopped her from being a winner, so who cares? You’re controlled by white supremacy and bias and cowardly. We can hav whatever name we want.

    • Pop Schlepp

      How biblical is d’brickashaw ferguson?