Higher Education

My name means sacred bells and music

Today is World Day of Music and also Int’l Day of Yoga. I am sure that it will benefit me to harness some internal peace and there is no better way than to pen down a racist trigger that has been setting me off the last few weeks – my identity – which has got a lot to do with music.

This blog emanates from the drop that filled my glass of patience. So what was that drop you ask? I recently attended a virtual event, where I joined in as Teeroumanee and the event chair, also chair of a particular group in HE, thought it was correct to welcome me by addressing me as “Tee”. Why on Earth would she do so, yes, I am calling out on these behaviours publicly and will provide as much information as possible to identify those repeated perpetrators of racism.

It is now June, and for the last six months, I have had:

  • Tee
  • T
  • I still do not know how to pronounce your name
  • Repeatedly mispronouncing my name

Of course, Tee and T have been frequently used maliciously by some racist ex-colleagues too. There was one particular ex-colleague who on various occasions introduced me as “it is not coffee, but the other drink”, both in workplace settings and non-workplace settings; and that came from a male POC.

People with a non-English sounding name would see the racism in the above examples, the others would probably fall into a few categories:

  1. not seeing what the problem is about unless the problem is spelled out for them,
  2. assuming that I am an ableist, or
  3. simply do not care about this topic at all

Let me clarify, my name is not ruining my life; it is you, who take the liberty to shorten my name, who is ruining my life.

I know my peers are expecting me to take responsibility to correct them, and here is why I will NOT:

  1. So far, my racist professional peers who have taken the liberty to distort my name, have, at some point, had access to an unconscious bias training. It is easy to find this out through an FOI from their institution or looking at their workplace HR policy handbook.
  2. I will not waste my time and energy on calling out every single racist, because, at the end of the day, in the current workplace scenario, success is based on output, and any minute wasted in sending an email to a racist or having “a quiet word” with a racist is in effect crediting the amount of time I have to work on my output.
  3. Racism in the UK is a white people problem to resolve, so sorry, but not sorry.

I do expect an apology from anyone who is reading this and who has been racist while addressing me – will I get one, probably not. However, I will not be accepting all apologies, not all damage done is excusable by a “sorry”. For example, one particular person recently told me “I still do not know how to pronounce your name”, more than one year of knowing me and hearing people call my name properly, however, the actual problem is that this statement does not help me in helping them at all. If this is you, this is what I expect to hear:

  1. Can you help me out by pronouncing your name again AND
  2. Next time I will take my time to pronounce it well

Of course, while writing this blog, I am fully aware of the kind of response reaction that will follow, there will be some who will put in a genuine effort to get my name right, those who had always been conscious about people’s names will have nothing more to worry about, and of course those who know will feel intimidated because of their white fragility or/and racial naivety. For the latter group, at this point, I cannot care what they decide to do, but I will definitely publicly call out repeated racist behaviours, especially when it concerns people who hold leadership roles.

Here is a Twitter thread you might find useful where some other people within HE have shared their concerns too.

[Post edit]. While the Twitter thread is on differentiating between my name on Twitter and the Twitter handle, and which had for some reasons made me the target of white fragility, the post above, is purely about people who have known me for a while and have heard my name several times. I do not even know why I am having to explain this to White people with English names and white fragility sending me weird messages and yet surprisingly not in my professional network. Face palm!

I am including a response to the thread. It is quite a nested thread, so happy learning!

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