Understanding What’s in a Name

This week’s tip brought to you by Nathan Heggins Bryant, assistant professor in English and co-coordinator of this year’s Book in Common (BiC).

To create an inclusive and welcoming space for students, faculty must be cautious of word choice in the classroom. In her recent book, Dismantling the Racism Machine, Karen Gaffney discusses issues pertaining to naming and diction. She suggests, “Pay more attention to how you respond to other people’s names.” She references a recent study showing that employers and teachers alike respond more positively to names that sound white than those that sound black.

Making an effort to learn and pronounce students’ names is an important step in creating an environment where students feel welcomed and engaged. But so, too, are our decisions to use damaging terms like “illegal alien” (as opposed to “undocumented person”). The implication of name choice is one of the tenets of this year’s BiC (All They Will Call You). If you are interested in learning more, consider attending one of these upcoming Book in Common events.

  • BiC campus kickoff (September 26 from 11-1 on Glenn Lawn)
  • Public film screening and discussion of the documentary Who is Dayani Cristal?, about the efforts to uncover the identity of a man who died at the border (November 6 at 6:30pm in PAC 134)
  • Panel discussion entitled “The Politics of Migrant Death at the Border,” featuring Chico State colleagues (November 14 from 6-8pm in Colusa 100A)

If you are teaching the BiC in a course, in part or in whole, there are resources available for you to use (reading lists, discussion questions, etc.) or you can contact co-coordinators Nathan Heggins Bryant or Hannah Burdette to assist with curricular planning.

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