How Prejudiced Are You When Picking Names Out Of A Line Up?

As I scrolled through the preapproved names on my insurance company's list my index finger hovered over those last names that were the most Southeast-Asian-sounding.

Jan 2, 2013 at 2:30pm | Leave a comment

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Not too long ago, India wrote about the underlying racism of the name game when it comes to selling yourself on the job market. Basically the less "ethnic" your name sounds, the better chance you have of getting called in for an interview. Gross, right?

I've always known that my Christian name is pretty vanilla. It was ethnically ambiguous bait all those times I cast my resume out into the once-wide ocean of assistant positions. I mean "Helena Darreen Andrews" doesn't connote much besides, "I wonder if she's from Montana?" 

I know my mother didn't plan it that way. The name "Helena" came to her in a dream spelled "Hellenea," which she thankfully eschewed. And my middle name, "Darreen," is the name of a childhood friend of hers. It also signified my mother's sincere hope that her unborn daughter be "daring" in life. "Andrews" is her last name, not my father's, because of reasons. So there you have it.

Experiential evidence suggests that my name plus my "phone voice" have made me the unexpected beneficiary of other people's prejudices. It's a theory that has been tested and proven several times over. All I have to do is show up.

"Helena? Helena Andrews? The journalist?" Ah, post racialism, what a sweet wet dream you were. 

But recently I had to climb down off my own lazy "Black people can't be racist" hyperbole when suddenly I was the one picking names out of the proverbial hat. And instead of doing it blind, I was as biased as they come. 

Guys, I got health insurance, which aside from being YAY! is also kind of daunting in a first world way. Because now that I've paid for the expensively unjust privilege of being healthy, I want the absolute best money can buy. That means finding a primary care doctor who not only won't kill me, but one who will also remember my name.

Weirdly enough, as I scrolled through the preapproved names on my insurance company's list my index finger hovered over those last names that were the most Southeast-Asian-sounding. Those "appealed" to me, begging me to click. Why? Because even my fingers knew that Dr. T. Banerjee would be better than Dr. T. Boone.

What the I-should-know-better! I nearly recoiled in shame once I noticed myself doing it -- over and over again.

I had yet to read a review, call an office to make sure the receptionist wasn't an ass hat or even double check the doctor's specialty, before weighing each option and bringing down the gavel. All my eyes knew was that there were supposedly better names than others which is so obviously ridiculous I should have them checked. But could I trust them to speed dial an optometrist who didn't have the last name Kim?

I like to bookmark the moments in my life when I know I'm being an idiot for no other reason but to bury and memorialize my own foolishness so that I hopefully won't repeat it in the future.

In the end, I found my old gyno from way back when I had a full-time job with benefits. Her last name is very middle-America sounding (what does that mean you ask? I don't actually know) and not at all magical. But before patting myself on that back, I remembered why I choose her in the first place. Because she was a lady and should therefore be better at perusing my ladyparts than a medicine man.