Why I like Salon writers

They take the time to research and explain cultural phenomena, like the perceived heightened creativity  of African American names, complete with race, class, and gender analysis. David Zax responds to the ridicule black names receive with a break down of the history and realities of African American naming:

Much of this ridicule is either misguided or misleading. Exhibit A in the attack on black names is often a story about black schoolchildren that some friend of a friend met named Urine or Shithead, Chlamydia or Gonorrhea, or Lemonjello or Oranjello. Neither Lieberson nor Cleveland Evans (former president of the American Names Society) has ever encountered black people with such names, but Lieberson notes that the (white) comedian Dana Carvey chose the name Dex for his child after a bottle with the word “dextrose” on it, and Evans has more than once encountered a young woman on a baby name Web site (most often visited by whites) who rather likes the ring to the name Veruca, a character from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Roald Dahl chose that name carefully for the bratty girl he assigned it to: It’s a medical term for a wart.

As for those “Luxury Latch-ons,” it is true that an unfortunate culture of naming children after brands of champagne or fancy cars has sprung up over recent years. “But that’s a class thing, not a race thing,” says Cleveland Evans, noting that he has encountered twins named Camry and Lexus who were white. If you are poor and wish a better life for your kid, a name like Lexus declares that hope. With this in mind, much of the gainsaying in the black blogosphere smacks of classism: Many commenters call the unusual names “ghetto,” and Cosby’s jeremiad was essentially an attack on the black poor. (His assertion that “all of them are in jail” is, to say the least, dubious; an economic study by “Freakonomics'” Levitt and Roland G. Fryer showed several years ago that distinctively black names in themselves do not cause a negative life outcome — vivid evidence of which is seen on the Olympic roster and at the Democratic National Convention.

Of course, the vast majority of unusual black names are nothing like Clitoria or Tanqueray. They are names like — to page at random through “Proud Heritage” — the catchy Maneesha and Tavonda, the magisterial Orencio and Percelle, or the evocative Lakazia and Swanzetta. They are names emerging from a tradition of linguistic and musical invention much like those that gave us jazz and rap. And they are names that have paved the way for Americans of all classes and colors to begin to loosen up a stodgy culture of traditional name giving.

The politics of tourism and travel

Because summer time is the time of travel and all of its economic and national and identity contexts, I thought it was a great time to highlight a couple great posts that reflect on the complicated questions that attach themselves to these nuances.

First, check out this open thread on first-world traveling to third-world nations at Feministe, in which guest blogger Anna asks and attempts to answer the following questions:

What do you perceive are the ramifications of that type of tourism? (Broad question, I know.)

If you have participated in that kind of tourism, how did those potential ramifications affect the choices that you made as a tourist? What choices have you made to be a more “responsible” tourist?

Do believe there is such a thing as feminist tourism, and, if so, what does that look like?

And, finally, how do the politics of a country affect your desire/willingness to participate in that country’s tourism? What about their human rights record?

Then read Guest Contributor Margari Aziza Hill at Racialicious on traveling as a black woman and how foreign travel can change your perceptions and understandings of race and racism:

Further, Europeans and Americans can assume you are just part of the landscape. You’re that native that needs to move out their way as. One time I was traveling with my friend from Bahia. We look very similar and people often assumed we were Moroccan, maybe from somewhere in the South. On our way from Casa Blanca to Fes, we found some British people were sitting in our seats. So, we were looking at our tickets and them. Mariah said, “Umm, these are our seats.” I was trying to speak to them in my clear American diction. The young couple just looked at us blankly and the crusty old man blurted out, “Doo Youu Sbeakk Frrrench?!”

I said, “No, I speak English!”

What really pissed me off was that he didn’t hear us because we were brown. He assumed that our non-British accent meant that we weren’t fluent speakers. Our brown skin rendered our language incomprehensible, as well as our rights to the first class seats that we purchased with our hard earned money.