In January, I posed the controversial question, “What is the effect of a ‘black’ name in America?” I explained the effect that “black” names can have on job searches, finding that black named applicants wait an average of 15 weeks to find a job while white named applicants wait 10. I now question the effect of stereotypically black names on other aspects of life such as dating.
One place I can imagine name prejudice takes place is dating websites. If a person, like many of us do, succumbs to name prejudice, they are likely to skip over a potential match quicker than in real life situations. At a bar or coffee shop, depending on the people, there is usually a 2-5 minute conversation that take place before introducing yourself. In this short amount of time, it can become clear what the person’s motives and some aspects of their personality. Once names are introduced, I would argue if one person does not “like” the name of the other person, they are more likely to accept the name, especially as the conversation goes on. Here, nicknames can be especially important because let’s face it, names matter! When on a dating site, you likely judge the person’s picture first, then name (even if it’s a screen name), and then their activities. In this cyber world, if a guy chooses a name like player69, women are likely to run in the opposite direction. This example is on a smaller scale considering screen names are not permanent, but I would argue it supports the idea that potential matches are judged based on their names.
An important time in all relationships is meeting your significant other’s friends and family. In the case of a white male and black female with the names John and Tamika, I am curious how this situation would proceed. Given that interracial relationships have become more and more popular, people are generally becoming more accepting of these relationships. However, I wonder how a name could affect the acceptance of a couple such as John and Tamika. Tamika may hear jokes from her friends that she is dating a very white, plain and boring guy – simply based on the fact his name is John. John’s friends may joke that his girlfriend is loud and ghetto, judging by her name.
When John tells his family about his new love interest, Tamika, they may worry that she is “unsuitable” for their son because she may fall under the black stereotype of being uneducated and lazy. Tamika’s family might either be proud she has found someone who could be economically successful, or they could follow the trend of her friends by poking fun that he is boring and stale.
In this example, I am not trying to group all white and blacks as racist, however, I am pointing out that stereotypes are still alive in America. While this demonstration of John and Tamika is not guaranteed to always happen, it is my belief that people would have these pre-judgements solely based on the names John or Tamika. In my last article, I proved these prejudices are present in the workforce and so it seems they would carry over into the dating world as well. So, I would conclude, parent’s choices of names could not only affect the outcome of their child’s hire-ability, but also their future dating life if these prejudices continue to live. And let’s be honest, we already quiver at the idea of our parents choosing who we date, so I admit this conclusion may be unsettling or problematic for many.