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  1. #21
    I don't think there's a problem with using names that were commonly given to slaves, many of these are truly lovely names. Jemima is one I personally would not use. As someone previously mentioned, an Aunt Jemima was a stock character in minstrel shows played by a white person in black face. It was a mammie character used to demean black women, similiar to calling a man an "Uncle Tom." Since Tom was a common name given to black and white men, it isn't linked to minstrely in the same way Jemima is. While it seems we are far removed from slave days, these stereotypes and negative connotations still exist and carry painful memories for many people.

    As an African American, Jemima is a name I would never give to my daughter. It carries racial baggage that was a reality older members of my family had to live through. I hope that as a culture we are moving in a more positive direction, so I don't want to give my kid a name tied to a negative history of racism and stereotypes.

    I think if you want to name your kid Jemima, more power to you. It's valuable to know the history of any name you are going to use. It seems unlikely that a Jemima in the next generation would be teased by peers for her name, and on a European American child it wouldn't be so bad. It has a lovely sound, so if the history doesn't bother you, go for it.

  2. #23
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Quote Originally Posted by lesliemarion View Post
    I did not know that Aunt Jemima was a character in a minstrel show. Is that common knowledge, I wonder? I'm in my early 50's and somehow missed that fact. I know that the vast majority of the high school kids I teach would not react to Jemima and Tom any differently than any other name.
    I don't know if it's common knowledge, but it is apparent even from looking up "Aunt Jemima" on Wikipedia. As I said earlier, Tom is so common that most people wouldn't connect a Tom with "Uncle Tom", but I learned about the term "Uncle Tom" in history class in school and I don't even live in the United States, so I would assume there are a lot of Americans, in particular African Americans, who still know those as offensive names.
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  3. #25
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    I personally love the name of Jemima. It's a lovely biblical name that means dove in Hebrew. However, as an American, I'm not sure it is yet time to use the name. I really want it to get liberated here from its negative racial stereotype. I told friends I wanted to use the name and all of my friends had very negative responses. And they are used to my names which they all think are extreme. Not that the names I like are outside NB norm but my friends all have Logan's, Grace's and Kaiden's so I'm considered unusual. Besides the racial stereotypes, I got told that she would be made fun of because of the syrup. And at some point when my kids grow up and have kids of their own, she really would be an Aunt Jemima. I wanted to use the full name of Jemima and just call her Jemma which I thought was a good compromise. My husband wasn't going along with it so it didn't happen.

    All the other names you mentioned, especially Sadie, I think are useable. I hope that Jemima will soon be usable too. I know there is an actress in Girls named Jemima so I'm hoping that with some different associations, and us progressing as a nation away from our horrible history of slavery and segregation, this name will be able to be used again. It would also be nice if that stupid syrup/pancake brand would get renamed!
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  4. #27
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Ontario, Canada
    For what it's worth, I asked a few of my friends here in Ontario (high school or university age) what they thought of Jemima and none of them said it was offensive. When I said that some people find it offensive, they didn't know why until I told them. (None of them were black though; there aren't that many black people in my area so that might make a difference.) I think usability depends on the community you live in. If there are a lot of black people, especially those who are descended from slaves, probably not a good idea. If you live in, say, a community of mostly Asian immigrants, it wouldn't be as much of a problem.

    Yes, people relocate, but it's impossible to prepare for every potential problem. There are probably lots of common English names that would be offensive, have bad meanings, or sound like bad/unpleasant words in other languages (though can't think of any examples offhand).
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  5. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by daisy451 View Post

    I assume you're talking about the Irish slave trade? You're right, those slaves suffered just as much as their counterparts of other races; but just because there were (and still are) white people who were enslaved does not mean that the racial connotations of these names or of American slavery will ever go away. The white slave trade was never even remotely close in scale to the black slave trade- there was no slavery-induced "Irish diaspora" on the same scale as the African diaspora. White Americans do not suffer the remnants of their ancestors' slavery today. "The media" is not misrepresenting anything. This would be akin to saying "there were people who weren't Jewish killed in Auschwitz, so WWII had nothing to do with Jews." It's kind of an insane statement.

    That said, I think some of these names are fine to use. Dinah and Sadie are particularly mainstream. Jemima is a bit difficult- I would avoid that one as a first name. My general rule is if you have to ask, it's probably a bad idea, so tread lightly with these names. Most would probably be fine, but it would be a good idea to search for alternatives you love equally.

    I'm not referring to Irish Slaves, I'm referring to poor slaves from England. And there were many. Just as there are many "white" slaves in the prostitution ring today. Also, remember that many Africans were sold off by other "Blacks" in Africa. Thus, I think it is dis-empowering to the African-American community to perpetuate the lie that they were always beholden to "whites". This is not the case. Many were sold-out by their "Black" leaders, just as "white" slaves were sold-out by their "white" leaders.

    As for using the WWII analogy, remember there were Jews that also sent other Jews to the concentration camps. Furthermore, remember it was the official Jewish league in America that were called upon to "take-in" the European Jews to America, but this Jewish league declined to save Europe's Jews. In this way, this Jewish league has as much blood on their hands as the Nazi regime for their evil crimes against humanity.

    Thus, what I'm saying is that evil is not bound by so-called "race", nationality, color, religious affiliation. Evil individuals are evil whatever label they use. And being unethical is a personal choice. In this way, I am not a biological determinist philosophically speaking. I think it's unethical to perpetuate historical lies too. People need the truth that brings unity & harmony and not divisiveness & disharmony. Peace

    PS If you feel that the name Jemima is negative for whatever reason don't use it...but if you love the name, use it!
    Last edited by oceansunrise; December 20th, 2013 at 07:41 PM.
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