A few weeks ago, I shared a post on Instagram: ‘Say My Name Bitch.’
I talked about my name and how it forms a huge part of my identity. I talked about my relationship with the three syllables
– sa-man-tha –
…and how I need to hear them all to feel complete. To feel authentic.
I asked you: “TELL ME: Do you consider your name a vital part of who you are?”
And I was serious. Because, I sure do.
My identity is what makes me, me. It is what I stand for – being ‘true to you’ and fighting for your right to be the person you are proud of. The person that you are with ZFG.
And yet, I realised this week, that ‘what I am’ is also Part of The Problem.
‘Samantha Kelsie’ is part of the problem.
Let me tell you why:
My name is not Samantha Kelsie.
(Well, it is… but that is only half of it.)
My full name is Samantha Kelsie Imbimbo.
My surname is Imbimbo. It is Italian.
My grandpa was born in Salerno. Antonio Luigi Vincenzo Imbimbo.
I was brought up in England. English speaking. English educated. But with a surname that did not quite match my English surroundings.
My name did not fit in. I felt that I did not fit in, because of it.
I had a surname that was awkward to say. Awkward to spell. It caused confusion. Embarrassment. Name-calling. It was clumsy.
I hated it.
I loved where it came from, I loved what it meant to me. I loved that it made me different. But I hated how it sounded.
So, I hid it.
I made a conscious decision in my adult life, to hide my full name.
I became: Samantha Kelsie – using my middle name as my last.
It would be easier for my business. It would be easier for my clients. It would be easier, for me – Samantha Kelsie – to live with.
But the truth is; there was another side to it.
Multiple times over the years, my name (without my face) has prompted such statements as:
“Italian? I never would have guessed. It sounds African.”
“Im-bim-bo – that’s cool … but you’re not what I’d expected.”
“Sam Imbimbo? Really? I thought you were a black bloke.”
The list goes on.
In the shock and aftermath of what has happened in America in the last two weeks, following the murder of George Floyd, I have been going out of my way to better understand the problem of white vs black.
I posted about it on Instagram.
And I am learning.
I am researching; I am donating; I am having conversations; and I am educating myself. Because racism needs to stop.
But in the process of doing this, I have learnt a very hard lesson about myself. A realisation that I am not proud of. In fact, I feel really quite ashamed. I have realised that I am a bigger part of the problem than I initially knew myself to be.
In my effort to understand better the meaning of white privilege – and to share this knowledge with others – I found this article by Christina Marie Noel, which described White Privilege using four bullet points.
The third of which was this: “We are privileged in that our cultural names are less likely to influence whether we’re given the opportunity to interview for certain jobs.”
Reading this reality, suddenly clashed with my support of this article I had shared the day previous.
It was an honest reflection written by my wedding industry colleague, Natasha Johnson, detailing her own experiences of prejudice as a black celebrant.
I had shared this article on my celebrant pages in the honest hope of educating both my clients and colleagues on why we should not be making assumptions of person’s hire-ability on the basis of their skin colour.
But I have allowed those same colleagues and clients to judge my hire-ability too. I have allowed them to make assumptions about me, because of my name and what that suggests about the colour of my skin.
No not true…
I haven’t done that all.
I didn’t give anyone that chance.
I consciously made a decision to change my name, because experience had taught me that some people will read my name and assume that I am black; and that assumption, might give them reason to not want to work with me.
And that reality pains me greatly.
I am not sure if I am more ashamed of the society that I belong to, for being allowed to think that; or if I am more ashamed that I have given society the permission to do so, by letting it determine my own thought process, too.
I am ashamed that I have allowed myself to believe that if I were mistaken for being black, I would be considered ‘not enough.’
I am still processing how I feel about all of the above statements.
As I write this, I am thinking out loud to myself: so, what happens next? Do I purposely go out of my way now, to change my name back? To alter it on every last platform and page, every business card, every email I send going forward? Do I change the way I feel about all the other things I don’t like about my name? To make a point? To make it better?
Maybe that is exactly what I should do.
But I also know there are other reasons why I go by Samantha Kelsie.
I like my name. I like how it sounds. I like that if I got married, and changed it, it wouldn’t matter – this part would stay the same. It feels more professional to me, because I am used to it. My name is recognised within my industry. It has longevity.
I like that it gives me a persona – a work ego, a role to play when I’m at my desk. I like that it is the full part of the name that my parents gave me.
But I don’t like that we live in a world where we are challenged by our identity. And I don’t like the sad truth, that whilst I can hide behind my name, I don’t need to hide behind my skin. I will always be treated fairly.
That is white privilege.
Black people don’t always get that chance. Black people – right now – have to prove themselves harder than the rest. It isn’t just a name they have to change; it’s an entire nation’s attitude. It is an entire person’s prejudice.
I truly hope that one that one day we will change that prejudice, together. And I, for one, will try to do my bit.
I will keep on learning. I will learn to make the world a better place.
“I cannot fully understand, but I can stand.”
And I can apologise.
Whilst writing this article, my attention was directed to a video of American Educator Jane Elliott asking a room full of White people a very simple question: “Do you white folks wish to be treated the same way that America treats it’s black citizens?”
Nobody says yes.
Black Lives Matter.
Article written by Me:
Samantha Kelsie Imbimbo
Article updated 6th June 2020 to include image of statistics taken from BBC News article.
with ‘You Do You’ attitude.
Samantha Kelsie | ZFG
Lifestyle Empowerment Coach
⚡ Permission to be – unapologetically YOU. ⚡