Black Conspiracy Theory 101: Did a Judge Forbid Black Mothers From Naming Their Children?

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Names, such as Armani-Chanel, Quo’Tatashia, Devonterray, Mopreshia, or Telaphonia-Sheeray, certainly make your ears perk up when you first hear them.  Even though the recent celebrity trend has been to give children names that buck the norm, in the past, it has oftentimes been a topic of conversation that many Black women, in particular, tend to give their children “distinctively Black” names that are “unique.” Case in point, did a U.S. federal judge by the name of Ryan Cabrera actually forbid Black women from naming their own children?

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In March of 2008, a disturbing e-mail began circulating about Judge Cabrera deeming it unlawful for Black women to continue to give their children “ridiculous” names that oftentimes involve nonsensical spellings. The e-mail allegedly addressed how parents who conjure up these “names” usually don’t know the origins or meanings of the said names but somehow feel compelled to prove how “unique” the names are.

An alleged excerpt from Judge Cabrera’s e-mail:

After Judge Cabrera’s historic ruling, little Clitoria Jackson will likely undergo a name change.

(DETROIT) In a decision that’s expected to send shockwaves through the African-American community — and yet, give much relief to teachers everywhere — a federal judge ruled today that Black women no longer have independent naming rights for their children. Too many Black children — and many adults — bear names that border on not even being words, he said.

“I am simply tired of these ridiculous names Black women are giving their children,” said U.S. Federal Judge Ryan Cabrera before rendering his decision. “Someone had to put a stop to it.”

While the rule applies to all Black women, Cabrera allegedly singled out impoverished Mothers. “They are the worst perpetrators,” he said. “They put in apostrophes where none are needed. They think a ‘Q’ is a must. There was a time when Shaniqua and Tawanda were names you dreaded. Now, if you’re a Black girl, you hope you get a name as sensible as one of those.”

Few stepped forward to defend Black women—and Black women themselves seemed relieved.

“It’s so hard to keep coming up with something unique,” said Uneeqqi Jenkins, 22, an African-American Mother of seven who survives on public assistance. Her children are named Daryl, Q’Antity, Uhlleejsha, Cray-Ig, Fellisittee, Tay’Sh’awn, and Day’Shawndra.

Beginning in one week, at least three White people must agree with the name before a Black mother can name her child.  “Hopefully we can see a lot more Black children with sensible names like Jake and Connor,” Cabrera said.

His ruling stemmed from a lawsuit brought by a 13-year-old girl whose mother created her name using Incan hieroglyphics.

While this e-mail raised the ire of Black women everywhere, it would later prove to be a hoax: Judge Ryan Cabrera never existed, so there was never a mandate that Black women could not name their children without the approval of White people.

The urban legend actually came from a satirical article, “Enough With the Stupid Names,” that was written by Bill Matthews, a humorist, who in 2008 co-founded the blog “The People’s News,” which poked fun at the lives of Blacks but has since “evolved” into satirizing everyone and all situations.

Apparently when the e-mail was circulated, what was left out at the bottom of it was the disclaimer that the judge’s edict and the entire article was made up.

Still, according to a 2004 study, more than 40 percent of African-American girls born in the mid-2000s had names that could not be found among Whites and another 30-plus percent have names that are not even common in the Black community. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology revealed in another study that employers are 50 percent more likely to call in applicants with “White-sounding” names than those with “Black-sounding” ones even if the Black job seeker had impeccable credentials.

Meanwhile, the fake e-mail was followed up by yet another tongue-in-cheek article about how Condoleezza Rice was calling for the removal of Judge Cabrera and how she might not have been as successful in life had her mother not given her the extra ‘e’ and ‘z’ in her name.

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