Pop Culture

Raven Symoné, That Hair, and ‘Black’ Sounding Names

Sometimes, members of the black community don't do much to empathise with discrimination occurring against those in their own community...

Kyus Agu-Lionel 

Sub Editor of Naked Politics 

Raven-Symoné has been trolling us for years. From defending the journalist who said that Michelle Obama looked like a monkey, to saying that she doesn’t want to be labelled African-American, instead wanting to simply be ‘American’ – ironically ‘American’ is also a label, but this seems to have escaped her. Perhaps best of all, she declared emphatically in an interview “I am from every continent in Africa except for one and I’m also from every continent in Europe except for one.”

She is known for her childhood stint on The Cosby Show, for her own show That’s So Raven on the Disney Channel and for appearances in the Cheetah Girls movies. But she’s returned to public consciousness on The View last week, during a discussion on racist bias in the interview selection process by many employers. She said “if your name’s Watermelondrea, I’m not about to hire you”.

This would be disappointing coming from anyone, but is particularly unsettling coming from a black lesbian woman. She has the discrimination triple threat, but instead of standing up for minorities, she chooses instead to be part of the problem. In addition to this, those who deny that racism exists would seize upon her quote to shout “SEE? THERE IS NO PROBLEM, AND EVEN THIS BLACK WOMAN AGREES!!!”

Usually your parents choose your name; therefore it is more a reflection of them than it is of you. In addition to this what your name is, is not indicative at all of how competent you are at a job. By rejecting ‘black’ or ‘Muslim’ sounding names, employers are shooting themselves in the foot, as studies have shown that companies with a more diverse workforce tend to have a lower employee turnover rate, be more creative and more competitive.

Racism in the recruitment process is still a problem in the UK. Studies have revealed that the same CV is far more likely to get invited for an interview when it is headed by an ‘English’ sounding name, than when it is headed by a stereotypically ‘black’ or ‘Muslim’ sounding one.

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I even know many people who have seen it first-hand. I know someone who worked at a recruitment agency, and was told to look for ‘John Smiths’ only. He saw people who laughed at names on CVs and who said why would they employ them when they can’t even pronounce their name. One of my friends applied for a marketing firm and heard nothing back. She then applied again, using her English sounding middle name instead of her first name, which is Arabic, and got an interview. Many other people I know also use other forms of their names in order to get more response to their applications.

This is a problem, and Raven-Symoné making comments like she did shows just what a confused person she actually is. What makes it even more perplexing is that her own name isn’t exactly Jane Baker, and she also has bright red hair, which is seen (on black women) as being ‘ratchet’ or ‘ghetto’. So she would be a victim of the same idiotic view that she’s spouting.

Raven-Symoné, her non-utilised accent on the e, and her bright red chicken hairstyle all need to take several seats. She needs to examine herself closely in the mirror and realise who and what she is, for the female Uncle Tom character that she’s playing at the moment does her – and everybody else – no favours.

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