They Added an Extra “N” to My Name and Then I Thought About Race

My name plate greeted me like it has done in the past but this time it seemed lonely and detached. This temporary welcome would soon dissolve into familiar tidings — but before my seat envelops my ass — I notice that the letters look cluttered.

My failing eye sight needed time to configure it. Yep! There is an extra “N” jammed in with the rest. The letters seem unhappy with their unwanted guest. I am indifferent. The arrangers ask how I like it and I smile broadly and set down my belongings.

Why bother? By the time they get around to fixing it — I will be on my way out. If I really cared — I would demand that they do so anyway.

Despite the tiring politics of corporate operations that make living in an office continuously maddening — there is the understanding that no problem is unsolvable. Even if you have to beg for it and watch the clock tick at a pace that causes your veins to pop out.

“EZINNNE” will become “EZINNE.”

But how and why was I assigned to be someone else? My name isn’t terribly hard to grasp. Why don’t we ever get JENNIFER wrong? How is it so easy to avoid adding an extra “N” to a name that is incredibly popular?

I guess we just answered that question.

I thought about race when I noticed that my name was misspelt. I looked at the people around me and I thought about it. I think about it all the time. I jot down my analysis. I lay in bed on a Saturday morning and drift in an out of the words that sum up why it is so hard to be an American.

Then as I walk around the grocery store — sorting through the basket of avocados — I still hold on to the fact that it is much harder to be an African-American.

My name is still the trigger. When I demonstrate how it is pronounced — I feel like I have betrayed my heritage. I make allowances for strangers by offering a phonetically acceptable version. They tell me that it’s pretty. They say that because it’s different. They ask me to spell it. Afterwards they nod in acknowledgment. The test is over.

I hate describing my background and painting the elaborate picture of how I was born in the States and then raised in Nigeria. It’s exhausting and quite frankly boring. Who cares? There is nothing exotic or awesome about straddling two time zones as if they both magically collide.

When I study my name outside of myself — I don’t quite recognize who I am or what I am supposed to be. I know what I appear to be on the outside. I know it has affected my movement in the world. I am the Black girl that can’t any guy she wants because my hair gets in the way. The Black girl that girls who aren’t Black feel superior to except I’m thinner. The Black girl who can’t be cast in a Sci-fi remake opposite the White hero because skin color and that name.

How do you pronounce it again?

Let’s go with Tessa, or Zoe instead.

Race and all its implications has a wider playing field because the closely-watched elections has swallowed us whole. As we churn and limbs fly about in an effort to avoid ethnic collisions — I am bracing for the realization that I will be thinking about all the reasons why we hate each other — even more.

But, first I think I am going to request that they fix my name. I still don’t care. The letters do.

Juggling Wordsmith. I have a lot to say!