What's in a Name?

When my friend Nisa orders at Starbucks she tells them her name is Nicole. She used the label maker at work to spell her name more phonetically on her nametag, “Niza,” because she was tired of hearing people say “nee-suh.”

My last name is Briseño. In Kindergarten, my teacher wrote the tilde, ~, as a straight line, --, above the n and I did not yet understand why that made my mother upset. By the time I was graduating high school, however, I had grown into what my name means and the weight it holds to be and live as a Briseño. It meant everything to walk across the stage and hear the woman thoughtfully call out my name as “Brisenyo,” not “Briseno,” which I had become used to hearing and still hardly ever bother to correct.

Now, when someone goes through the trouble of spelling my name correctly -- or incorrectly -- I notice. And it says a lot to me. I find myself feeling appreciative of this, but why? It’s basic respect. It is a five-second keyboard shortcut (Alt + 164 btw). So why, then, are people with, plainly put, non-white names so often not afforded this respect? People named Christina, Cristina, Lauren, Lauryn, Kristen, Kristin, Aimee, Amy, Sara, and Sarah will sometimes even viciously correct you of an innocent spelling mistake. That is because Lauren’s name is not Lauryn, and we all deserve the consideration of being called by our name. My name is not Briseno. It is Briseño. Nisa is not Niza or Nicole. She is Nisa. Yet, I don’t push it, and when someone asks how to spell my name I will only say “eñe” if I am wanting to give them a hard time. Yet, Nisa still tells baristas her name is Nicole and will just painfully smile when someone calls her “Neesuh.” Who is taught that it is okay to have their name disrespected? Who is not? These are questions we know the answers to. 

What had bothered my mother about the misspelling of my name is clear to me now. Why do communities that have historically faced disrespect have to grin and bear it still and on any level? If Sara can eat a jalapeño, and Sarah can hit a piñata, then they can say my name. No one should have to jump through hoops and lie and make custom name tags to accommodate people who need to simply be corrected. Say my name. Learn my name.

My name is not Briseno, it is Briseño, and as time goes by I am more and more confident in spelling it out for you, so, should there be any confusion: B-R-I-S-E-Ñ-O.