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In the Creation story in Genesis, Adam (Hebrew for 'first man') names all
When converted, Saul the Jew changed his name. He became Paul the
At baptism of an infant, the priest says to the parent, "Name this child."
My official name is the one my parent's gave me: it is on my birth
certificate, my Social Security Card, my passport, my driver's licence, my
four university diplomas, my pension checks, my Medicare card....; but
almost no one who knows me knows that name, and I hope to keep it that
way. "Louie" is buried in my official name as a middle initial.
I was reminded of power invested in my parents' naming when I recently was
refused permission to enter a airplane because the name on my passport did
not match the name on my ticket. Also Medicare recently refused to pay my
bill when the doctor submitted my name in a form not on my Medicare card.
Growing up in segregated Alabama, I remember how proud my parents were
that our part of the family used the kinder, gentler word "Nigra" to name
our black neighbors; and I remember my confusion when black Alabamans
finally got the chance to look me in the eye and tell me point blank that
they did not find "Nigra" kind, gentle, or respectful.
My mother taught me a lie, albeit she did not know it was one: "Sticks and
stones may break your bones, but words can never hurt you." A broken bone
will mend; a broken image of yourself sometimes never does.
Mace for the Child Molester
"What a big chemistry set Santa brought!"
I exclaimed to Michael, 10,
son of the chemist turned dean,
when we went nextdoor
for spicy Christmas cake.
Michael beamed as his dad peered
proudly over half-rims.
Mary, 6, nudged to show me her gift.
"And what a cute nurse's kit,"
I added with a patron's smile.
"Doctor's kit," the housewife intruded;
"tell him it's a doctor's kit, Mary,"
Mary's mother repeated even as she fetched us
pieces of her best minced meat pie.
-- Louie Crew*
When this poem first appeared (in the WITNESS, see below), I sent a copy
to her mother. She reported that Mary had become a veterinarian. Faith
of our Mothers, living still!
Language matters, profoundly.
o How do we you determine whether to refer to someone as Latino or
Hispanic or Chicano or ....?
o How do we determine whether to refer to someone as "Asian" or
o How do we determine whether to refer to someone as "Native American"
o How do we determine whether to refer to a lesbian or gay
o How do we determine whether to refer to someone as "handicapped,"
"disabled," "physically challenged,"....
The answer in every case is the same: We ask the persons being named or
described. We cannot hope to respect the dignity of a human being if we
insist on ignoring that person's choices of how she or he wants to be
named or described.
The world has too many bullies.
"Mace for the Child Molester has appeared:
The Witness January 1982: 6.
Paterson Literary Review Issue No. 23 (1993): 79. Used my Chinese
penname Li Min Hua.
Feminist Parenting. An Anthology edited by Dena Taylor. Freedom,
California, 1994: 38. Used my Chinese penname Li Min Hua.
Quean Lutibelle's Pew at