What's In a Name?
Updated: Oct 6
How having a "Western" name impacted my journey from childhood to adulthood.
Written by Stephanie Rambharos
Our ancestors arrived in the Caribbean decades ago, and from their perseverance and strength, new traditions and ways of life were born and passed on to generations. From there, tawas became frying pans, pointer brooms became Swiffers, and Amritas became Sarahs.
By the time I entered racialized spaces as a kid, I had already been socialized in white ones. I never thought about my name, Stephanie. But, when I transferred schools and was surrounded by kids with heritage from every corner of the world, I quickly realized that I was the odd one out. It wasn’t long until I asked my parents why they named me Stephanie and not something more “ethnic”. The answer? They wanted to give me as much opportunity as possible. They didn’t want friends, teachers, or employers to make assumptions about who I was before they got the chance to get to know me. I was young at the time so I didn’t understand, all I saw was my fellow Indo-Caribbean peers with names that reflected their roots and felt left out. Little did I know how right my parents would be.
I’ve walked into countless rooms and gotten the opportunity to meet influential people that helped me succeed all because my name led them to believe I was someone else entirely. How do I know? Those people didn’t even try to hide it. I’m often greeted with some variety of “I thought you’d look different…” They still made assumptions about who I was, but they felt comfortable with the image of me they drew up in their heads.
I used to internalize this anger that my only way into these spaces was not because of my hard work or accomplishments, but instead because the people in charge confused me for a white woman. However, I can’t say I’m not grateful for the chance to have done some amazing things.
Because I was able to get my foot in the door, now I’m in a position where I can recommend Indo-Caribbean talent that may have been overlooked in the past, something that I think is invaluable despite the constant confusion at the beginning of my journey.
Throughout it all, I realized that my name IS a good representation of who I am, an Indo-Caribbean Canadian woman that wholly embraces both parts of my identity. While I started out thinking that I was missing that connection to my roots, I grew to understand that it was about more than my name, but instead how I can actively seek avenues to feel closer to my heritage through community.
Communities like BGD.