Success, with Style

Posts tagged “Sociology

What to do when you have a “ghetto” name

Posted on October 6, 2015

It wasn’t until law school that someone told me to my face that my name, Takeia, was considered “ghetto.” Until that point, all I knew was my name and that I required people to pronounce it correctly if they were going to talk to me. Five-year-old Takeia held lessons in classrooms and on playgrounds on how to pronounce my name: Ta-kee-uh. When I was younger, I don’t think I knew why I demanded that recognition, but now I know: your name is often the first glimpse into your identity that people have.



As the poet says in the video, I demanded that people pronounce my name correctly or not say it at all.


In law school, when professors would call on me, they would say my first name. They almost always got it wrong the first time. I corrected them, and would not allow them to move on to whatever question they had until they got my name right.


Yes, I had the audacity to require recognition before I proceeded in any relationship with you, even if that relationship was for three fleeting minutes in which I presented the facts, issue(s), holding and reasoning of a case. For those that persisted in incorrectly pronouncing my name, I let them know they have the option of calling me Ms. Johnson instead.


Although I have a decidedly Black-sounding name, I have still achieved numerous goals. I can’t say, however, what levels of success I might have reached or what opportunities were foreclosed to me, simply because of my name. Even though I can’t identify where I have been denied access and opportunity because of racism, research shows that people with ethnic-, and in particular, Black-sounding names are treated differently and ultimately less favorably, because of the race and ethnicity attributed to their names.  See, e.g., “Are Emily and Greg More Employable Than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination.”


We live in a world in which the politics of identity means that there are social forces always working to ignore, deny, and denigrate individuals and groups based solely on their identities – whether it is based on race/ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, or any number of other identifiers.


Marlo Stanfield said it so succinctly on The Wire: my name is my name. It is the world’s first entry into my identity and I demand recognition.


Redefining Success

Posted on January 4, 2015

“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it.”  ― Alice Walker, The Color Purple

“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.”
― Alice Walker, The Color Purple

Lately, I’ve had to have conversations with friends explaining where I’ve “been” and why I’ve been “absent.” I’ll offer that explanation here too.

First, I love blogging. The creative outlet of freely expressing my thoughts on subject matter that appeals to me, and that I believe will impact others, is a process and product like no other. Every time I publish a post, I have produced a work-product. I have an end result that I can look at to gauge my level of activity and my progress. Publishing a blog post is akin to the feeling I get whenever I go to the gym: a feeling of success. It’s a wonderful experience to feel accomplished every time I do small things like go to the gym for 30 to 45 minutes, or publish a single blog post. Now would be the time that I say that I have not been working out as regularly as I would like, nor have I published to the blog regularly, or, at all in the past 6 or 8 weeks.

Yet, I still feel successful.

Over the past three months, I have accomplished goals and lived experiences that produced feelings of happiness and sadness, peace and conflict, fear and insecurity but also boldness and confidence, and love and severe dislike. I have lived.

I just completed the third month of my dream job. I have worked harder and learned more in the last three months than in the last three years, and I am so thankful for the experience.

Fulfilling a goal that I’ve carried with me for the past three years or so, I also submitted seven applications to Ph.D programs in Sociology. I feel good about my applications, but I also realize that there is nothing more I can do about whether I am accepted. I pray on the outcome, plan for the event of rejection, and remind myself to live in the moment – and, in this moment, my applications are submitted and my focus is on my job and my personal relationships.

Another reason why my focus has not been on publishing to The TJ Way is because I have been nurturing a new relationship. This is completely new to me, and I have been overcoming a learning curve. But, it’s been the best learning curve I have ever experienced and I’m looking forward to every new experience that my relationship brings.

Even though I have not gone to the gym consistently over the last 3 months or so (…or more like the last 9 months), I hired a personal trainer in mid-September to help me get back to the physical condition and endurance level that I once had. Due to my schedule, I have struggled to make it to the gym 3-5 times per week, as I would like. But when I do go, I maximize my time with my personal trainer.

I also completed two photo shoots and am eagerly planning the publication of those photos.

I have been writing. A LOT. I just haven’t published here. Also, I’ve been talking about writing. Recently, I served as a panelist for the Young Lawyers Committee of the Black Women Lawyers Association of Greater Chicago to discuss how to use writing to market and brand yourself within your profession.

In sum, I have been responding to life’s opportunities and manufacturing my expanded definition of success, for this moment in my life. Rather than continuously degrade myself for not publishing to The TJ Way, I decided to intentionally consider the other things that I have accomplished, the experiences that have not resulted in readily available and tangible results, but instead represent the planting of seeds for future success. And when I engage in that process, of expanding my definition of success and reflecting upon the experiences that have been successful, I can say without a doubt, that I have been AMAZING.

I encourage you to reconsider your definition of success and to applaud yourself for the things you do – big, medium, and small. Leave a comment letting me know what you’ve accomplished lately.


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