Why is it ok to laugh at Quvenzhané Wallis's name?

So often, the names people "cannot" learn to pronounce belong to little black girls and little black boys.

Everyone calls me Bim. Everyone. For most of my life that’s what I’ve gone by. Bim. B-I-M. Three letters, one syllable. Bim. When I was concerned by these things, I would lament its cuteness – “that’s not a sexy name,” I would think. I would put on Billy Crystal’s voice and paraphrase his line from When Harry Met Sally: “Do it to me Bim, you’re an animal, Bim… Doesn’t work.” Bim is cute. Bim is fun. When considered in a certain light, it sounds almost French – gamine, fluffy. But not, I was convinced, sexy.

Like I said, I was younger and more foolish then. I had a lot of time to be sitting and considering the tone of voice my name should be delivered in.

Bim is not my full first name. That is Adebimpe. Four syllables. Ah-day-bim-pay. Is it unusual? In the UK, sure. Is it difficult? Nah, it’s not. Not really. Like a lot of West African names, it’s pretty much a "say what you see" system. But no-one calls me Adebimpe anyway.

My name is Yoruba, it is Nigerian. It means something, something that roughly comes to "born complete" in English. My unusual name may be mocked (it has been), but it is generally given a "pass" because it is African, because it "means something".

The names that aren’t given passes, the ones that we are allowed to openly disparage, they look a certain way. They may have African languages at their root. They may, like certain movies, be “inspired by the true story of…” Africa, or some other continent. They may be laced with an extra accent, or a hard "s" where a soft "ch" is more usual. They are names that have the sounds "qua" and "nae". They almost always belong to little black girls and little black boys.

I am thinking of my name because of one specific little brown girl in America, who also has an unusual name. I am thinking about Quvenzhané Wallis, the youngest person to be nominated for an Academy Award. I am thinking about the people who "cannot" pronounce the four simple syllables in her name. I am thinking about the YouTube videos that tell you how to pronounce her name. I am thinking about the people who eventually "learn" to say "Siobhan" and "Caoimhe" and "Aoife" but become tongue-tied and struggle with "Tyeisha" and "Myosha" and "Nyachomba". I am thinking of the woman who met me and asked if she could abbreviate my already shortened name and call me "B". I am thinking about my name, and I am thinking about Quvenzhané’s.

I am thinking of the words of Kenyan-born Somali poet Warsan Shire:

“Give your daughters difficult names.
Give your daughters names that command the full use of tongue.
My name makes you want to tell me the truth.
My name doesn’t allow me to trust anyone that cannot pronounce it right.”

Incidentially, fuck you, The Onion.

This post originally appeared on Bim's blog, yorubagirldancing.com, and is crossposted here with her permission

Quvenzhané Wallis arriving at the Oscars, where she was nominated for Best Actress. Photograph: Getty Images

Bim Adewunmi writes about race, feminism and popular culture. Her blog is  yorubagirldancing.com and you can find her on Twitter as @bimadew.

Photo: Getty Images
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There are risks as well as opportunities ahead for George Osborne

The Chancellor is in a tight spot, but expect his political wiles to be on full display, says Spencer Thompson.

The most significant fiscal event of this parliament will take place in late November, when the Chancellor presents the spending review setting out his plans for funding government departments over the next four years. This week, across Whitehall and up and down the country, ministers, lobbyists, advocacy groups and town halls are busily finalising their pitches ahead of Friday’s deadline for submissions to the review

It is difficult to overstate the challenge faced by the Chancellor. Under his current spending forecast and planned protections for the NHS, schools, defence and international aid spending, other areas of government will need to be cut by 16.4 per cent in real terms between 2015/16 and 2019/20. Focusing on services spending outside of protected areas, the cumulative cut will reach 26.5 per cent. Despite this, the Chancellor nonetheless has significant room for manoeuvre.

Firstly, under plans unveiled at the budget, the government intends to expand capital investment significantly in both 2018-19 and 2019-20. Over the last parliament capital spending was cut by around a quarter, but between now and 2019-20 it will grow by almost 20 per cent. How this growth in spending should be distributed across departments and between investment projects should be at the heart of the spending review.

In a paper published on Monday, we highlighted three urgent priorities for any additional capital spending: re-balancing transport investment away from London and the greater South East towards the North of England, a £2bn per year boost in public spending on housebuilding, and £1bn of extra investment per year in energy efficiency improvements for fuel-poor households.

Secondly, despite the tough fiscal environment, the Chancellor has the scope to fund a range of areas of policy in dire need of extra resources. These include social care, where rising costs at a time of falling resources are set to generate a severe funding squeeze for local government, 16-19 education, where many 6th-form and FE colleges are at risk of great financial difficulty, and funding a guaranteed paid job for young people in long-term unemployment. Our paper suggests a range of options for how to put these and other areas of policy on a sustainable funding footing.

There is a political angle to this as well. The Conservatives are keen to be seen as a party representing all working people, as shown by the "blue-collar Conservatism" agenda. In addition, the spending review offers the Conservative party the opportunity to return to ‘Compassionate Conservatism’ as a going concern.  If they are truly serious about being seen in this light, this should be reflected in a social investment agenda pursued through the spending review that promotes employment and secures a future for public services outside the NHS and schools.

This will come at a cost, however. In our paper, we show how the Chancellor could fund our package of proposed policies without increasing the pain on other areas of government, while remaining consistent with the government’s fiscal rules that require him to reach a surplus on overall government borrowing by 2019-20. We do not agree that the Government needs to reach a surplus in that year. But given this target wont be scrapped ahead of the spending review, we suggest that he should target a slightly lower surplus in 2019/20 of £7bn, with the deficit the year before being £2bn higher. In addition, we propose several revenue-raising measures in line with recent government tax policy that together would unlock an additional £5bn of resource for government departments.

Make no mistake, this will be a tough settlement for government departments and for public services. But the Chancellor does have a range of options open as he plans the upcoming spending review. Expect his reputation as a highly political Chancellor to be on full display.

Spencer Thompson is economic analyst at IPPR