Search the Site

Are Distinctively African-American Names a Thing of the Past?

Back when I worked as an editor at the Times Magazine, we held weekly or twice-weekly editorial meetings at which you’d go around the table and suggest story ideas. There were many varieties of ideas, including: Dutiful but Dull; Dutiful and Worthwhile; Sexy but Substance-Free; Just Not Interesting; and everyone’s favorite: Interesting — if True.

Into this final category falls a report that a federal judge in Detroit has taken away from African-American mothers the right to name their babies:

[A] federal judge ruled today that black women no longer have independent naming rights for their children. Too many black children — and many adults — bear names that border on not even being words, he said. “I am simply tired of these ridiculous names black women are giving their children,” said U.S. Federal Judge Ryan Cabrera before rendering his decision. “Someone had to put a stop to it.”

Interesting — but true? Not even close, as the folks at explain. Which means, if nothing else, that our chapter in Freakonomics called “Would a Roshanda by Any Other Name Smell as Sweet?” isn’t headed for obsolescence just yet.

(Hat tip: Fred Telegdy.)