how to be an ally at work

You should check out @robinrambles on TikTok … her videos on race issues at work are really good.

In particular, she’s done a series of videos where she plays a white ally addressing racism with other white coworkers, and in doing so demonstrates language that white people can use to combat racism in their workplaces. Some examples include speaking to a black coworker about someone who complained about their hair, telling a coworker to get people’s names right, standing up for a trans colleague, and having a coworker’s back when she’s being hassled.

And in this one, she explains why she thinks people are responding to the character, pointing out that not only are the videos giving white people the terminology to use to as allies at work, but other people like it because “there’s something healing about seeing a white southern lady who’s standing up for them.”

{ 157 comments… read them below }

  1. Ann Ominous*

    I love her accent and the way she has perfected The Art of Throwing Southern Lady Shade. Complete with rhubarb pie.

    1. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

      The way she says to Eileen “Now I know you think I don’t like you…well, time to get back to work, love your brooch” just as sweet as could be is giving me life.

  2. whisky_galore*

    Regarding names and how to say them: I spent a year and a half working as a NYSDOH case investigator/contact tracer, which meant that I spent my time calling strangers of all ethnicities, races, and places of origin, many of them recent immigrants to the U.S. When I ran across a name that wasn’t familiar to me, I took 20 seconds and googled the pronunciation; I may not have gotten it exactly right, but my odds were much better than if I hadn’t bothered.

    I can’t tell you how thrilled people were when I pronounced their names correctly with the first try; I think that it mattered in ways that I don’t begin to understand. And not only did it make them feel seen by some random woman on the phone, but in practical terms, that connection helped me to do a better job. Win/win all around.

    1. whisky_galore*

      I also left a phonetic pronunciation of their name in the case note, so the next person to call them would get it right, too.

      1. nobadcats*

        You are my HERO/INE!

        I always ask, in my first meeting with someone, “Am I pronouncing your name correctly?” or “How would you prefer to be addressed? “[Name] or [shortened version/nickname]?” My name is Samantha, I introduce myself as Samantha, my company always introduces me as Samantha, and it make my eye twitch if people start immediately assuming that I’m okay with Sam*. I answer to both equally well, but for god’s sack, ASK me first!

        *but never ever, ever Sammy (in any spelling)

    2. Anne of Green Gables*

      In the emails setting up interviews, I’ve asked candidates how to pronounce names I’m not sure of. Candidates are always very appreciative.

    3. Anonym*

      I love this so much. Really great to hear, and it totally makes sense that it would be meaningful to folks. It really just sets you up for a good interaction when people know you’re trying.

    4. Chirpy*

      This, I had ONE teacher in my entire life who got my name right on the first try, and she was instantly my favorite. I even had a dance teacher who spoke the language my name is from who never got it right, but my 7th grade English teacher sure did. Why none of the others asked any of my previous teachers, I have no idea.

    5. Not this time*

      It’s important even for common names, which can have different pronunciations. My name is four letters long. There are three pretty common pronunciations of it. I appreciate being asked.

    6. Chief+Petty+Officer+Tabby*

      So I’m not the only one who looks up names on Google to see if I can find out how to pronounce it.

    7. What now?*

      As some who has had their name butchered every day of their lives, thank you for taking the time to Google the pronunciation. When someone says my name correctly the first time, it initially throws me off. My thoughts quickly race, “Wait, you’re not asking me how to spell it or where it’s from or what it means? OMG, you got it right on the first try!”. Words can’t express how thrilling that realization is. It’s exhausting having to go through that every single day. So yeah, what you did was absolutely amazing and goes such a long way!

      fun fact, I had a terrible boss that would purposely mispronounce my name. I had coworkers that explicitly called him out on it. This continued for a whole year. Then I was laid off. LOL

  3. Mid*

    I’ve found that there are some really great business advice people on TikTok! I’m struggling to recall names, but there are two that help phrase things in more professional ways (eg how to say “FFS read the email before you ask me questions I already answered” in a business email), and a few that talk about negotiations for salary and title changes as well. There’s also a lot of *very bad* advice there, but it’s been cool to see how a platform most people think of as for children/very young adults (despite the demographics being more diverse) being used as a way to help people grow professionally.

      1. Foofoo*

        “As per my previous email…”

        It’s the polite, yet throwing shade way, of saying “read the email FFS”.

        1. Ann Ominous*

          Or in response to a question that’s answered in the email you just sent “sure thing! Please see attached message that outlines the answer to that question as well as some others, and let me know if there’s anything that I didn’t cover”. Bonus hilarity/shade points if you both attach AND leave in the email trail the email they replied to but didn’t read.

          1. Melanie Cavill*

            I’ve found that if you add in ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, you can turn even the most exasperated emails into uncontestably professional communiques.

        2. Warrior Princess Xena*

          That might not be the best way anymore as it’s now common knowledge that “Per my last email” is business shorthand for “you would have found the answers you were looking for if you took thirty seconds and actually looked at the message instead of going on a power trip, you glorified computer processor”.

        3. Splendid Colors*

          I just saw a listicle going around warning people not to use “passive aggressive language” in business email and this was one of the phrases.

          I forget the rest, but most of them seemed like they could be perfectly fine in a context where the writer wasn’t being sarcastic. And they didn’t really have a solution for the problems people are trying to solve (such as “person keeps emailing me and won’t read the responses”).

      1. Mid*

        Yes! She’s one of them! Some of her advice is better suited for people who are a little more advanced in their careers/have some more capital in their workplace, but overall, I adore her as well!

    1. Nom*

      I see so much bad work advice on TikTok and Instagram. it’s so painful! This sounds like loewhaley… i don’t always agree with her advice but her advice isn’t bad per se.

  4. H.Regalis*

    Names, names, names. I run into this one at work. If anyone I work with mispronounces a person’s name, there’s a 95% chance it’s one of my South Asian coworkers’ names. “I forgot/I have a bad memory” yet somehow I think that if it were their boss instead of their employee, they would remember.

    1. Melanie Cavill*

      I used to work with a woman with an Iranian name and most people in the office either mispronounced a specific syllable perpetually (think hard G vs. soft G) or referred to her as an easier-for-white-people-to-intuit diminutive of the name. She once told me that no one else in her life used the diminutive other than the people she works with and she didn’t love it but just went with it.

  5. GlamorousNonprofiteer*

    She’s doing an incredible job of pulling together skits on how to be a good person in the workplace, even when it’s messy and flawed. If you are on social media, give her a follow and support her as your resources allow.

    I’ll also add that calling yourself an ally can be a bit problematic if the person doing the name calling is centering themselves (“look at me, I did a non-racist thing and I need praise because I did the absolute minimum”). Think of it less as a title and more of a skill – You ally yourself with a community that is actively anti-racist (and all of the other ists) by publicly and privately supporting the work without centering it on yourself.

    1. quicksilver*

      Yeah, people calling themselves allies is honestly a red flag for me (based on much experience). If someone says “I’m an ally!”, my default assumption is that they are just emotionally invested in being publicly seen as a Good Person™ and will react to any constructive criticism of their “allyship” with sheer vitriol.

      In fact, in my entirely LGBT+ social networks, “ally” is mainly a pejorative term for this type of person…

      1. Boof*

        It’s kind of like declaring “I am an honest person!” … like what is going on that that needs to be stated? It’s more of a show don’t tell quality unless, in fact, the opposite is true.

    2. Lils*

      Agree. I was taught that “ally” is a verb–it’s something you do, not something you are. I like to think about ways I can “better practice allyship”. It reminds me I should always be trying and making effort–it’s not a gold star I earned for being anti-racist one time.

    3. anon for this*

      I’m in a women’s group at my (theoretically progressive) church, and am about to throw up my hands and quit because it’s like a skit about “why African Americans are fed up with moderate white people.”

      Our new pastor is African American and wrote a tract about how to be anti-racist as a white person in our religion. The group is “studying” this, which means we read them and then 80% of them show up to say they are angry at being told they can’t just go around saying they’re “allies” for donating money and boasting about it. Or that they need to let people from oppressed communities take the lead and do what *they* need help with, instead of being “white saviors” who have lots of suggestions but won’t do any work. No, they just want to think they’re “anti-racist” because they’re “not racists” and then blurt out all kinds of racist hot takes about affirmative action and whatabout Black vs. Korean racism etc.

      I’m a member of Showing Up for Racial Justice, which is a national group with chapters that partner with groups who want support. For instance, a local Native American tribal band has a campaign to block mining on their sacred land so their land trust can buy and preserve it. We help promote their cause and recruit people for public comment. Another group is trying to get the county to focus on alternatives to incarceration instead of building a new jail. We’re showing up for them too, and let both groups tell us how to frame the issues. People can do a lot for us just by sending emails or showing up at local government meetings via Zoom.

      The other good member in the group is in the Poor People’s Campaign and talks a LOT about showing up to big public gatherings and traveling for demonstrations in other counties or states. The elderly folks naturally think this is a bit much for them.

      But they also think it’s too haaaard to be an ally if you have to write an email, sign a petition, or go to a Zoom meeting that you can leave running like TV until the issue comes up and it’s time to “raise hand” to make a 1-minute statement. And “writing an email” can be as simple as “click here and personalize the form letter with what district you live in and what group you represent.” But that’s too much to ask.

      I’m not saying they have to support SURJ or the Poor People’s Campaign, but they need to stop identifying as “allies” if they’re not going to do anything but act like the “white moderates” Dr. Martin Luther King warned about.

      The group used to be a lot larger but we seem to be losing most of the members who aren’t making these comments. We had a bunch of new members attend a meeting or so and then just ghost us and I 100% don’t blame them.

  6. marvin*

    I really love these. They remind me of something George Saunders says about how we all have natural tendencies that we can channel in constructive or destructive directions. Whatever your personality type is, you can find ways to channel it into providing support for people in your workplace or community.

  7. I should really pick a name*

    Just be sure you have the correct pronunciation before you correct someone.

    I’ve had people who pronounce my name wrong correct people who were pronouncing my name correctly *facepalm*

    1. What She Said*

      I had this happen to me once. I was told a co-worker’s name was “Dan” so I called him Dan. Then I got yelled at by another co-worker who said his name was “Don”. I felt horrible I had been saying his name wrong all this time. Then I find out his name really was Dan but due to a typo in his legal paperwork he was listed as Don in all legal docs including payroll. I panicked every time I went to say Dan and it stumbled out as Don. That co-worker literally yelled the Dan out of my brain and I couldn’t say it anymore.

    2. Chirpy*

      Ugh, this. I’ve had people who were pronouncing my name correctly switch because someone else said my name wrong, and it’s the worst thing to correct afterwards because you have to argue with the person who told everyone wrong half the time.

    3. Trillian*

      I’ve had someone correct my pronunciation of my OWN name, when I called a relative’s workplace and asked for them.

      Blandly answering the question, “And who shall I say is calling?” gave me great satisfaction.

  8. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

    This is super personal, but I hope interviewers would stop playing Geogessr with face. I was born somewhere where eveybody is from somewhere else, (like Alaska), and the amount of times I was asked “so where are you really from?” is insulting.

    1. Lady Lynn Waterton of Bellashire*

      Is there a kind way to ask what someone’s heritage is without assuming they aren’t American (or whatever), etc? For example, I know someone who speaks Spanish. She met another person who speaks Spanish but said she had a hard time understanding because it was Spain Spanish (if that’s what it’s called). I wanted to ask her where she was from/where her family was from just to know what kind of Spanish she spoke. Is it inappropriate to want to know? I feel like I shouldn’t assume she/her family is from a specific place.

      1. Wisteria*

        You could just ask what type of Spanish she was familiar with.

        Heritage is like gender. You don’t really need to know. You might need to know something adjacent, like pronouns. In that case, just ask for the adjacent thing you need.

      2. Hlao-roo*

        In a situation like the one you describe, where the person says something along the lines of “I couldn’t understand person X because they speak Spain Spanish” or “For the potluck, I brought one of my grandmother’s recipes from the ‘Old Country,'” I think it’s OK to ask “what kind of Spanish do you speak?” or “Which country is the ‘Old Country’ for you?” because it is directly relevant to conversation you are having.

        But if the other person didn’t bring up any allusion to their heritage, just your own general curiosity about “where are they/their family from?” is not a good enough reason to start asking those questions.

        1. Nope*

          Well said. I have an pretty distinct accent, and it’s annoying to be asked that. Maybe I don’t want to talk about that.

        2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Also, you can be from one Spanish speaking country but have the accent from another. My Cuban friends are currently having a meltdown because their kids are speaking Spanish with a mixed Mexican/Central American/Cuban accent and no longer sound Cuban

      3. I should really pick a name*

        Ask what kind of Spanish she speaks if that’s the information you’re looking for, not her heritage or where her family is from.

      4. Academic Fibro Warrior*

        In that specific circumstance, I might ask the individual what dialect of Spanish she speaks (which will probably elicit a comment about where she is from). But applying that question in a blanket way to everyone who speaks Spanish without circumstances creating an organic conversation leading to discussion of origins is problematic. Gloria Anzaldua has a nice essay about how people reacted to her Spanish and English as her not belonging anywhere, or more specifically assuming she was a Mexican national because she spoke a border dialect of Spanish, or American because her Spanish was different enough. She’s American. I am a Southern transplant, and the number of times I’ve been told I’m a Yankee and I don’t know where I’m from (the Midwest) is…infuriating. A friend’s wife who is Asian, but whose family has lived in the US for generations, gets asked where she’s from all the time — and the asker keeps asking when she mentions the state she grew up in, as in obviously since she looks a certain way she immigrated to the US. Your situation is different, I think, because the conversation allows for questions for clarification and listening rather than assumptions that anyone who speaks (or looks) in a particular way is obviously not from the US driving the interaction.

      5. OyHiOh*

        Source: Friends who studied Spanish at college/university level in the late 90’s/early ’00’s

        I’ve been told that if a person speaks Spanish from Spain, the designation is “continental Spanish.” Which still doesn’t make sense – the Americas are also continents, tks! – but seems to be the way academics arrived at a distinction. Also, preference for how to word this distinction may very well have changed in the 20+ years since.

        1. J!*

          I’ve definitely heard it referred to as Spain Spanish in casual conversation, though. Kind of like when you ask someone, “Do you want the almond milk?” and they reply “No thanks, I’m going to have milk milk.” Yeah, it has another technical name but you know what they mean.

        2. UKDancer*

          In the UK most further education colleges offering Spanish tend to teach the variety used in Spain by default but if they offer multiple variants they tend to describe them as “Castilian” and “Latin American.” It’s not probably the most technically accurate way to differentiate but it conveys what people mean.

          1. allathian*

            Castilian is probably the most accurate, and that’s what Spaniards who speak Castilian use for their language. Spain has multiple regional dialects, with Castilian and Andalucian being the main ones. In Andalucian you pronounce the letter c as ‘s’, like you do in Latin American Spanish, rather than as ‘th’. Catalan, spoken in northeastern Spain (in the region around Barcelona), is a related but different language and they aren’t really mutually intelligible, even if both are Romance languages. The Franco dictatorship tried to eliminate the non-Castilian languages from Spain, but Catalans (and Basques, who speak a language that isn’t related to any other) have been reclaiming their heritage ever since he died.

            That said, “Latin American Spanish” doesn’t exist, the Spanish they speak in Cuba is very different from the one they speak in Argentina.

            When I studied Spanish in college, it was Castilian, although funnily enough most of my professors were Colombian. They were very careful to point out the differences in pronunciation and grammar between Castilian and Colombian Spanish (such as vosotros/ustedes as the second person plural pronoun used in informal address).

        3. PersephoneUnderground*

          I think “continental” is often used to refer to Europe. I think it was based on an English point of view, where the immediate vicinity consisted of England and “the continent” nearby, Europe. (Not that Europe is even logically its own continent since it’s on the same landmass as Asia but you know, cultural historical bias stuff.)

      6. The Mansplainer*

        Most people/commenters on this site seem to consider some smalltalk where you enquire about someone’s heritage to be (almost) a hatecrime. However this luckily (still) isn’t a universally held belief. As a matter of fact a lot of people absolutely love to talk about themselves, whether it’s their family, work, hobby’s or (ancestral) country of origin. So in my opinion just ask if you are curious.

        I do agree with the opinion that the particular phrase “Where are you REALLY from?” with emphasis on “REALLY” doesn’t sound very nice (or othering as other people might call it). So indeed don’t use this particular phrase.

        1. anon for this*

          I grew up being fascinated by other cultures and non-judgmental about race etc. so it took a while as an adult to realize that way too many people *will* ask these questions looking for a reason to look down on someone.

          The problem is that people whose heritage is in any way marginalized get asked about it so much in ways that ARE microaggressions that it often becomes a hot button. I’d err on the side of not indulging my curiosity unless they bring something up.

          “I made my grandma’s authentic recipe for the potluck!” is an opening for asking more about the recipe.

          Having racialized features or an accent is not.

    2. High Score!*

      I’ve done the opposite of this. Asking someone new in the area where they were from as a typical conversation starter. Then realized they had brown skin and that went down awkwardly. They spoke English fluently and I was expecting an answer like “we came up from Florida”.

      1. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

        One thing is to ask if they’re new as a conversation starter, which makes sense, but going from “where are you from” to “you look Indian, are you Indian? What’s your favorite Bollywood movie?” is awful.

        1. Hybrider*

          You could also be more specific and ask “Did you move here from another state?” or “Where did you live before moving to place x?”

      2. Sunshine*

        Agh, I’ve done this too. I’ve lived all over, so I’ve often asked “did you grow up around here?” or “are you from here originally?” (with “here” being “suburb we now live in,” not “America”) as a conversation starter not realizing how it could be taken. Definitely something I need to be conscious of.

        1. Hlao-roo*

          Slightly better versions are “are you from [city/state] originally?” or “how long have you lived in [city/state]?”

          Even better is to just ask directly about the things that are most relevant to you: “what’s your favorite restaurant/hiking spot/etc. around here?”

          Took me a little while to shift from asking “did you grow up around here?” to “do you have good [whatever] recommendations?”

          1. Just Another Starving Artist*

            “Did you grow up around here?” is usually fine, since it’s not automatically assuming that the person you’re talking to must be ~exotic~ in some way. It’s the “so where are you really from?” that’s offensive.

      3. The Person from the Resume*

        You can ask “Did you grow up here?”

        I live in a place with a lot of transplants: “Where did you move from?” can work too.

        “When did you move here?” and the rare native can correct you that they grew up here.

    3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Seriously. Just don’t ask, people. If it matters you’ll learn it by getting to know someone. It is really othering especially in places with big immigrant populations. If you don’t look “American/British/Canadian/French/whatever” (whatever that means in a multi-ethnic country) people assume you couldn’t possibly be from the same place as the speaker.

      I get it a bit, but look white enough that folks only do it when they see/hear my name. My better half’s family has been in US since 1870 and the number of times he gets, “No, where are you really from?” California. “No, I mean where is your family from?” Hawaii. “No, I mean where is your family REALLY from?” is ridiculous and exhausting. And why does it matter so much where his ancestors are from?

  9. Chocoholic*

    Ugh. My name is difficult to pronounce, but it is very similar to a different name that is very easy to pronounce. I’ve gotten tired of constantly correcting people and just often answer to the easier to pronounce name. Whatever. I know it is my name, but I got tired of correcting people probably 40 years ago.

  10. Just another Fed*

    Call people waht they want to be called! My young niece recently came out as a member of the LGBTQAI community and asked for everyone to call her a specific non-binary name. My father decided that he has “Grandpa exception rights” and does not have to even try, I squashed that hard and told him no, if that’s what she wants to be called he better call her that!

    1. K Too*

      >Call people waht they want to be called!

      This also! If people can get used to women changing their names – sometimes multiple times – for marriage/divorce/remarriage they can get used to calling someone a first name that is different than what they knew first.

      And on the topic of being an ally for LGBTQIA+, if your company allows it (or you have the capital to spend to ask them to) add your pronouns to your email signature. It doesn’t matter if you think you have a ‘typically’ feminine or masculine name or that you don’t care if someone mis-genders you. What it does is normalizes having pronouns listed so that it’s not only the non-binary, genderfluid, trans, etc… community that have to out themselves by listing theirs.

      1. quicksilver*

        Just to offer a different perspective, pronouns in email signatures is…not actually something that universally makes trans/etc people feel safer. We don’t all necessarily want to list our pronouns at work (or in general), and cis people listing their pronouns doesn’t change a lot of the bigger issues we may have to deal with as a result of being trans/etc. And for that reason I really don’t see it as an act of general allyship — it can be helpful to some, but it’s uncomfortable to see it promoted as THE way to be a trans ally in the workplace.

        1. VLookupsAreMyLife*

          Thank you for this perspective, quicksilver. I debated for me a to while about including my pronouns, but ultimately decided to do so about 2 years ago. I initially started with she/her, then shifted to she/they, now my pronouns are listed as they/them which feels the most accurate to me. I’ve had multiple people ask me about my pronouns over the past 2 years, and it’s lead to some great conversations & opportunities to educate. But, I also recognize the privilege I have as a cis-female who presents traditionally, and don’t expect everyone to be able or willing to do that – especially at work! I 100% agree that email signature pronouns aren’t a one-size-fits-all kind of thing & can even backfire.

          1. nobadcats*

            I feel the same way. I got dragooned into being the go-to person for LGBTQIA+ issues by the head of HR when I called them out for dead naming Marsha P. Johnson repeatedly in their homage to her in their weekly “highlight a queer person” updates during Pride month (and being a *known* feminist). They didn’t even know what dead naming was. [face-palm]

            I finally had to say, “Hey, I’m a cis-het white woman who is not Queer, just Queer adjacent. I am very uncomfortable being the a resource for these issues. Give it a google, here are some resources for you, I’ll be happy to tap my network for more if you find you need it. LGBTQIA+ is not a monolith.”

            1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

              Dead naming Marsha P. Johnson? How awful, AND how odd. I’ve never heard her referred to by any other name. Now I can’t stop wondering how they even knew her dead name. If I recall correctly, everything she did that led to her being well-known was done as Marsha P. Johnson. Calling her by any other name is just weird. Wtaf!

              1. metadata minion*

                Same here! That kind of feels like someone trying to get away with being transphobic under cover of something that looks supportive, since you’d really have to *work* to deadname Marsha P. Johnson.

              2. nobadcats*

                I’m pretty sure they just googled, “Hey, who is an historic trans person I can highlight?” and went with the wikipedia link, which does state Marsha’s deadname. Sylvia Rivera would have probably been nixed at the outset as being a tad too controversial. [eye roll]

                I truly believe it was not malicious, just completely unaware of the larger context and not having the tools or vocabulary to appropriately address LGBTQIA+ issues and content. And considering that the HR person is an African American, does add a little dollop of, “WTF?” to the whole situation.

        2. nobadcats*

          I asked my boss about this, since I’d been seeing that a couple of our clients were including their pronouns, if we should or might include pronouns of our own volition (and since I’m on the DEI team), and they said, “Let’s just put a pin in that.” Various political reasons.

          This is an informative perspective, and I thank you for sharing it. I will keep this in mind as I go forward.

        3. K Too*

          I should have worded that better – not to make it mandatory, but to have the option if one is able to/feels safe/wants to. Our LGBTQIA+ and DEI committees recently got policy changed to allow it, if desired. Of course it’s not the be-all end-all and there’s tons more work to be done, and there are always going to be different individual perspectives from those in the community, but on the whole having it be allowed at all was a big thing at my company so I’ve taken advantage of it in support of the efforts made by those to whom it does matter for the reason I stated.

  11. That One Person*

    The names one is kind of sad because it really doesn’t take a lot to ask someone to repeat a few times and confirm you have it. At worse if I know I’ll be working with them multiple times I might warn them it takes me a little since I like to connect names to faces when possible, but I think that’s a general thing unless you’ve got a good memory (I do not, I need the repitition).

    I will say I really do like the pleasant sassiness of RobinRambles those were an absolute delight. I think the marriage example was a really nice touch in the trans colleague one since it provides a real world situation where most people take a moment to acclimate and then just move on from the change. People who are stuck in a change are purposefully miring themselves in that spot and that just helps point it out. There was either a reddit story, not always, or one on here about someone refusing to stop dead naming so people started using the harasser’s old last name to make a point though sadly I don’t recall if they ever chose to open their eyes to the similarities in situation or not.

    1. nobadcats*

      There was a MASSIVE thread here a few years ago about a manager finding out that their entire team decided to use a “nickname” for a staffer because “her name is just too hard to pronounce” and “it’s not pretty” “it’s unfeminine.” It made the staff person in question very uncomfortable as she hated the nickname and wanted her full name used. Ah, here it is:

      1. That One Person*

        Thank you for the story suggestion! I appreciated the victory update and the spin off story of another manager not finding discrimination okay – hopefully they were also able to be successful.

  12. EPLawyer*

    Names. Oh please get names right. My clients are from a variety of ethnicities and I ask them all how to pronounce their name. I tell them names are important and I need to get them right. Some of them go “oh its okay.” No, its NOT. It’s your name. The LEAST I can do is get it right.

    1. Rach*

      This always makes me feel so crappy. I had a speech impediment as a child (couldn’t even pronounce my own name), it has almost completely corrected itself but I cannot, no matter how hard I try (and I do try), pronounce some names that are especially different for me. So while a real effort is a must, we also need to be aware of those with extenuating circumstances (which can often be embarrassing to talk about).

      1. learnedthehardway*

        I think people will appreciate that you try and if they see you making the effort. I work with people from around the world, and for some, there is no way I will be able to pronounce their name – certainly not the way people fluent in their language do it. But I do my best, and people respond to that.

      2. Anonym*

        I would think it would be pretty clear that you’re trying to pronounce it correctly, though, no? Like when people have an accent, it won’t be exactly precisely the same, but you can tell what they’re aiming for, and that’s what counts. As opposed to just fully ignoring the person’s name, which is the real problem and generally quite obvious. (My mother in law has a heavy accent, for example, so she doesn’t pronounce my name the way I do, but she knows what it is and that’s clear. She’s definitely NOT doing what some people do and going with a fully different variant or a nickname that I don’t use.)

        I can’t be 100% certain of course, but I really think you’re in the clear on this!

        1. MerciMe*

          Not inherently, which I mention more for awareness than anything else. Yes, on days when I am rolling my initial r’s and dragging out my weirdly pronounced s’s and slurring my pronunciations, it is obvious something is going on. Likewise, if I’m stuttering hard, that’s pretty clear. But if my words are randomly twisting out from under me, it can be as minor as the difference between “Nick-o” and “Niko” and I don’t always have an appropriate opportunity to explain.

          I think it’s crucial for us all to keep trying to learn and do better, but I always hope that everyone is also trying to extend grace to one another when we miss. Sometimes cross-marginalization is an awkward match-up with what feel like not-very-satisfying solutions.

      3. EPLawyer*

        Physically unable to pronounce a name is not the same as not caring about pronouncing. I could never do tonal names, I am tone deaf. but I’m going to try my damndest.

        Also I deal with people who are going through something pretty crappy in their life, the least I can do is be respectful enough to get their name right.

      4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        I’m tone deaf and slaughter anything that is in a tonal language. I feel terrible but I can’t hear the difference just the same as I could never tell if my flute was sharp, flat, or OK. What I do is repeat it back slowly and phonetically and ask if it is acceptable, if very American accented, then I write down the phonetics and practice later. Most people are happy to work you through it. Some say they don’t care, but I tell them I care and want to know how to pronounce their name in case I meet someone else with the same name.

        1. Lanlan*

          Heck, I’m not tone deaf at all and I *still* can’t manage tonal languages. It’s like my brain has a dead spot for that.

      5. What She Said*

        Hearing impaired people too. I can’t always tell the difference be a ‘b’, ‘c’, or a ‘d’ and a whole list of other letters sound alike to me. I do best when I can see a name written down. It’s embarrassing to ask but I need to if I want to say someone’s name right.

        1. With a Lithp*

          Re: hearing impairment
          I’ve had the opposite happen. I have an unusual name that sounds at the beginning like it’s going to match a similar common name, so often I both say and spell it. One notable time, someone repeated it back perfectly with no prompt. When I complimented him on getting it right the first time he told me he was hearing impaired and read lips! It’s easy to “see” that it’s pronounced differently.

        2. That One Person*

          Those letters are why I’m used to clarifying with words to represent the letter, especially at my old retail job and for the longest time I apparently got my pickup codes wrong for FedEx because I’d bounce between those letters as I was unsure what the robo-lady was saying. Sometimes we also just try to parrot to the best of our ability – last week one of the cafeteria workers was trying to mention the hoisin sauce, but it kept sounding like poison. Once another chef said it was with an H she had one of those “oooh” moments and there was laughter all around, but because she hadn’t seen it just heard it that made it hard to properly emphasis.

          Frequency is my friend so I tend to warn that it might take me a few meetings because repetition really is my best bet for matching names to faces and remembering said names. Luckily most of my communication starts via email these days so that helps alongside the occasional picture with that email.

    2. The Tin Man*

      Ack, this reminded me of a former worker who wanted to call a new hire “Frank” instead of “Francisco”. Glad that stopped pretty quickly.

      1. Usagi*

        Ughhhh I had one of these employees too. The new team member was Chinese, with a Chinese name (and not one that would be particularly difficult to pronounce from an American stand point even without prior knowledge — think something like Lan, Mei, or Ai), but he absolutely would not use her name. Instead he decided that her “American name” would be a name that’s super common like Sarah or Jane. As his manager I eventually fired him for several reasons including this one. Guy had the audacity to think he was actually doing her a favor, too, like having an “American name” is a gift or something.

        Worst part? I’m from Japan, and have a Japanese name. I would say it’s harder to pronounce than hers, but since I was his manager I guess that meant he had to put in the effort or something.

        1. Usagi*

          Sorry, rereading my comment I realized that the bit about Sarah and Jane being super common might come across as me implying that their being common is a negative thing, I absolutely did not mean it that way. I meant it more as “he didn’t even spend any time picking a name that suited her in some way, just picked the first name that came to mind”

      2. AnonEMoose*

        I hate it SOOO much when people do that. My first name has a bunch of nicknames associated with it, and I don’t use any of them. And some people (it happens way less now that I’m older) would get SO BUTTHURT about that.

        So anyone who tried that with someone in my hearing would be, if I had anything to say about it, seriously regretting their life choices shortly afterwards. Seriously, call people what they want to be called, or at least your best effort at it. Don’t try to just assign them a nickname because it’s “easier.”

        1. Chief+Petty+Officer+Tabby*

          This. People have tried, over the years, to get me to use nicknames common to my legal name (Elizabeth), because “Levi is a boy’s name!”

          When I tell you they learned real quick that that isn’t going to happen…!

          I give them the stare that makes dogs stop and go belly up: sort of a hard, penetrating, “What did you just say?”, “I don’t like that, stop NOW.” kind of stare, then turn away and ignore them completely until they fix the error immediately.

    3. RabbitRabbit*

      Yup. My surname is tough so I always try my hardest to ask early about any pronunciations and get it right as best I can.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        My family is from Georgia the country. Our names break pretty much everyone else’s tongues

        1. UKDancer*

          I love Georgia and know a few Georgians. I never found the names difficult to pronounce, just long and polysyllabic. There are sounds in Polish I struggle with more as a rule.

          1. Mek*

            My son’s pediatrician has a very Polish surname, and before we went the first time I had my friend from Poland teach me how to pronounce it. Then it turned out she goes by Dr. Firstname! Dang it. I still ask the receptionist for an appointment with Dr. Lastname just so I don’t forget.

          2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            Funny how brains work. Polish or anything Slavic seems easy to me for no good reason, but French? Oh hell no. I will fail

            1. UKDancer*

              I’m totally the other way around. Polish throws me badly because you have names with many consonants and z’s after each other and my brain can’t work them out easily (I mean obviously I always try). French isn’t a problem because I grew up speaking it so it makes sense and I know how to pronounce things. Aren’t brains weird?

      2. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

        Seconding. I learnt to write my lastname before my firstname. When someone asks, I automatically go “let me spell it”.

    4. trillium*

      True. However, I think we should take people at their word when they say that and quietly do our best to match how they introduced themself. Because what they’re likely saying is they prefer to move on rather than draw more attention in an attempt to improve your approximation, taking away from the rest of the interaction.

      Not exactly the same, but I’ve said that when talking about my dietary restrictions and meant it. Because I know what I can and can’t eat and don’t want to be in the spotlight in terms of how my diet is different, most likely from everyone else there. I don’t want to spend the time I’m there being fussed over, instead of talking about whatever else we’d have been discussing without food in the equation. Even if someone is feeling pressured to go along, they’ve also made the calculation that letting it go is better for them than letting the awkward interaction go on longer.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Sure when we are just meeting, I go by whatever name they prefer. I also don’t get too hung up on the pronunciation of my name. In fact, I tell them just use my first name. They can even call me Ms. EP in court. But in court I HAVE to be formal. Which means getting the full name correct. Because its their name and in a formal situation they deserve to have it pronounced correctly. If it is for a name change after a divorce, they gotta spell it anyway.

        Funny story on this. One judge could never pronounce my name right. Years went by. He got wrong every. single. time. One time on the record, we were discussing the client’s name and he said something about mine, and I just sighed “its only been 7 years.” Very next time he said it, he got it dead right. The look I gave him, “You been messing with me the whole damn time.” He’s retired now and we have lunch often. Last names don’t matter anymore.

        1. tessa*

          okay, but court is a specific context in which precision is required.

          the general point is that I will refer to people by their name as they prefer, and not insist on my own “but it’s your name and the least I can do is get it right,” as you note upthread.

      2. A Becky*

        Exactly this. I moved internationally, and on my experience about three quarters of Germans can’t pronounce my surname (hyper foreignise the vowel). I can’t be fashed with correcting them when we’ll never meet again and it’s only mildly irritating – it’s more effort to manage the conversation past other person’s embarrassment.

        That said, I’m *very* aware that I’d likely feel differently if Germany had a history of disrespecting people from my country of origin, so I definitely agree that it’s important to make an effort! Just, when someone tells me to move on, I believe them :p

    5. Name*

      I have a very difficult to pronounce name. But please believe me when I say it’s alright. Don’t assume you know better than me on whether it’s alright or not.

    6. K Too*

      And not just spoken names, but get accents and spellings correct in emails. People who have apostrophes in their names, or accents on letters. It’s not that hard to learn how to write it on a standard keyboard, or just copy and paste from their signature line.

    7. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      I had a Peruvian coworker with a very French name, and it was infuriating how people reacted when they met him in person. There was even one time when someone had the gulls to tell me “awww, I thought he was French” with a very disappointed and childish tone.

    8. Snoozing not schmoozing*

      “No, its NOT. It’s your name. The LEAST I can do is get it right.”
      My name is frequently mispronounced. You’re right that it’s MY name. But I get to decide when it bothers me, not some performative patronizing person who assumes they know me better than I do. Believe people when they tell you to back off.

      1. Waffles*

        I have a very difficult last name. It’s my married name, not my birth name, and I don’t speak its language of origin (neither does my husband). I can tell you how I pronounce my last name but it’s definitely not “right” and I can say from experience that this kind of attention from strangers is unwanted and exhausting, even if it’s meant kindly.

      2. Part timer*

        Alison should make this the top comment because it is truly so annoying when I want to just get something done, but no, we have to sit here for 30 minutes while you keep butchering my name in new, creative ways.

      3. Ambarish*

        Seriously. Sometimes it’s the people who’re *convinced* they’re doing the right thing that are harder to deal with than the people who simply don’t care.

        Also someone with a non-Biblical and non-English-origin name

      4. Just Another Starving Artist*

        Amen! I have an acquaintance who says she doesn’t like to see the weird facial contortions people make as they try to pronounce her name correctly — the grimaces and the exoticizing over-pronunciation are infinitely more insulting than the flat American mispronunciation.

      5. no not like that*

        This. My name is difficult for most Americans to pronounce. Unless you are an immediate team member with whom I’m going to be working daily for years, I do not want to spend hours carefully coaching you through the pronunciation, training you on phonemes that aren’t part of your native tongue. I will pronounce it for you once. After that, give it your best shot and let’s move on.

      6. eeeek*

        Thank you. I will remember this the next time I am tempted to persist. Wanting to get it right should not derail the interaction, and I should also want to respect the person I’m…trying to respect.

      7. Flash Packet*

        Oops. I commented below before seeing this.

        Instead of typing my own paragraph I could have just said, “This. 100% this.” :-)

    9. Some Dude*

      I think there are some sounds that are very hard for native English speakers to pronounce, and they are unlikely to ever really get it right. (and vice versa – “Th” sounds, “tr” sounds, etc can be tricky for non-native english speakers). For some folks, they might have to settle on an approximation – it doesn’t seem reasonable to expect people to have perfect pronunciation in farsi, urdu, kmai, spanish, english, arabic, and slovakian, for example. There are also some languages where the spelling in Latin characters deviates significantly from how things are generally pronounced in English (Gaelic, for example, or French) and that can be challenging in its own way. I think people should try their best and not make a huge deal about it – I would imagine “Dumeet, right? Did I get it right?” over and over again would become as annoying as getting the pronunciation close but not 100%.

      1. UKDancer*

        Definitely. I think the key thing is to try to pronounce it properly but accept that some sounds don’t work for some people. I had a Spanish colleague in one previous company. Let’s say his name was Enrique. I always tried to say it the way he told me to, and it sounded the same to me but not to him. I couldn’t genuinely hear a difference between my pronunciation and his but he could. He accepted that I was trying and that was fine.

        One of my colleagues refused to pronounce Enrique and decided to rename him Henry which is the English equivalent. Enrique refused to answer to Henry and ignored her when she called him that which led to some difficult meetings. He didn’t mind people not quite getting the sound right but he expected us to at least make an effort.

      2. Roja*

        Yes, exactly. I have a Chinese coworker who I was discussing this with awhile back. A few of our coworkers were saying her name differently than I was, so I double-checked with her which version was right. Mine was, and she said it was as close as it’s going to get. Which I took as high praise! I know it’s not 100%, but she’s right, it’s as good as it’s going to get, for an English speaker. I’m not ever going to pronounce it as well as a native Mandarin speaker. It’s like when I speak French… I work hard to make my R’s sound as good as possible, but I also accept that they’re always going to be a telltale sign that I am (sadly) not a native speaker.

        I have a name that is pronounced with a short “ah” sound here in the US but often a long “aw” sound elsewhere. I have many acquaintances say it with the “aw” sound, because that’s just what the name is with their various accents. It’s still the same name, and it doesn’t bother me. I think most people feel similarly–if there’s a good faith effort, and you’re reasonably close, it’s okay. It’s when you can’t be bothered that it’s most insulting.

    10. Zellie*

      When I first started working, my manager swore she couldn’t pronounce my name, so she called me Little Bit. Yes, Little Bit. My name is now a common name, but back in the day, in the South, it wasn’t. I was young and said nothing. It did irritate me mightily, though. It really sent me up a wall when a manager from another department called someone in my department looking for Little Bit.

      The person I am today (older and crankier), would have put a stop to that pretty darn quick. Learning names and using them is just showing basic respect. And, it’s something everyone is entitled to.

    11. Flash Packet*

      So… people from non-English-speaking countries butcher my name. And when I say, “Oh, it’s okay,” I MEAN IT.

      If someone pressured me by pushing back and telling me “No, its NOT. It’s your name. The LEAST I can do is get it right,” I would be really ticked off. Because they just made it about their desires, not mine.

      I am full-assed adult and if my standard for my name is “I know that you mean me and not someone else in the room,” then that’s my choice to make, not yours.

  13. Chairman of the Bored*

    I have a difficult-to-pronounce last name that is frequently spoken very incorrectly. It is not said at all like it’s spelled.

    Please believe me when I tell you that I don’t care, and that *especially* in a professional/legal/paperwork situation my lived experience indicates that it’s easier for me if people pronounce it phonetically, and therefore incorrectly. This easier and less-correct pronunciation increases the chance that they’ll spell it right in written communication, and decreases the chance of miscommunication when people are talking about my file or whatever.

    It’s nice that you’re showing your clients this is important to you, but at least consider the possibility that when they say they don’t care that you should go with that.

    1. Ann Ominous*

      How would you recommend making it clear that you care enough to make an effort (for the people who don’t want to inconvenience others) but also allowing for situations like yours?

      I’m thinking I could say “I also have a name people find difficult to pronounce. I would like to say your name correctly and don’t mind learning and practicing, but I don’t want to be pushy and make you keep having to correct me” – how would that come across to you?

      I also have a name that is pronounced differently and I live in a country that is not where I was born, and I personally feel better when people make the effort to learn instead of saying it is too hard. I only correct people once because those who care will listen and those who don’t, won’t anyway. But it does grate on me to hear it be mispronounced, and it does feel good to hear it pronounced correctly.

      1. Chairman of the Bored*

        My preference is for people to give it their best shot and then just go with it when I say it’s fine. Ideally it would look like this:

        You: Is that pronounced “po-TAY-toe”?
        Me: Yep, close enough.
        You: OK, great. Onto the next thing…

        I’d rather not get into a whole thing about whether it’s “po-TAY-toe” or “po-TAH-toe” – especially when the actual pronunciation is “rutabaga”.

      2. MerciMe*

        “Okay, Bob it is. Please let me know if that changes – it is important to me to respect your preferences about naming conventions.”

    2. Meow*

      Did you watch the video? It’s very clear that she’s talking about pronouncing first names that are generally held by POC correctly, which is not at all the situation you’re describing and it’s not ok to act like that situation is the same or similar burden when people don’t believe you don’t care if they mispronounce your last name.

    3. I should really pick a name*

      That falls under “call people what they want to be called” and doesn’t seem incompatible with the advice.

    4. Magenta Sky*

      I find people getting offended on my behalf far more annoying than whatever they’re offended at, which generally doesn’t annoy me at all.

  14. Mouse*

    I’ve read a lot of the widely-varied opinions on name pronunciation in this thread and it reminds me of an inclusion activity I participated in. We were each asked us to submit something that makes us feel included and something that makes us feel excluded. The responses were collected and randomly redistributed, and we split into smaller groups to discuss them. One person had received the following responses (coming from two different original writers):

    I feel included when people ask me how to pronounce my name.

    I feel excluded when people ask me how to pronounce my name.

    I think about this often, and I’m honestly not sure what the takeaway is, aside from that we all just have to do our best to approach others with respect and kindness and try to recognize that there are no easy one-size-fits-all answers to these things.

    1. quicksilver*


      There have been a few comments saying that everyone should put their pronouns in their work email signature, and/or ask everyone to declare their pronouns, because “it makes trans and gender-nonconforming people feel included/safer/etc.” But personally, as a visible member of that group, the way pronoun stuff has taken off in academic and corporate environments just tends to make me feel *excluded* and *unsafe*. For my whole life my gender/sex has been judged to be rather inscrutable, and since pronoun-sharing started to become a Thing, soooo many people have blatantly used the pronoun question as a politically correct way of trying to figure out “what I am.” Sure it started out as a genuine DEI initiative (I was a loud advocate for it myself, ten years ago!), but now it just as often serves as cover for the same old patterns of sexual harassment… And more to the point, my cis colleagues having pronouns in their email signatures has absolutely zero effect on the surrounding context of, say, my supervisor making brazen assumptions about my reproductive system in front of a room full of people, or our institution hosting anti-trans events, or anything else that actually makes a difference to how “inclusive” or “safe” the environment is for me.

      I’ve rambled a bit there, but just to say that I think Mouse’s comment strikes at the heart of this whole issue. Genuine respect and inclusion seems “complicated” but it’s really as simple as acknowledging that it’s *not* one-size-fits-all — rather, that each person is a specific individual with their own needs and feelings!! — and proceeding gracefully on a case-by-case basis.

    2. Some Dude*

      the term Latinx is another example – there was a thread in community adjacent to my field lately and many of the people of latin/hispanic ancestry felt the term was annoying and out of touch…and then others felt that using “latino/a” was an act of erasure toward the queer community. It does feel a little, ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ at times. I personally have tried to follow queues of whatever communities/circles I am in (if folks are sharing pronouns, I’ll do so, if folks are using “latinx,” I’ll do so) but I try not to act like the wokest guy in the room or be aggressive or performative in my allyship.

  15. Mewtwo*

    Ooh! One that immediately comes to mind is giving credit where credit is due.

    First of all, if you are the boss, make sure you don’t misattribute the contributions/accomplishments of POC coworkers to white employees. This happens A LOT even by supposedly well meaning managers.

    If you are the white employee/coworker who gets mistakenly credited for someone else’s – particularly a POC coworker’s work, CORRECT THEM. Or if you jointly worked on something together but you are getting the sole credit for the project even if you didn’t lead it (or even if you did! Good leaders share credit.) I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen white coworkers get miscredited with the contributions of nonwhite team members and they did nothing.

  16. KuklaRed*

    This makes me happy to see and I will watch those videos. My company is very attentive to name pronunciation and pronouns. I am very sensitive to names because I grew up with a name that was very rare (back in my youth) and so I am careful to always ask how to pronounce something if I am unsure. Or even if I think I am sure, I still ask.

    Yes, call people what they want to be called! It’s not rocket science.

    1. allathian*

      Yes, this. Or the nearest equivalent your vocal equipment can produce or you can distinguish. There’s no way I can pronounce a name correctly if it includes whistling sounds, because I can’t whistle at all. I can make an attempt at a click, though. My ability to distinguish tonal values is fairly poor, even if I’m not quite tone deaf. I can distinguish between statements and questions by changes in pitch, but it’s much harder for me to get, say, Chinese names right. I will do my best, though.

      My first name is the most common woman’s name in the Christian world. Some variant of the name exists in every European language, and in many other languages. I grew up speaking Finnish and Swedish, and learned to distinguish the language of the speaker early by how they pronounced my name. When I learned English, I answered to the English way of pronouncing the name. It’s still my name, even if it isn’t pronounced in either of the ways I pronounce it in my head. When I learned French and Spanish, I accepted their versions of my name without getting my pants in a twist, although to be fair, the Spanish pronunciation is very close to the Swedish one.

      A bit of good faith helps either way. Sure, I’ll try to pronounce everyone’s name as they would, but I think that a good faith attempt should be good enough, and some understanding for the limitations of people’s linguistic skills goes a long way. If you have a name that contains phonemes that don’t exist in the language you speak at work, it’s probably best to accept that no matter how hard they try, some of your coworkers may never get your name quite right.

      This is different from people calling you by a nickname that you dislike even when you’re asking them to use your full name, i.e. Samantha rather than Sammy, or by using a similar but nonetheless different name, i.e. Cherry instead of Sheree. In those cases, I think it’s entirely appropriate to insist on people using your full name. It also should go without saying that if you change your name for any reason, it’s entirely appropriate to insist that people switch to using your new name.

  17. Sharp-dressed Boston Terrier*

    Followed Robin on TikTok after watching the videos Alison linked to — thank you, Alison! — and will be working through the whole series slowly so I can digest them properly and incorporate them into my own actions. (Gonna need a lot of them around here after the election two weeks ago…)

    One of the other videos I watched dealt with using AAVE at work if one is not a BIPOC. On the surface, it’s very clear to me how this could be problematic in the sense of creating an uncomfortable, if not hostile work environment (though not in the legal sense).

    But as a translator and a polyglot who loves being able to communicate with other people in their native language, would it be problematic for me (cis white male, he/him) to learn and speak AAVE at all? I taught myself Russian; that doesn’t make me Russian. I taught myself Turkish; that doesn’t make me Turkish. I’ve toyed with Japanese and the extreme Japanophile phenomenon turns my stomach. Similarly, I wouldn’t dream of imagining that speaking AAVE somehow gave me a Rachel Dolezal-style claim to being Black.

    In a similar vein, would being able to speak AAVE not be a signal that code-switching isn’t necessary?

    Or is it all just too much of a linguistic minefield?

    1. Chief+Petty+Officer+Tabby*

      Don’t. Just don’t. It always comes off as trying too hard to seem cool, even if that isn’t your intention. Now, if you understand AAVE, that’s great! Converse in your normal language patterns, it’s fine.

      But you don’t need to give Black people “permission” to speak AAVE; it’s kind of squicky.

      At least for me, as a Black woman, it’s quite eww, what?

    2. Raw Flour*

      Big disclaimer off the top that I am a white person speaking to what I’ve observed in a racially diverse working environment in the (US) South.

      1) Would it be problematic to learn it? I don’t think so. Educating oneself on how AAVE has been appropriated by white people, and the actual lineage of those AAVE words and phrases, is considered important in anti-racism work.

      2) Would it be problematic to speak it? Almost certainly; even more so if you’re self-taught. I have met two people in the above environment who were white and raised in a majority Black community, and spoke AAVE with their close friends. I think the two factors at minimum here are “raised in” and “close friends.” Which leads me to point 3:

      3) No, this would definitely not put your Black coworkers at ease.

      4) To bite at the rhetorical question, it’s not really a minefield. You put your coworkers at ease by demonstrating allyship (along with generally being a kind and pleasant person) and not by appropriating things that are personal to them.

    3. Just Another Starving Artist*

      Code switching will always be necessary, because we’re at work. Even on mostly or all Black teams, if a person makes the decision to switch from corporate-speak to AAVE in a statement, it’s usually a deliberate moment of emphasis, not a standard for how that team communicates. Besides, it’s incredibly infantilizing for a white person to do as something to try to make us comfortable, as it implies that speaking formal English is somehow difficult for us. On the list of things that make Black people uncomfortable about white corporate America, not being able to use AAVE doesn’t make the top 50.

      And honestly? If you’re trying to learn AAVE, you’re almost guaranteed to get it wrong. It’s a speech you learn by living it, and without proper context is easy to mess up. You are less likely to come across as an ally than you are to come across as a white guy butchering slang.

    4. Sharp-dressed Boston Terrier*

      I thank you all for your input. I should clarify that I don’t live in the US any more; I was born and raised in New England and spent 14 years in the DC area before ending up where I am now. So my question was a bit more academic, but it was still genuine — I love languages, and I love being able to communicate with people on their “home turf”, so to speak.

      Raw Flour’s point about speaking AAVE as a white person in a specific environment where they know who you are and what you’re doing hit home; I’d come to roughly the same conclusion while ruminating further on the question after submitting it.

      I apologize, both in general and to Chief+Petty+Officer+Tabby specifically, for coming across as if I felt I needed to give Black people “permission” to speak AAVE. That’s not my perspective at all. While code-switching remains a sad necessity, the impetus behind it is nothing but white fragility and the sooner we get rid of the need for it the better.

      I hope that’s clarified things a bit.

  18. eeeek*

    Names. Our university IT has endorsed use of a particular tool that allows us to create a file with our own voices pronouncing our own names. We can include these links in our sig files – and for those of us who create event and meeting notes, we can link to the name pronunciations for guests and participants. So it’s possible for well prepared people to Make an Effort to pronounce names or at least familiarize themselves with how an individual might want their name pronounced. A good thing, eh?
    Imagine my surprise when I went to the site, created my file, included a “pronunciation link” in my sig file, shared it with agenda materials when the organizer called for pronunciations…and got puzzled queries from (Standard American English speaking) colleagues who wondered why I (also SAE speaking) would do this, because I don’t need to do that.

    Umm. Do these tools exist for “us” to learn how “they” pronounce their names, or for *everyone* to help *everyone* pronounce our names? How dare I assume that a speaker of a language other than Standard Edited American English would know how to pronounce my relatively common (in the USA) name? Geez.

  19. KnittyKnerd*

    I love that a post about being racially aware has a comments section full of folks dismissing the issue because it doesn’t bother them personally or they think they’re super special exception needs to be defended.

    Pro-tip: If you’re first reaction to stuff like this is to minimize and defend yourself and not “wow, it’s hard to swallow the fact I made have been inadvertently hurting others but I’m glad I know better now”, then you probably have some unexamined racism you need to address.

    1. That's not my name*

      I regularly get called the incorrect name (surname for first name), even when it’s on a form (my first/surname in boxes that say “First” / “Surname”). In fact it happens so regularly that if it’s a cursory encounter I don’t bother to correct the person and put it down to people not bothering to read correctly, it’s not important to them and they are not interested in knowing that is a first name or a surname. I’m too tired to bother correcting it so, yes, I dismiss it even when it affects me personally.

      1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        I think this is nesting fail. Probably meant to be a reply to a different post.

        This happens here A LOT. I think there may be a glitch in the software.

    1. Vintage Lydia*

      The captioning system on TikTok is a hot mess, often wrong, and labor intensive to fix, if you even can, and fixing it is an inaccessible process for a lot of creators due to the UI.

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        Can’t the creator use the video-editing software to add captions? (This is a genuine question from someone who doesn’t use video-editing software and doesn’t do TikTok.)

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