“Look what baby names did.”
I saw my friend’s text before I saw the attached screenshot. Babynames.com, the “#1 source for names and meanings,” had posted the names of 114 victims of police violence. The list starts with Emmett Till, whose murder and mutilation sparked the Civil Rights Movement, and ends with George Floyd, whose murder triggered a record-breaking outpouring of Black Lives Matter solidarity. (With protests in all 50 states and in cities around the world, we are living through the biggest civil rights demonstration in history.)
Each one of these names was somebody’s baby.
The names in between span years, ages, genders, locations. They are all united by tragedy.
Bookending the list are two statements: “Each one of these names was somebody’s baby” and “BabyNames.com stands in solidarity with the black community.”
While the Internet hit the heart button, BabyNames.com’s declaration gave me pause. To start, they didn’t include any information about what organizations they’ve donated to or what their diversity and inclusion practices are. But even if they had, I would still wonder: Who is this for?
I don’t know about you, but I have been having the hardest time processing white people and brands’ Black Lives Matter statements. You can miss me with the earnest tweets, Instagram captions, and Facebook posts. I’m confounded by the promises to do better as if May 25, 2020 was the first time a Black unarmed man was killed by an officer using unnecessary and excessive force, as if the past two weeks were the first time Black people had been murdered by the police and wannabe officers back (Ahmaud Arbery) to back (Breonna Taylor) to back (George Floyd). As if there had never been video evidence in the past.
Why now? Why this time?
The alarm has been ringing since 1619; white people have just been hitting snooze…
I asked that question to the 600+ new followers mater mea acquired—most of them white women—last week. Their answers highlight just how blinding white privilege is. For many respondents, this is the first time they’re seeing Black people’s humanity and realizing that we are all “somebody’s baby.”
Becoming mothers had a lot to do with it.
“I have a 1 year old daughter and I want her to do better, to be better and that can only happen if I’m better,” wrote one new follower.
“I have kids now,” wrote another, “the world feels different to me when I’m responsible for raising kids.”
Much has been said about George Floyd calling out for his mama in his last moments. A protest sign that read “All Mothers Were Summoned When George Called Out for His Momma” has become the caption of choice for white women awakening to the role they have consciously and unconsciously played.
These calls to white women’s maternal instincts are infuriating. Some of them finally answering that call after we’ve screamed ourselves hoarse is infuriating. Because, to paraphrase another protest sign, “The alarm has been ringing since 1619; white people have just been hitting snooze…”
But, as I got ready to lay into BabyNames.com for this list with no action, something came over me. As I looked at each name, I was feeling something new for the first time, too.
It was almost hard to name, because I haven’t let myself be sad since 2012, when Trayvon Martin was murdered. It was replaced with anger in 2013 when George Zimmerman was acquitted of his crimes. And again in 2014 when Michael Brown’s body was left to lay in the street for four hours. With each murder that requires us to “Say Her Name” and “Say His Name,” with each detail of their last moments, these people became fuel for my righteous anger. They became martyrs to the movement and not human beings, not somebody’s baby.
And so I looked at each name, and I thought about just how important names are. How naming a child is a parent’s first act of love, their first act of hope, a declaration to the world that “This child is mine. I named him. I named her. And this name means they are somebody’s child.”
Was Tamir Rice named “Tamir” because his parents hoped he would live a live rich with experiences, or because they felt their lives were enriched by his birth?
Did Sandra Bland’s mom name her “Sandra” because she hoped she would live up to the name’s meaning, “defender of the people”?
I thought about the names my husband and I have picked out and can’t wait to bestow on our future children. Names picked because they reflect our hopes and our lived experiences.
I looked at each name.
I looked up their meaning.
And I let myself cry.
- EMMETT TILL – Entire
- ERIC GARNER – Always Ruler
- JOHN CRAWFORD III – God Is Gracious
- MICHAEL BROWN – Who Is Like God?
- EZELL FORD – Nobel
- DANTE PARKER – Everlasting
- MICHELLE CUSSEAUX – Who Is Like God?
- LAQUAN MCDONALD – The quiet one (found via the namemeaning.com)
- TANISHA ANDERSON – Born On Monday
- AKAI GURLEY – Complete (names.org)
- TAMIR RICE – Rich
- RUMAIN BRISBON – From Rome (SheKnows)
- JERAME REID – God Will Uplift (Jeremy)
- JOSEPH MANN – God Will Increase
- MATTHEW AJIBADE – Gift of God
- FRANK SMART – Free or Truthful
- NATASHA MCKENNA – Born on Christmas Day
- TONY ROBINSON – Highly praiseworthy (SheKnows)
- ANTHONY HILL – Highly praiseworthy
- MYA HALL – Mine
- PHILLIP WHITE – Lover of horses
- ERIC HARRIS – Always ruler
- WALTER SCOTT – Army ruler
- WILLIAM CHAPMAN II – With gilded helmet
- ALEXIA CHRISTIAN – defender of the people
- BRENDON GLENN – prince
- VICTOR MANUEL LAROSA – winner or conqueror
- JONATHAN SANDERS – God has given
- FREDDIE CARLOS GRAY JR. – Peace ruler
- SALVADO ELLSWOOD – Saved in English
- SANDRA BLAND – Defender of the people
- ALBERT JOSEPH DAVIS – Noble and Bright
- DARRIUS STEWART – Upholder of the Good
- BILLY RAY DAVIS – With gilded helmet and counsel protection
- SAMUEL DUBOSE – His name is God
- MICHAEL SABBIE – Who Is Like God?
- BRIAN KEITH DAY – high, noble
- CHRISTIAN TAYLOR – follower of christ
- TROY ROBINSON – water or foot soldier
- ASSHAMS PHAROAH MANLEY – “Pharaoh is the common title of the monarchs of ancient Egypt from the First Dynasty.” (Wikipedia)
- FELIX KUMI – happy and prosperous
- KEITH HARRISON MCLEOD – Wood, forest or from the battleground (Wikipedia)
- JUNIOR PROSPER – The young
- LAMONTEZ JONES – From the mountain
- PATERSON BROWN -Father’s Son or Son of Patrick (Wikipedia)
- DOMINIC HUTCHINSON – Of God
- ANTHONY ASHFORD – Highly praiseworthy (SheKnows)
- ALONZO SMITH-TYREE CRAWFORD – Noble and ready
- INDIA KAGER – named after the country
- LA’VANTE BIGGS – lift, raise (Wikipedia)
- MICHAEL LEE MARSHALL – Who Is Like God?
- JAMAR CLARK – Sparks
- RICHARD PERKINS – Brave ruler
- NATHANIEL HARRIS PICKETT JR. – Gift of God
- BENNI LEE TIGNOR – Son of my right hand
- MIGUEL ESPINAL – Who is like God?
- MICHAEL NOEL – Who Is Like God?
- KEVIN MATTHEWS – handsome, beautiful
- BETTIE JONES – God is my oath
- QUINTONIO LEGRIER – Quentin means fifth and Antonio means highly praiseworthy
- KEITH CHILDRESS JR. – Wood, forest or from the battleground
- JANET WILSON – God is gracious
- RANDY NELSON – Shield wolf
- ANTRONIE SCOTT – Highly praiseworthy
- WENDELL CELESTINE – Wanderer, seeker
- DAVID JOSEPH – Beloved
- CALIN ROQUEMORE – Powerful warrior (SheKnows)
- DYZHAWN PERKINS – God is gracious
- CHRISTOPHER DAVIS – Christ bearer
- MARCO LOUD – Warlike
- PETER GAINES – Rock
- TORREY ROBINSON – winner, conqueror
- DARIUS ROBINSON – he possesses, rich and kingly (Wikipedia)
- KEVIN HICKS – handsome, beautiful
- MARY TRUXILLO – Of the sea
- DEMARCUS SEMER – Warlike
- WILLIE TILLMAN – With gilded helmet
- TERRILL THOMAS – to pull (Oh Baby Names)
- SYLVILLE SMITH – Spirit of the wood (Wikipedia)
- ALTON STERLING – Old Town
- PHILANDO CASTILE – Friend of man
- TERENCE CRUTCHER – Smooth (SheKnows)
- PAUL O’NEAL – Humble, small
- ALTERIA WOODS – proud (Name Doctor)
- BOBBY RUSS – Bright fame
- JORDAN EDWARDS – To flow down
- AARON BAILEY – exalted, strong
- RONELL FOSTER – powerful (SheKnows)
- STEPHON CLARK – Crown
- ANTWON ROSE II – Priceless, of inestimable worth (Baby Name Wizard)
- BOTHAM JEAN – Bottom, the lowest point of the valley (SurnameDB)
- PAMELA TURNER – All honey, sweetness
- DOMINIQUE CLAYTON – Of God
- ATATIANA JEFFERSON – meaning unknown
- CHRISTOPHER WHITFIELD – Christ bearer
- CHRISTOPHER MCCORVEY – Christ bearer
- ERIC REASON – Always ruler
- KORRYN GAINES – Maiden (The Bump)
- REKIA BOYD – Ray means counsel protection and Kia means hill
- KIONTE SPENCER – Gift of God (Names.org)
- DARIUS TARVER – upholder of the good
- KOBE DIMOCK-HEISLER – supplanter
- COREY JONES – hollow
- TYRE KING – strength, rock, sharp (SheKnows)
- MICHAEL LORENZO DEAN – Who Is Like God?
- TRAYVON MARTIN – brave one (Our Baby Namer)
- RENISHA MCBRIDE – reborn (Think Baby Names)
- OSCAR GRANT III – deer lover or spear of God (Wikipedia)
- BREONNA TAYLOR – high, noble
- KALIEF BROWDER – Prince or Lord of the Sands (Names.org)
- WILLIAM GREEN – With gilded helmet
- AHMAUD ARBERY – Praised one (Family Education)
- TONY MCDADE – Highly praiseworthy (SheKnows)
- GEORGE FLOYD – Farmer
Look at what BabyNames did.