Dangerous Names

Whenever Assata Shakur is in the news, even now in 2016, prominent newspapers refuse to use her legal name (Assata Shakur) and instead deliberately use versions of her old name (she was born JoAnne Deborah Byron). They respect that she changed her name briefly after getting married (to JoAnne Chesimard), but not the change to Assata Shakur. Here is the New York Post doing it two days ago. Here is the New York Times doing it in 2014.

A picture of Assata Shakur with the quote "I believe in teh fire of love and the sweat of truth."

This article informs me that they did the same to Muhammad Ali when he changed his name from Cassius Clay. This seems to be a special form of disrespect and identity erasure that “the establishment” and the white mainstream reserve for POC, women and queers who they deem too uppity, and whose identities alone are considered so dangerous to white cis-het-male hegemony that their names are literally unspeakable, unprintable.

Picture of Muhammad Ali with the quote "I am America. I am the part you won't recognize. But get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me."

 

 

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