Ask Ty...September 24 [The Name Game Question]

Q: Dear Ty,

I followed a guy on Twitter named Tyrell.

I met him IRL and was surprised that he was white.

Does my assumption that Tyrell = black make me a racist?

-Confused Presumptive Whitey

Ty: Good question and an even better observation, CPDubbz. Names...our handy mini-biographies and calling cards. I mean, Tyrone, right?

First off, I almost forgot all about Twitter. [redacted opinions about the tech-people interface] So there's the first digression out of the way.

Wouldn't it be best if it were a cultural convention for us to all pick our very own names? Maybe we could try a bunch of 'em for size in our youth but are eventually legally bound to stick with a permanent name by, say, the age you get our licenses to drive. Maybe I'd be Julius T. Leisure after all. I mean, Tyrone, right?

We all have probably questioned our names at some point. Some Madelines go by Maddy. Some Davids go by Dave. Some people use their middle names socially. Some people change their names legally to Metta World Peace. Some people live a life as a nickname. I knew a Tyrone who went by Chip because he was a "chip off the old block." Interestingly, this Tyrone, or "Chip," was a rich, white male from the Connecticut social scene. I mean, Tyrone, right?

And believe me, careful social, business, and nickname thought went into the naming of my offspring. Personally, I have chosen to socially go by a shortened, more race-neutral version of my own name. I mean, Tyrone, right?

Are you a racist? Let's see. You have the ability to discern that there are people of varying skin tones who may have come from varying parts of the planet. At least their ancestors may have come from different places than where you made your observation. Are you a racist? You know that some names have some race correlation. This is the social game. You are allowed some shortcuts, some educated guesses. But are you a racist? A savvy racist? Are we all racist then? I mean, Tyrone, right?

In this case, CPDubbz, you did well by assuming a race based only on a name. You chose black based upon first name alone. I might've done the same thing. But add some context, however, and one's  assumptions could change. Or, judgments sway. What if the full name was Tyrell Chang? Does that change anything? What if the "tweets" or "twitterings" you followed were all written in a clear, perfect English? What if this Tyrell dropped the term, "mate," in on the regs? What if their Twitter page was decorated with Canadian or Swiss flags? What if the full name was Tyrell Chowdry? What if the person was from Houston? What if the person was from Salem, Oregon? Salem, Massachusetts? What if he went by DJ Tyrell BoomSizzle? We manufacture all sorts of physical characteristics based on all sorts of direct or circumstantial information. I mean, Tyrone, right?

IRL: What if we met Tyrell blindfolded? Only heard a voice and it was lyrically and classically British? What it he was a she at least based on our own earholes? What if she smelled of beautiful perfume? What if the person stank of B.O.? Or patchouli? What if, with our own eyes, they were paraplegic? Or geriatric? Or red haired? Or presented as poor? Likewise, we manufacture all sorts of social and cultural characteristics based on what our senses perceive. I mean, Tyrone, right?

So, racist? You ascribed race on name alone? Yeah, you're pretty fucking racist, CPDubbz. Nailed it. I mean, Tyrone, right?

Just a guess.

-ty short for Tyrone