A rose by any other name

By Legal Eagle

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet…

(Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, 1594)

Or not. I remember when a friend’s husband was employed by a large telco, he was asked to change his Islamic sounding name to “Michael” when taking calls from customers. Being a very easy-going fellow, he demurred, although his wife and I were scandalised that such a thing was even suggested.

The other day, a study was released which suggested that job seekers with “ethnic” names generally got less response to their applications than those with Anglo names. (Unless they were someone with an Italian name in Melbourne applying for a job as a waiter/waitress.)

This doesn’t really surprise me. I’ve known people who have had to change their name for CVs before.

Theodora Brown has an interesting post on the topic. Her point of view is as an Australian woman of Chinese extraction. She says:

I was surprised though, at the automatic assumption in the press and in discussion that the  the adoption of names was simply for the benefit of the exclusively Anglophone.  Particularly in a multicultural society, the adoption of an anglicised name is, these days, I think more for the assistance of  benefit of non-English speakers rather than English speakers.   A case of English being the lingua franca, so to speak, for the very many disparate groups who now call Australia home.

There’s a place for pride in one’s heritage, one’s background, one’s past, one’s principles.

And there is a case of just being practical.

I have to say that I hadn’t thought of it like that. Worth having a read.


  1. Posted June 28, 2009 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    I take it you can speak Doric?

    No. I speak Whiskey. 🙂

  2. John Greenfield
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 8:04 pm | Permalink


    I am a white guy who does not – in any meaningful sense – know what it feels like to be racially harassed or discriminated against. This remains the case even though I have traveled to many non-white societies.

    You say – quite justifiably – you are sick of being “discriminated against” and “harassed” by (not exclusively) white males. I hope you don’t think I am being insensitive in asking a few follow ups.

    1. What form/s of “racial discrimination” have/do you personally encounter? Aren’t the laws working?

    2. Ditto for “harassment”.

    3. Interesting you note non-white males as well. Can you give us a break down by other ethnicities/races who harass you?

  3. John Greenfield
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    WOW! No moderation! Woo Hoo! 🙂

  4. John Greenfield
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    The closest I have experienced this stuff was when working and living in London, whenever the “colonial” or “convict” line was used. It’s not that I am ashamed of lower class or even criminal forebears, it’s just the unspoken whisper – even if allegedly i jest – “don’t get too uppity sonny”.

    The other time was working in the US and being typecast as a knuckle-dragging sexist, foul-mouthed, Crocodile Dundee clone. All of these are true, but when they are pointed out in a professional context, it can be grating.

  5. John Greenfield
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

    Talk to black Americans who have gone to find their roots in Africa. You’ll hear some really fascinating tales and insights. Same with Australian-born Greeks going to Greece for the first time.

  6. Posted July 1, 2009 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    Looks like someone had a comment party when he discovered that Akismet wasn’t on his tail for once!

  7. John Greenfield
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    Make hay while the sun shines, mah deah!

  8. Posted July 2, 2009 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    MMm what does a gay Mick Dundee look like I wonder.

  9. Posted July 3, 2009 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    You mean Mick Dundee was STRAIGHT? In THAT jacket?

  10. conrad
    Posted July 6, 2009 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    Here are the answers JG:

    1. What form/s of “racial discrimination” have/do you personally encounter? Aren’t the laws working?.. Ditto for Harassment.
    Verbal and the occasional physical abuse. Destruction of my property. Refusal of service (!). I’ve even been told to leave a pub for no reason other than ethnicity (that was a long time ago). Obviously these things are still illegal now and are also not nearly as bad as some of my heterosexually challenged friends, who people were far more hostile to, and they’re generally even more harmless than me! That’s one of the reasons I think they are one of the most harassed groups (of course, having the death penalty against them in some countries makes any other comparisons rather trivial in that respect).
    It’s hard to quantify things like jobs and the like, since you might just being paranoid, or you really might being discriminated against. That’s why there are scientific papers looking at things like social in/out group membership.
    I wouldn’t say the laws are or are not-working — it’s impossible exactly what effect they have in many circumstances. Alternatively, they do stop blatant vilification of some groups, so they might stop some things indirectly. They also stop government mandated discrimination.
    3. Interesting you note non-white males as well. Can you give us a break down by other ethnicities/races who harass you?
    Sure, being in part of the most disliked group of the 70s/80s (I’m mixed race), that includes most euro-groups, which are basically the only ones I bumped into then (although they’re all white). In France, I’ve had verbal/racial abuse from some the browner members of humanity (who I guess Asians consider white, so perhaps I have a very white world!), although they seem to harass whoever they feel like depending on the circumstance, and I doubt what they are saying is racially motivated — it’s just whatever nasty stuff comes out of their mouths at the time. I’ve had a similar experience in the UK from bored Pakistani males, despite having spent almost no time there (some friends of mine that studied in Leeds have suggested that they have a bad habit of harassing East Asians).

  11. Posted July 6, 2009 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    I think the older one feels that he doesn’t entirely belong in either camp.

    A Eurasian friend of mine lives in America where she became very racially conscious (for some strange reason).

    One of her (Japanese-American) boyfriend’s friends referred to her as a half-breed! Asians can be terribly ethnocentric about that stuff. There’s more than one website published by a resentful Asian fella complaining about the white guys who steal ‘his’ women. Most of ’em run up pictures of Eurasian models to ‘prove’ that such people are not attractive. And the Falun Gong mob actually state that Eurasian don’t get into heaven. Apparently inrer-racial bonking is a big no no.

    (Methinks it’s a way to discourage dudes stealing ‘our’ women).

    Mmmm. I can see what he means.

    But then — I’m Caucasian, but have never had a feeling of “fitting in” with the majority culture.

    Spend some time in Box Hill. 🙂

    No really do. Oustanding eats.

  12. Posted July 6, 2009 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

    Yeah? Have you been to Indochine? Best rice paper rolls ever. I haven’t been to Box Hill in ages.

  13. Posted July 6, 2009 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    Living in the good-asian-food-free zone that is the UK, I hate you both.

  14. John Greenfield
    Posted July 7, 2009 at 9:41 am | Permalink


    Verbal and the occasional physical abuse.

    Where are you when this takes place? Walking down the street in broad daylight? At suburban pubs? Nightclubs? Dark back-alleys? Who are they and what do say.

    Despite what I said in an earlier post as a white male I have been racially harassed. Years ago, in Paris, I was walking through the Jardin du Luxembourg. A huge black guy – Algerian I presumed – said “give me everything you’ve got white cunt, and consider it a downpayment on what you really owe me.” I was scared, but I felt no racial slight.

    I was scared because he was a huge black guy, and I bought into racial stereotype going: that’s what huge black guys do. They mug, and bash you up, and sneer at you using poor vocabulary and accents that indicate very low IQs. One thing I did feel a bit was emasculated, as I know you don’t need to spend too much time being taught to defend yourself.

    I’ve been called “poofta”, “fag” in my life, but not enough that I spend my life cowering in corners. Nowadays, if somebody tried to “poofta-bash” me, I would just knee them in the nuts, punch them in the throat, throw a garbage bin at them, push them over, spit on them, pick them up and drag them personally to the cop-shop! Also, nowadays, I have such a superb verbal arsenal that no putative fag-vilifier would come out of the spat with their dignity intact, UNLESS they resorted to physical violence, which has only happened one time after the Paris incident.

    A (straight) mate and I were riding his pushbike (he was doubling me) at about 10 o’clock at night thru Victoria Park next to Sydney Uni. This gang of about 10 young teenagers – mostly Aborigines, probably from the local Eveleigh/Caroline Street areas – surrounded us, pushed us about, spat at us, took a couple of girlie swings. They basically just wanted money.

    But then something really weird and scary happened. One said, “you’re faggots, aren’t you”? My mate wasn’t. Anyway, my mate got away and bolted the 30 metres to Parramatta Road to wave down a car. The rest grabbed me, and screamed at my mate if he didn’t come back, they were going to drown me. They dragged me down to the duck pond there and threw me in. It was only about 18 inches deep. They then ran away, and I felt like such a dork, but a live dork!

    One thing you should consider is that 95% of violence committed by men 16-24 years old is on OTHER young men. Maybe, there is a bit more of you just being male, rather than it all being “racist”.

    Destruction of my property.

    What sort of “property”? The Daily Telegraphy you were sooooo looking forward to reading on the train home!?

    Refusal of service (!). I’ve even been told to leave a pub for no reason other than ethnicity (that was a long time ago).

    What did they say to you?

    I have to fly right now as it is cocktail hour, but I’ll respond to the rest of your post anon.

  15. Posted July 7, 2009 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    L’eagle – #67. I sometimes think it must be a real pain the arse being a woman. A straight one. 95% of the boys are just like gorillas in board shorts only without the finesse.

    I only think that sometimes. Like when I sometimes find myself on the city street after 9pm on a Friday night. There’s something about it that makes me see the good side of mass conscription and World War I.
    DEM – Oi! Whaddaboot a curry? ‘Eh? Ye scoff it doon after a night a shouting lage lager lager lager!

    Ah Gret Britun. Wot koolcha!

  16. conrad
    Posted July 7, 2009 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    Nice to hear your stories JG — look, I’m personally not that fussed, I just don’t think people deserve the type of bother and general lowish level nasty shit that I, and obviously you, have got across our lives.

    The reason for this is that whilst it doesn’t get to me a whole lot, it does get to other people. It’s no doubt one of the reasons young gay males have really high suicide rates, which is sad, because, as far as I can tell, they’re a fairly harmless group in general — it would be good if heterosexual young males could take a lesson from them. Indeed, the only fight I’ve ever seen in a gay bar (not that I’m frequenting them often), was a bit of a laugh really. Two really camp guys wondering how to have a fight after yelling at each other (I think one tried slapping the other and then the other started crying after being hit……). More seriously, even the less stereotyped gay people seem more open-minded to me. I run with a gay (-friendly) group occasionally when I’m in France, and I think it must be one of the few groups where white French, Arabs and the occasional black African mix happily (no doubt very happily, although I’ll leave that to your imagination).

    Incidentally, I think you’re reminding me of a gay version of Cartman — I think it’s “the knee them in the nuts comment”.

  17. Posted July 7, 2009 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

    “Respect my authority!”

    Considering the theme of my thesis, I’ve been tempted from time to time to put this classic Cartmanism on the cover.

  18. John Greenfield
    Posted July 7, 2009 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    Oh, something very important I should add about the two muggings/bashings by black guys I described above. In the cold light day, I looked at both incidents – and still do – TOTALLY in CLASS terms, not racial terms.

    If that makes sense,

  19. Posted July 7, 2009 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    Re [email protected] 73. Very. It’s very sad how often the class/race thing overlaps, though one odd thing that I have observed is that if there is a dramatic move upwards in socio-economic class in a particular immigrant family, relative to their social position in the old country, it almost always happens in the first or early second generation (ie where the parents immigrate as young adults and haven’t settled in for very long before the kids arrive) – if that makes any sense at all to anyone.

    I wonder if that’s just who I manage to hang out with or whether there’s an ARC Grant and a PhD in it for someone ….

  20. conrad
    Posted July 8, 2009 at 12:17 pm | Permalink


    working in France now and then, I’m not surprised that you think it’s class thing (I would too). I think that class is at the root of most the problems there, which is quite unlike how the English speaking media portrays it. In my books, at least in France, it’s class, race, religion (but it’s class that kicks it all off), with the English media blaming it on religion, and the French media blaming it on race. Obviously they haven’t noticed they never get bothered by middle-class north Africans, and that most of the members of the street gangs probably haven’t ever read any religious books at all.

  21. Posted July 8, 2009 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    It’s very sad how often the class/race thing overlaps

    It’s often exactly the same thing. For example: 19th century Ireland – Anglican = Gentry, Presb = Industrial Bourgeoisie and Catholic = Bog Irish illiterate peasants.
    Or the Jews. Hi guys you can be the bankers and the lawyers. That’ll make you real popular. 🙂

  22. Posted July 9, 2009 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    My first tute at law school, first thing the guy says: don’t tell lawyer jokes. Then he tells one (what’s the difference between a sperm and a human?)
    They should pass the mockery around of course. Real estate agents, PE teachers, bankers -Oh my God yes bankers – security guards and of course copywriters.

  23. Posted July 9, 2009 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    On lawyer jokes…. the idea just popped into my head (multitasking feedreading and spam email deletion) that there HAS to be a joke aimed at male lawyers, “longer lasting performance”, and the magic 6-minute interval, where 6 minutes 1 second is classified as 12 minutes.

  24. olly
    Posted August 4, 2009 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    As a Christian of white skin colour I am sick of being the target of other peoples racist veiws. I live down the street from a Synagogue and my family and myself have been the target of anti – christian racism for most of my life. I was not born in Australia myself, but because of my skin colour am consistently targeted by those who have a separtist agenda and who are themselves racist.

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