Reddit isn’t just a clearinghouse for interviews, animal pictures, and crazy stories. It’s also a place where people ask questions and have discussions. Yesterday, one user wondered about “black” names, posing a question to the “Black American parents of Reddit,” as he put it. “Before racism is called out, I have plenty of black friends,” he noted, raising the question of why he didn’t ask these alleged friends. “[I’m] just curious why you name your kids names like D’brickishaw, Barkevious D’quell and so on?”
Setting aside the many problems with this question—for one, “Black American parents” aren’t a monolith–there’s an actual answer here. In a 2003 paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research, economist Roland Fryer found two things. First, that names like Reginald and Kiara are far more likely among black children than names like Jake and Molly, and second, that this is a recent development. In the 1960s, Anglo-American names were common among African American children. It wasn’t until the 1970s and the rise of the Black Power movement that this shifted in the other direction. ”The underlying philosophy of the Black Power movement,“ writes Fryer, ”was to encourage Blacks to accentuate and affirm black culture and fight the claims of black inferiority.” The adoption of “black” names is consistent with other cultural changes—like “natural hair"—prompted by the movement. African Americans wanted to distinguish themselves from whites, and naming was an easy means to the end.