My Name Majo: The Dignity of a Name

Majo James, Staff Writer

College is a transitionary period, a time when people complete the metamorphosis from childhood to adulthood. A time when people come into their own and become who they are. Hopefully, a person is true to themself. But this is not always an easy journey. There are times in all of our lives when we become conflicted about our identities. Dropping a sport or a club one does not have the time for, relationships changing and struggling to keep up with coursework makes people question themselves. As a person of color, my identity is challenged in ways that differ from many people on campus, including my very name. 

I have heard every mispronunciation in the book: Mah-ho, Mayo, Mah-jo, the list goes on and on. My real name is pronounced May-jo, spelled M-A-J-O. When I was younger, I desperately wished that I was named something else, something the other kids would not laugh at me for, something a teacher would be able to read as they were taking attendance, something normal. Even after all this time, as I started freshman year of college, there were a million ways I felt out of place during move-in day. I found myself looking around and remembering how different I was yet again. I was still the same kindergartener who spoke with an accent on the first day of school as the other kids jabbered away. But all it took for me to feel welcomed was introducing myself to another freshman and him smiling and saying, “Majo? That’s such a cool name!” Just like that, as I shook his hand, Villanova became my home. 

When I was younger, I would not bother correcting people when they said my name wrong. I did not see a point to it. After all, I knew that they were referring to me. But as I got older, I realized that this was a terrible mindset to have, one that betrays me. If the names of everyone around me can be said properly, why not mine? Names are not something that should be determined by anyone but oneself. Referring to someone by what they want to be called and how they want to be called is a sign of respect, an acknowledgement of the humanity of the person one is talking to. That is the true meaning of being an ally. It is not a white savior complex that demands the less fortunate be rescued, not a self-prescribed label to be “woke,” but recognizing and standing up for the humanity of another person. 

Villanova does its part to champion this cause, from introducing measures in the syllabus that require professors to address students as they would like to be addressed, to seminars on pronouncing foreign names. But no matter how many initiatives the University takes, there will not be any significant change unless we the students decide that we want a difference, that we want to make sure everyone on campus feels seen. That is why I wrote this article, not as a call-to-arms, but as a suggestion on how to be a better person.