Social Question

Ltryptophan's avatar

Is it impolite for a white person to bring up the fact that they share their last name with a black person?

Asked by Ltryptophan (10241points) November 3rd, 2010 from iPhone

I have done this and thereafter felt naive, thoughtless and embarassed. So I’m thinking it is…

I would never intend to come across as trying to point out maybe my family were someones slave owners. So personally i am going to not mention it anymore, just act oblivious…

Maybe instead I should have dealt with it directly by going into a diatribe about how wrong it was if they, my forefathers, ever did.

Your take?

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16 Answers

josie's avatar

As long as you are not a slave owner, you have no problem.

Kardamom's avatar

I don’t think you have to say “Hi, my name is John Washington and my family used to own slaves and I feel really badly about that.” You should just introduce yourself and if the other person happens to ask if your family had been slave owners, then you can just say yes or no and if you DO know for a fact that they owned slaves, then you can kind of throw in a quick bit about how awful that was. Don’t ever get into a diatribe with anybody about it. People of color understand that even white people with the last names of Washington and Jeffereson don’t own slaves now, although they most likely did back in the days before the Civil War. You can also throw in that “It would be weird in a tragic sort of way, if we were related huh?”

KatawaGrey's avatar

I don’t understand the question. Do you mean that by pointing out that you share a last name with a black person, you’re admitting that one of your ancestors may have owned one of theirs?

It seems to me that if you have the same last name as somebody, regardless of race, it’s an interesting coincidence, even if your ancestors did own slaves. I pointed out that my grandmother’s maiden name, which is my middle name, is the same as a friend’s last name and she happens to be black. She didn’t get offended; she thought it was great. Now, if you mean it like, “Oh, hey, we have the same last name, maybe my great-great grandfather owned your great-great grandfather,” then it’s just weird and offensive. If, however, it’s just an interesting coincidence, it’s not impolite.

Blackberry's avatar

Having a last name and having ancestors that owned slaves are two different things lol. Someone has my last name, but it doesn’t mean anything, it’s just a name.

Ltryptophan's avatar

So, it is cool to be like hey we have the same last name?

Jeruba's avatar

Most of the slaveowners came from the British Isles or came of families that were from the British Isles. British settlers lived in the North as well as the South. Most of them had families back in the British Isles, some of whom immigrated later and some of whom never did. There are going to be lots and lots of people with the same last names as slaveowners who were never slaveowners themselves and never descended from any. I think this is making way too much of something that has no meaning.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Of course it’s okay/cool! It’s a way of making a personal connection with someone new. If you met someone of your same race with the same last name, would you mention the connection? If so, then not mentioning it to someone of a different race could be construed as a form of racism by attempting to be overly PC just because of skin color.

Ltryptophan's avatar

See I agree with pied pfeffer, but I think that it does not play out that way…

Blackberry's avatar

@Ltryptophan It’s not really cool at all, and it’s actually kind of pointless. That is like two people with the same first name comparing each other’s names.

john65pennington's avatar

It is what it is.

There is a black Assistant Chief of Police, in New Orleans, with the same last name as mine. i have met him and we discussed our last name coincidence. it was actually funny that we have the same last name and i am white and he is black. the black and white made no difference to us. we are now really good friends.

Like i said, it is what it is.

downtide's avatar

The slave thing would just never have occurred to me at all. There is a black American actor who shares the same last name as me. But I’m not saying who it is.

OpryLeigh's avatar

What @KatawaGrey said and like, @downtide it would have never occured to me that sharing the same last name as someone could have meant that my ancestors owned their ancestors.

downtide's avatar

@Leanne1986 It certainly wouldn’t have been the case that my ancestors owned slaves because that just didn’t happen in Norfolk fishing villages. Though I suppose it’s possible that some far distant ancestor had other descendants who became wealthy and went to the USA and became slave owners.

josie's avatar

I don’t know any black person with my last name. I guess that means I am clean.

jca's avatar

it seems like nowadays, people try to find reasons to be offended. this is not one of them.

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