Saturday, 17 July 2010

Owning Racism - Addendum

"What's your Christian name?"

It's quite a common expression, isn't it? 'Christian name'.

I've had it asked me so many times and never paid it a thought. After all, my name is a Christian name, despite the fact that I'm no longer an adherent of the Christian faith. My parents were Christians and they brought me up in a Christian church. I didn't change it after shedding my faith (although I wonder now what names we could choose from if that was a matter of social course? Lucifer? Generica? Twelve?)

Some time back I saw 'Christian name' printed on a personal details form. It got me thinking how some people of other faiths feel when they're what their Christian name is. I also wondered what the reaction would be in the following situation:

A: Your surname?
B: Basara.
A: And your Christian name?
B: Er...Mohammed.

The opportunity to ask has arisen a few times. I have asked my friend Taran, who is Sikh, if it's ever happened to her, but she's so cool with everything that she hasn't even noticed it.

Today I went to the chemist for some over the counter medication that required labelling. The woman behind the counter (who had been a bit unpleasant up to that point) asked, "What's your Christian name?" and I told her. The little pad she was filling in had 'Christian name' instead of First name', so I said, "Can I ask - what do you say if you have to fill out the details of a Muslim or a Hindu?" She appeared genuinely taken aback by the question. "I - uh - well - I just ask people their Christian name, why?" The 'why' was just a fingernail this side of curt. "Oh, it's just something I've wondered, y'know...cos their names aren't really Christian..." I trailed off. She picked up the cue: "Well, if they want to come over here, they have to expect-" and she stopped dead. I was a little shocked by where she was heading and she saw it. She looked very uncomfortable for a second, said "Um" and scampered away with the slip of paper. As she left, I muttered, "Okay then..."

She returned a minute later, tight-lipped. I did not press her further and I'm sure she was glad of that. What else needed saying? The poor thing had let her bigot off the chain and brought it to work with her.

Anyway...that's just a little anecdote related to the earlier post on this topic.

If you have any doubts as to whether Australia is a Christian or secular nation, take a wee look see at this.

Till tomorrow...