Wedding Woes

Stop self-flagellating, don't over explain/apologize, and know you need to do better next time.

Dear Prudence,

Today, I called a Black co-worker by the name of a different Black co-worker; I am white. I work in a large hospital, we have a lot of temporary workers, and I’d only met the one whose name I knew once. The scorn of the one I called the wrong name was evident and rightfully earned, though she was polite. I have a lot of excuses (the above, plus masks, plus the end of a tiring week) and justifications (I think I have just as much trouble matching the names and faces of the white temporary workers), but I know none of that matters. Embarrassingly, my husband and children are Black. I loathe myself for doing this, and not for the first time. My question is “how do I respond if I do this again?” and “how do I stop doing this?” (I don’t have any condition like face-blindness, by the way.)

— How Do I Stop?

Re: Stop self-flagellating, don't over explain/apologize, and know you need to do better next time.

  • Stop justifying it (masks, exhaustion, whatever) and take a beat before you call someone you don’t by a name you’re not sure is theirs. Paying attention to your unconscious bias is step one, but training yourself to stop and not act on the bias is step 2. 

    You stop by taking the time to think before you speak and act. 
  • There have been many times when I haven't addressed someone by their name because I wasn't 100% sure that I was correct about it.

    That's the best course, especially in an environment where the workforce is transitory and there are a lot of coworkers she may have only met a handful of times.

    But the LW also needs to stop kidding herself also.  She didn't call this coworker by a random, wrong name.  She had previously met a different coworker, but who was the same gender/race as this coworker, and she mixed them up.  She said she does this with the temporary white coworkers also, but she never verbally called one of them by the wrong name.  None of this makes her a racist monster.  But it's a good opportunity to reflect on, that she immediately jumped to someone's race/gender to identify them.

    If it happens again, she should apologize sincerely, but also not make a dog and pony show about it.  That just increases the awkwardness.
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  • CharmedPamCharmedPam Chicagoburbs member
    Seventh Anniversary 5000 Comments 500 Love Its First Answer
    This makes me so anxious because I am terrible with names and mix them up or mispronounce them all the time. I hope people don't think I'm an asshole when really I am just dumb. 

  • kerbohlkerbohl member
    Tenth Anniversary 2500 Comments 500 Love Its First Answer
    I mess up names all the time that start with the same initial.  Like I'll call  Michelle by the name Megan, if there is another Megan that works with us.  Doesn't mean I think they are the same person, just a weird twirk of my brain.

    And the feminized versions of names throw me.  So Mario and Maria.  One is a guy and one isn't, but I still sometimes mess it up!

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