Becoming Politically Correct

So, working on the worksheet generator when I have time, I recently added a list of stock names to it, so that it could generate exercises with certain names. No biggie, it just meant I wouldn’t always be using my own and my family’s names.

But, then something got to me. The thing about my ESL teaching is that I often feel like an unpaid diplomat. For a lot of my students, I’m all the exposure they’re going to get to the United States and, well, that’s unfortunate for a lot of reasons.

Adding the names, though, I realized that I was sort of defining what were ‘American’ names. At least for my students. And my initial plan to just find a list of ‘most common American first names’ (in lists like this one) seemed obviously inadequate, as the names seemed to be very white, even to me.

I’m white, and tell stories about white people to my student. But, obviously, there are other names in the United States.

So, I wound up looking for ‘common african american baby names’ to fill in my list of names. And, to be fair, I even got lists of German names.

It’s genuinely strange to me how much effort I put into getting the names right. But, it’s such a minor detail that it has me wondering two things: whether I’m overthinking the whole thing, but also, second, what other ways I should also be thinking about how I ‘whitewash’ what America is.

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