As a child, I hated my name. It felt too big, too old, too heavy. In a sea of Jessicas and Kellys and Lindseys, I was the lone Rosemary. Then I grew up and worked in public radio and the name 'Rosemary Pennington' was a very nice public radio moniker. 'For WBHM, I'm Rosemary Pennington' sounded nice rolling off my tongue. I'd practice saying, 'For NPR News, I'm Rosemary Pennington' so that it would feel natural when I finally got to say it for real. (Once. Only once.)
It's not a terrible academic name, either. A bit old-fashioned, but the weight I hated as a child seems appropriate to me now as I teach and research and chase tenure. My name is mine. Even if its Victorian sound obscures my multiracial background.
What I'm trying to say is that my name sounds as though it belongs to a white woman -- maybe some nice old grandma crocheting blankets or a British school teacher sighing over a cup of tea after a long day herding children (which is like herding cats). It does not sound like the name of a woman who grew up in Appalachian Ohio to a dark skinned dad and a white mother.
Maybe that's why white supremacists have been using it on a website.
I know. I buried the lede. But I have said 'I am not a white supremacist and I have not written for a white supremacist outlet' so many times in the last few months that I decided to change things up a bit.
As my name once did, this situation weighs heavy on me.
Not only am I a multiracial woman who has struggled with that identity because her name obscures her background as does her light skin, I am a scholar who researches minorities in media with the express purpose of countering stereotype and prejudice.
That is who I am. That is what my name means to me.
I am not linking to the website where my name shows up, but I will tell you that the writer has published articles claiming 'blacks aren't human,' an article on German men not wanting to have children (and why this is a terrible thing for the 'European races'), and an article stating that white Brits refuse to 'mix' with (as in have children with) other races.
First, I have traveled a lot to Germany and have conducted research on German media representations of minorities. Second, I have also traveled to the UK and done research on British media. So, the fact my name has been applied to those two articles does not seem to be coincidental.
Third? This is all terrible. Which seems obvious, but bears repeating.
It's terrible. And, again, the author of the articles or anything else appearing on that particular site or in any other white supremacist media is not me. It is someone who is using my name.
I have worked my guts out since I was 13, working four jobs at one point in undergrad, to get to where I am today. I sacrificed years of my life to get a PhD and am living my dream of teaching journalism to college students. I have managed a successful multimedia project, the Twitter account of which has more than 100-thousand followers, and I have published journal articles and edited a book.
My name means something as a journalist and as an academic. My reputation is built upon it. I kept my maiden name when I married because -- yeah, feminism! -- but also because I was already 'Rosemary Pennington, Journalist' when I met my partner. To have racists using it to publish hate speech and bigotry fills me with anger, frustration, and nausea. (There is nothing like getting an email or a tweet asking if you are the author of hate speech to make you immediately want to vomit your guts out.)
The stealing of identities by white supremacists is not new, apparently. In trying to figure out how widespread this is, I found this article from the Guardian in which a man discusses how white supremacists stole his identity to get a rabidly anti-Palestine piece published in the Times of Israel. On the site that's been using my name, I've also seen the name of another scholar from my PhD institution who is certainly not a white supremacist. So, this is happening. How to stop it becomes the issue.
The emails and the tweets I've gotten about this are not from white supremacists. Frankly, I don't know how people are coming across these writings, but they are.
I do not want my name associated with this bigotry and hate speech. I'm looking into how to move forward; trying to figure out what I can do about this situation.
But, for now, I just need you to know this is happening. And I need you to understand that I am not a white supremacist nor have I ever written for, nor will I ever write for, a white supremacist publication of any kind.
*Quote from (and theme of) Rick Riordan's The Lightning Thief.