Saw this on the Internet. You should click through for the entire thing. My response is below.


If you can’t understand why Nigerians feel overprotective of a name like Baratunde then…oh boy.

I am so tired of the people saying “I just want to connect to Africa” and not realize that by doing so they will ruffle feathers.

No one is required to feel flattered by your desires.


For the record, I don’t expect dances or flattery, nor did a ever say that’s what I deserved. The full explanation of my name is outlined in my book, and based on your post, it seems like you actually read the chapter. If not, I urge you to. If you have, I would ask that you read it again. Regardless, I made several large points

1. I did not name myself. I was given this name. I have worn it and love it, but it was not MY decision. 

2. When I was a young child, around 12 years old, I met a Nigerian man who went off on me about my name. He was the father of a friend of mine named Babatunde. He went into a tirade about how black Americans aren’t real Africans, never would be, and were lost etc etc. It’s crazy for a grown-ass man to go off on a little boy bashing African-Americans, and it’s an unforgettable experience for me.

3. SInce that time, and especially online, I regularly meet Nigerians who hear my name and initiate a milder form of the same lecture. I may be the first “Baratunde” they’ve met, but they are the umpteenth Nigerian I’ve met and it gets a bit exhausting, predictable, and a bit comical at the same time. 

4. You emphasized: No one is required to feel flattered by your desires

This is the part of your note I have the most issues with because that is not my expectation, and my name is not a function of “my desires.”

I don’t expect love or praise or hugs. I never asked for nor implied that. But, neither do I expect vitriolic rage, condescending lectures and disownership over a decision that wasn’t even mine to begin with. As for “desires,” you seem guilty of the same dismissive attitude you accuse me of when you wrote ”if you can’t understand why Nigerians feel overprotective of a name like Baratunde…oh boy”

By couching my not-quite-Nigerian name as simply “desires” you completely ignore the context of that desire among my parents and a generation of black Americans. They weren’t simply cultural misappropriators fiending for an African name at any cost for no good reason. It wasn’t discretionary like a “desire” for designer jeans. If you can’t understand how black American people, stripped of their history and miseducated to the point of self-hatred, would opt for a name closer to that of their ancestors, EVEN IF MISTAKEN, then… oh boy.

Here’s a proposal.

Let’s both put down the self-righteousness and the idea that our annoyance is unique and privileged and above criticism or varied interpretation. Let’s not put words into each other’s mouths, especially when those words are spelled out in detail in a book chapter. (sorry, that’s a swipe, but that’s part of my annoyance in this case). 

Let’s instead focus on the reasons behind the expectations and the protectiveness and the “desires.” I’m not going to change my name. It’s a part of me now. However, I really would love to know, since you put it out there, your thoughts on why “Nigerians feel overprotective of a name like Babatunde.” You never actually explained.