New parents who wanted to name their daughter a Yoruba name have been expressly denied by Brazilian officials.
It is a rule that anytime a child is born in Brazil the baby’s name has to be registered with officials. This seems like a simple process but when Cizinho Afreeka and Jéssica Juliana went to register their newborn daughter’s name, they were turned down.
According to the blog Black Women in Brazil, Afreeka and Juliana desired to name their daughter “Makeda Foluke.” This is because they have roots in the Yoruba culture. However, officials at the registration office stated that the baby’s name made “no sense at all” when pronounced in Portuguese and that it “could provide possible future suffering for the person in social life.” However, Foluke’s parents believe that the real reason their daughter’s chosen name was denied was because of racism.
“It’s a form of racism that takes place in Brazil: the racism of subtleties,” Afreeka said.“It should be very natural a man and a Black woman adopting an African name, as the country is made up of three races. It is difficult to prove. Only those in this skin knows.”
But the officials have insisted that racism isn’t the problem; it was the name. As in it is in their practice, whenever a child is named, officials have to check whether or not the name could affect the child negatively later in life. This has led many parents to choose European-sounding names.
“The procedure is necessary with any name that can be used to leave the child in a vexatious situation or bullying. You have to filter. These procedures are normal, no one refused to do the registration,” Luiz Fernando, a civil registration official, said. “It is not the name, not the meaning. It’s pronunciation, diction. Racism is really in people’s minds.”
Even though officials say “racism is really in people’s minds” and despite tons of evidence that racism is still prevalent in Brazil, the officials asked the couple give Makeda a more European-sounding first name. Then they could use Foluke as her middle name. However, little Makeda’s parents aren’t having it.
Makeda’s parents are left with no choice but to appeal to a judge to see if they can officially give her an African name. However, if things don’t turn out well, they insist that they’re not changing their mind.
“I will keep on until the end,” Afreeka said. “Either it will be Makeda Foluke or she’ll be with no registration.”