Everyone is given a name at birth. Names mean something to each of us and we appreciate when called by name rather than hey you or something else. We stand out in Cameroon because we look different and we are somewhat used to standing out, however, we’ve never gotten used to the name that we are called when someone doesn’t know our name. We are called les blancs (plural for our whole family), le blanc (male) and la blanche (female). What do these names mean…the white. We are constantly called the white and it’s difficult to be called this. At first it’s something that rolls off, but after three years, it becomes difficult. It’s not complimentary because if someone were to call back le noir ou le brun that would be very degrading and insulting to that person.
Since we moved into a neighborhood where we are the only non-Cameroonians, we hear these names even more. When the boys started playing with the children in our neighborhood, I continually heard le blanc. I decided to do something about it. Armed with our digital camera, I took pictures of all the children and asked them their names. I gave them a print out of pictures of Joshua and Jonah with their name written underneath so all the children will call each other by name. It makes me smile when we drive into our neighborhood now and I hear the children yelling out Joshua and Joshna (Jonah, they call him Joshna because Jonah seems to be difficult to pronounce). I smile even more when the adult calls out le blanc and the children correct them telling them Joshua and Jonah’s name.