My Name Is Sakshi Palav

Art by Palak Tohan

Art by Palak Tohan

Sakshi Palav, Co-Editor in Chief/News Editor/Co-Sport's Editor

A while ago, I was handed my senior pictures. My name was written with a marker on top. My name’s letters were switched; it read “Pavel,” not “Palav.” 

My last name was also misspelled in the last Clarion issue. I remember opening up the first printed issue I’ve held since sophomore year, excited to see the stories I contributed, like my first Baskin Robbins review. But right on top of my BR review photo was not Sakshi Palav. “Sakshi Palave,” it read. Mine was the only staff member name misspelled. 

To you, to someone else, to the people in my class I brought it up to, these mistakes might seem unimportant, easy to brush off, a simple typo. But Sakshi Palav is a representation of my energy. A sound that holds my existence and everything related to me in its ethnic four syllables. So I see the constant failure to properly say and write my name as disrespect. 

Although I am positive these instances were not done from a place of malicious intent, I do see the “minor” misspellings as ignorant and blatant disrespect. The only name that didn’t feel important enough to get right. It served as a disregard of my identity, and of the importance Palav holds to that identity.  

To many, these isolated mistakes might seem like simple mistakes that do not hold much meaning nor offense. But to me, these events are not isolated or mistakes. They are daily occurrences in my life that are demonstrations that my name and all the richness it holds does not deserve the decency of a second glance to spell right. 

A Spanish teacher I once had was very particular about pronouncing the vocabulary we learned in his classroom. However, he seemed to only be particular about the words he deemed as important, for he once found himself referring to me as “sausage” in class, instead of Sakshi. He then found himself laughing along with the other students about calling me sausage. To him and everyone else, it was a joke, a funny mistake. For me, it was another reminder that my name is not only disrespected through mispronunciation, but disrespected by referring to me as chopped meat. That teacher should have known better. 

This disrespect is often overlooked because maybe “some people just don’t know how to pronounce certain things.” However, I have mispronounced a lot of words in my time and every time I am met with corrections and a look of condemnation by my “friends,” classmates, and teachers, as if they are tolerating yet another stupid blunder made by a foreigner. However, when someone else mispronounces my name and I try to correct them, they laugh it off or view me as cocky. It’s as if I should not get upset at the constant mispronunciation of my name because it’s “too” much work for them.

Incidents like these are acutely hidden microaggressions that are rooted in racism and cultural ignorance. With Selma being predominantly Hispanic, there should be an understanding among  ethnic groups. Yet there seems to be a lack of appreciation towards different cultures, and worse, a lack of effort in proficient pronunciation of names. Ethnic names are made of different vowel combinations that rarely fit into the existing set of sounds in the English language. Many people who immigrate to America come from countries and cultures where names are pronounced and spelled drastically differently when compared with each other. Their names are a part of their identity and a piece of their culture. It is owed to these names, out of human respect, to be pronounced and spelled as intended. To mispronounce to such an extent and go on to laugh about it is to lack respect for cultures foreign to them.

My name is sacred to me. It is a special identity only reserved for me. To experience my name constantly being morphed and distorted is degrading, and these instances upset me. It is infuriating to feel as if my name is just not “normal” enough for others to properly pronounce. 

My name is spelled and pronounced elegantly and it still deserves to be spoken as intended, regardless of whether it fits into the English language or not. There is a decent gap of ignorance to be filled in this world if Sakshi is where all phonetic logic is lost. 

I do not think Sakshi is a difficult name, rather just an unknown word in this stagnant town. It is different, not difficult. 

Sakshi Palav is unique. It is elegant. It is different. And it deserves every ounce of struggle to get it right before you address me.