Naming a child is supposed to be a family affair, not a national issue. However, in Brazil, a couple who was denied the right to give their daughter a Yoruba name. According to Brazilian law, whenever a child is born in Brazil, the baby’s name has to be registered with officials. This is usually a simple process but when Cizinho Afreeka and Jéssica Juliana went to register their newborn daughter’s name, they were expressly turned down.
Afreeka and Juliana wanted to name their daughter “Makeda Foluke,” because of their Yoruba root. 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 her social life in the future. Meanwhile, Foluke’s parents think otherwise. They 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. The procedure is necessary with any name that can be used to leave the child in a vexatious situation or bullying.”
A Brazilian civil registration officer by name Luiz Fernando, tried to counter the couple’s perception about the rejection. He said no one refused to do the registration because of racism, or the name or meaning, but because of it’s pronunciation and diction.
He insisted that racism isn’t the problem; it was the effect of 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.
Even though Brazilian 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 to give Makeda a more European-sounding first name, then use Foluke as her middle name.
Foluke’s parents have sent an appeal to a judge to see if they can officially give her an African name, but if things don’t turn out well, they insist they’re not changing their mind about the name. According to Afreeka, it’s either the baby bears Makeda Foluke or there will be no registration.