As an undergrad, I would always get highly frustrated whenever Professors, fellow students, and local townspeople, confused me for any of the other nine or ten black girls on the campus. Not only were we all physically distinct from one another and majoring in separate non-related fields, but our names were nothing alike.

I felt relieved by the thought that this would not happen at the graduate level, due to the close tight-knit academic communities that were formed within departments; But, I was wrong. It turns out that facing micro aggressions just comes with being black.

Don’t get me wrong, my tight-knit academic community is really close, warm, and welcoming. Unlike undergrad, there was only one other black girl in my program at the same time as me, effectively making us two (and not nine). In spite of our stark physical differences, the fact that she changed programs, and again, our names being nothing alike– I still get confused as her.

This usually wouldn’t cause any problems… except for the one time where her personal information was being delivered to me, which I then had to deliver to her, before she be penalized, due to the “mistaken identity” mix-up; And the fact that I highly appreciate  my name, the history behind my name, and being seen for who I am– ME.

Needless to say, I cringe every time this happens. In undergrad I would make it my mission to correct the mistaken identity mix-up, but now I’m more of the: ‘if you can’t say my name/ get my name wrong you don’t have my best interests at heart’ sort of mentality. Therefore, you shouldn’t take it personally if I happen to call you Bill, Dick, or Mary one day, and just because.

— “Tawana” out.


…because this wouldn’t be an issue if I didn’t get called this last week, and there was actually someone named Tawana in the department.


During my 1st year as a grad student, my last name, versus my first name, would be misspelled as either James or Johnson. Why? I will never know.