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White employee asks Black co-workers why they share a last name. They respond: 'Plantations.'

Today, many African Americans still have their family's "enslaved name" passed down to them. A white employee was reminded of this reality.

White employee asks Black co-workers why they share a last name. They respond: 'Plantations.'
Image Source: cardi_ree / Twitter

Trigger Warning: Descriptions of slavery, racist micrograggressions

In a now-viral post, Twitter user Cardi_ree shared an incident that she experienced during a Zoom meeting she was part of. The incident involved three of her co-workers, two of whom are Black and another who is white. As the virtual meeting was in process, the white colleague joked about how two Black employees had the same last name. Amused, they asked if the two were related. In response, they were forced to confront the brutal history of slavery in the United States. One of the Black co-workers retorted, "Nah, but our ancestors probably worked the same plantation." A silence followed, and the duo was asked to stay back during the meeting.


Cardi_ree posted in a follow-up tweet, "Update: As the meeting was ending, both parties were asked to stay on the call (I will be following up with our Black brother tomorrow to get the tea on what was said)." Allegedly, the management "went down the 'racial sensitivity' route," discussing how the comment could "offend others." However, a manager (who is Black themselves), stated, "You should [have] sat there and ate [your] food in the spirit of Black History Month. THIS is OUR truth. Hard to hear, but harder to experience."


The Twitter user's post has since gone viral, with over 129,200 likes. The tweet was also shared almost 25,000 times. As the post reached more folks, others began sharing similar stories as well. "Reminds me of high school," a fellow Twitter user wrote. "US History class. Discussing early 1800s. Teacher asking us what we would’ve been if we were alive then. Asks me and I said, 'A slave.' Teacher laughed [and asked], 'Yes, but what if you could choose?' I said, 'Black people didn’t get to choose.'" Another added, "Years ago I (Black) worked with someone (white) that had the same surname as mine minus an 's' on the end. Our boss made a joke about us being related expecting a laugh... My response was that the 's' was likely possessive and that her family probably owned my family at some point."


These incidents highlight not only that there are several remnants of the country's slave-owning past ingrained into our daily lives, particularly through lived histories, but also that dozens of Americans remain ignorant of this reality. In the US, surnames have much to say about heritage. The right to self-identify through one's surname was not enjoyed by Black folks until after slavery was abolished. Those forced into bonded slavery would be given names by their White slave-owners as a means to mark one's "property." Unfortunately, this severed the ties that Africans had to their homelands. This is why years later, in the 20th century, civil rights leader Malcolm X renounced his “slave name” and took on "X." His new last name, he reaffirmed, represented the name he should have had had his ancestors not been taken by colonizers. Today, a last name could be a good place to begin a genealogy search. Nonetheless, this process may entail much rage and pain.


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