Huang: Please Stop Calling Me “You”

Yujia Huang, Columnist

In an American literature class I took back in the fall of my sophomore year, I noticed that my professor never called me by my name. Instead, he addressed me as “you.” Every time I raised my hand to answer a question in class, he simply pointed at me with his finger and said, “Sure, you,” implying that it was time for me to speak. He had no trouble calling other student’s names in class, “Yes, Joseph,” he would say. Or, “Good point, Hasan.” Yet he never called me by my name.

My name is not hard to pronounce. It’s written as Yujia, and is pronounced like “yoo-ja.” None of my American friends at Northwestern have ever had any problem pronouncing my name. Neither have I encountered another professor at NU that cannot properly pronounce my name. If you can pronounce names like Dostoevsky and Immerwahr with ease, then you can surely say my name too.

Recently, another occasion of someone calling me “you” happened. When I participated in a language exchange activity with a group of 3 other college students, an Asian American girl intentionally avoided saying my name. Every time she would ask me a question, she used other clues to imply that she was talking to me.

I ended up confronting my English professor. I told him that I noticed he has not been saying my name. I also explained to him in polite, but extreme detail as to how my name is pronounced. “Yu is pronounced like You, and Jia has the same sound as the start of Justin Bieber,” I said. He seemed relieved after hearing my explanation, and looked at me as if I was doing him a big favor. My guess is that the professor felt awkward not knowing how to pronounce my name, and was too afraid or embarrassed to mispronounce it.

The personal pronoun “You” could easily refer to any single person out there among the 7 billion people on earth, and it is not an acceptable replacement for my name. If you feel embarrassed not knowing how to pronounce a name or are scared that you might mispronounce it, remember that it’s much worse to avoid saying it altogether. Nobody decent in the world, me included, will ever shame you or judge you for mispronouncing or not knowing how to pronounce a name. But if you intentionally avoid saying a name and never ask, then that is rude and disrespectful.

If you are like me and have experienced being addressed as a cold, dispersonal pronoun, confront that person. Their own embarrassment and insecurities should not be the reason for you to feel disrespected. Look them straight in their eyes with a smile on your face and tell them, “I have a name.”

Yujia is a Weinberg junior. She can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.