By now, those of us who watch True Detective are in agreement about its stellar storytelling. The acting, the character development, even those creepy birdcage things—they're bordering on standing ovation status at the end of each episode. This is HBO putting its boxing gloves on and raging out against all of its competitors.

A friend of mind goes back and forth with me about the show every week. His favorite topic revolves around the names. There's a Tyrone and a Leroy on the show, and that both characters are white astounds him.

He's a white 30-something, and we've talked through this idea with each other for years: Guessing race and judging intent simply from someone's name is a tricky game. While the consequences for people on TV are soon forgotten, in the real world, it can be much more permanent.

There's a video of a Houston-area girl who attacked a classmate last year. It trended on Twitter and Facebook for days in December, producing memes and hundreds of thousands of page views. It's hard to watch. That they were high school-aged girls made it worse. That both girls were black, of course, pushed the story in another direction. Soon enough the narrative began to take its first breath.

Of course they would act like this. Look at their names.

The attacker's name was Sharkeisha Thomas. Based on the information, Thomas deserved all the vitriol that came her way. Unfortunately, the victim, ShaMicheal Manuel didn't escape the scrutiny either. That she was punched and kicked was seen by some as her destiny. It initiated conversations on parenting — yet another marker of Black America as a failed state.


Comment boards went into overdrive. The theme? Neither one of these girls would amount to much of anything. These people are simply not worthy of avoiding a physical fight, as their names so brilliantly illustrate.

The debate on what many people call "black names" has been raging for a couple of decades now. It's been researched and discussed from places like The Causes and Consequences of Distinctively Black Names by Roland Fryer Jr. and Freakonomics' Steven Levitt to sketches by Key and Peele. Then there are articles like this one and this one and this one.




Continued HERE on Esquire.