Home Lifestyle My name is Kadesh. I’m fed up of people’s lazy assumptions

My name is Kadesh. I’m fed up of people’s lazy assumptions


Kadesh is a Hebrew name and my surname Beckford is an old Caribbean slave master’s surname (Picture: Samsung UK)

Standing outside the nightclub, the door man shook his head. ‘I’m sorry, I can’t let you in,’ he said firmly.

I shook my head in bafflement. ‘But I’m on the guest list.’ He was having none of it.

I was outside a popular club in London, for a Bhangra night organised by a good friend. Yet, despite telling him my name, even pointing it out, he wouldn’t believe that, as a Black man, my name was Kadesh. They didn’t even ask for ID as they’d leapt to the assumption and just couldn’t imagine I was who I said I was.

Eventually I was let in (showing my ID!) when my friend arrived and explained the situation, but it still left a sour taste for the rest of the night.

It might sound like a minor inconvenience to some people, but this wasn’t the first time something like this had happened to me.

My name, it seems, can prove confusing for many people. I’m of Jamaican heritage, but what a lot of people don’t know is that Jamaica has always had a large Jewish presence, after many people of that faith travelled to the island to escape the Spanish Inquisition in 1530.

By 1720, 18% of the Jamaican population was Jewish.

Kadesh is often mistaken for an Indian name (Picture: Samsung UK)

That’s where my name comes from – Kadesh is a Hebrew name. Meanwhile, my surname Beckford is an old Caribbean slave master’s surname.

Yet, what’s odd is that Kadesh is often mistaken for an Indian name. It’s jarring for some people, when they’re expecting one person based on my name and then I arrive, taking them by surprise.

This happened quite a bit when I was younger.

I did well at school and actually moved from one secondary school to another, more advanced one. The other kids had been told that Kadesh was joining and expected an Indian student. They were shocked when they saw me, which got things off on the wrong foot and I was actually bullied for my name.

But it wasn’t just the kids. When I went to another school, my teacher was very surprised that I wasn’t Indian. It was really my teens where I started to understand name bias existed.

Put simply, name bias is when someone reaches a judgement of someone based only on their name, exactly like what happened to me outside of that club.

It’s something that can be really damaging.

It’s hard to really explain the hurt that name bias can cause (Picture: Samsung UK)

These misconceptions continued when I left education. I once applied for a job with a recruitment firm and ended up being considered for a more senior position. The boss thought that I was Indian and therefore presumed I would be ‘better’ at tech.

Sometimes, when I introduce myself, people will look at me baffled, then give a smile. ‘I’ll just call you Kads,’ they’ll say, rather than actually learning my name or asking how it’s pronounced.

But it’s not just me, in my job at Samsung, I work closely with our Employee Resource Group as part of the Black Professionals team. We did some research to understand how far-reaching the issue of name bias really is.

We asked 2,000 adults in the UK about their experience of name bias and found that 48% of minority respondents had been treated differently because of their name and 12% of the non-white people we talked to have had to use a different name to even get a job interview.

When we were carrying out this research, one thing that really stood out to me was the example of people of African or other descent giving their children Western names to try and eliminate bias.

But there were also other, fundamental things that people brought up, like never being able to find their name on a keychain when they were children. It may seem like a small thing, but it can add to a feeling of isolation from other people, especially when, as others said, they didn’t know any adults with the same name when they were growing up.

It’s hard to really explain the hurt that name bias can cause. Our names are a fundamental part of our identities and they’re a strong reflection of our culture and heritage.

Just because we don’t have Western-sounding names doesn’t mean that we’re not important, or that people shouldn’t bother learning them.

It doesn’t mean that a Black man can’t have a name like mine and not be allowed into a club on the guest list that my name appears on, for example.

This is where tensions can run high. When I was trying to explain who I was to the bouncers, I felt upset and discriminated against. But I had to remain cool. Getting angry would only have made the situation worse and, I was conscious if I had started shouting, I would’ve just perpetuated stereotypes.

Kadesh (L) in a video with Samsung UK, discussing name bias (Picture: Samsung UK)

But why should I have to remain calm? It’s my name and it’s hard when people won’t accept such a simple fact. It can take a lot of emotional maturity to try to have a calm conversation when you feel that you’re being treated unfairly.

In my life, I’ve dealt with a lot of situations like this, and it’s so important that we all learn to handle potential issues. Tackling a scenario where you feel you’re being discriminated against can mean having an uncomfortable conversation, for both parties.

That’s why we need to get comfortable with the uncomfortable.

As long as there’s an understanding that both people are coming from a place without malice, and have a genuine desire to understand, then we can navigate these conversations.

We need to listen to understand, not to respond. If someone is saying that they’re uncomfortable, then this should be heard and understood. Then we can make sure that no-one is discriminated against.

I would love to live in a world where everyone has the same opportunities and no-one is discriminated against just because of their name. If we all take the time and have the emotional maturity to understand each other, anything is possible.

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