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Florida Voices | Amanda Mills, Lessons for My Children

Amanda Mills decided naming her children Chelsea and Thurman would set them up for a better chance at life.

With such racially ambiguous names, she felt they would have more doors open for them when they applied for jobs and schools. In 2017, Mills still worries about what the future holds for her kids as the prejudices that have plagued our society are still thriving. The conversations she has had with her 15-year-old son range from easygoing to how to stay alive during a police encounter — conversations she believes not every race has to have but are necessary to keep her children safe.

What are your children's names and why did you choose them?

My daughter's name is Chelsea and I like it because it's strong and it's common. If she ever wanted to apply, whether it's to school or a job, she would get that fair opportunity although she is a young black girl. I felt that if I named her Tameka or Lakeisha, she may not have gotten the opportunity she deserved due to her name. My son's name is Thurman Louis Mills, he has a family name. We call him "Grand" because he is named after his grandfathers.

I feel that when given the names that they have been given, they will be able to be accepted by society better. I feel like as a parent in these times, you have to pave the way for them — first by their name because that's what they get when they're first born.

Why do you believe names are important?

As I got older, I got wiser and I realized that names really do mean something.

As I got older, I got wiser and I realized that names really do mean something. There was a documentary on Oprah and they were talking about names as well and how a name could hold you back. One job that I had, my supervisor was a black lady and she said that if she came across an application where she couldn't pronounce the name, she would trash it. I don't think that's fair because that name you just trashed could've been your best worker if given the opportunity. My name is Amanda Renee Scott Mills. I'm born in '67 and I believe that had my mother named me a name that wasn't Amanda, maybe I wouldn't have had the opportunities that I have had.

Has anyone ever been surprised by their names?

I looked at my husband and just kind of nodded my head like, "You see what I'm talking about?"

I had just had Chelsea and I had to take her back to the doctor. She was about 2 or 3 weeks old. We were in the lobby of the office and the nurse came out and we were sitting right there as soon as you opened the door. There was another family in the room, which consisted of a lady and her baby.

The nurse opened the door and asked for Chelsea Mills and proceeded to the other baby and the lady who were white. I had to tell her that we were the correct family and she said, "Oh! There you are." I looked at my husband and just kind of nodded my head like, "You see what I'm talking about?"

It proved to me in that moment that society is already set and it's not the nurse's fault, it's just how we think.

What have you told your children about their names?

I tell them that I've given them the names to get through the door and now it's up to them when they get that interview or apply for that school to sell themselves once they go in. Once they call you, if they don't look at your ethnicity, I want them to be able to see you and instead of them being surprised by your name, I want them to be surprised by you. I want my kids to go further than I did.

What advice have you given to your children over the years?

I tell them sometimes when you hear that small little voice asking you if something is right or not to always follow your gut instinct. That first one, that's your momma telling you don't do it. I also want them to embrace a person as a person. If you have disagreements, ask if you offended them and apologize. Don't dislike a person because of what they look like or the color of their skin. Like a person for who they are.

What advice have you given specifically to your son?

Society has mislabeled the hoodie, and now you can't even walk around with that hoodie over your head.

Hoodies. Unless it's cold outside, do not walk around with a hoodie over your head. If you get in an elevator with a hoodie pulled over your head, the person next to you will be scared of you. Society has mislabeled the hoodie, and now you can't even walk around with that hoodie over your head.

Do you think racism still exists? If so, do you believe other races have these conversations?

I feel that racism still exists when we have to watch what we wear and how we talk as black people just to be safe. Other races may talk about it but I don't think it hits them as much as it hits us. We just got to fight harder, we've always had to fight harder for anything. I think from way back with our ancestors they've always had to fight so hard to prove themselves. People have died for us to be where we are today in society. That made us stronger and it's already implanted in us.

Find more Florida Voices in our weekly podcast, The Point. Know someone whose story should be told? Email news@wuft.org.

Liandra is a reporter who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.