Name Takings

Alexander, Gregory S. | November 20, 2023

Personal names are an integral part of our identity. Names belong to us; they are ours. Names are a form of personal property and should be treated as such. Nevertheless, the state, both historically and still today, has perpetrated various forms of abuse of personal names, ranging from outright takings of personal names to official denials of preferred names. This Article surveys the variety of ways in which the state has committed these name-takings, as I call them. It includes historical examples of name denials such as African slaves and Canadian Indigenous school children. It then considers various forms of name discrimination still practiced today. It then briefly surveys the various ways in which the state continues practices that discriminate against people of color, LGBTQ couples and others on the basis of their names. Treating their names as property may be a means of dealing with such abuses.