My Name is Jeffrey, But Black People Call Me Jeff

Media portrayal of Black people belies their inherent warmth

Jeffrey Kass
Published in
4 min readApr 26


Image; Shutterstock/DmitryStock

During my junior year at Ohio State, I decided I was no longer going to go by Jeff.

It might sound a bit sophomoric, but to me, Jeff sounded too simple. Too plain.

I decided to switch to Jeffrey.

Not Geoffrey. That version seemed like a rich man’s name, and my family was far from that.

But Jeffrey still sounded like someone who would be a professional someday. Someone to be taken seriously. My family didn’t have any money, and the last thing I wanted to do was struggle like they did when I grew up.

I was fine if other people went by Jeff, but the name didn’t seem to match my eclectic style.

From now on, I was going to be Jeffrey.

I promptly called my mother to break the news.

“Mom, I’d like you to call me Jeffrey instead of Jeff starting today.”

Despite having one of the most supportive moms in the world, she refused to play along.

“I’ve been calling you Jeff since before you could speak. I’m not switching.”

That may have been one of the only times Mom said “No” to me.

Over 30 years later, my family and most people I met before 1990 still call me Jeff.

I’ve definitely been called worse, and since most people I know today are people I met after 1990, I decided the few people from my childhood who insist on calling me Jeff could be grandfathered in.

But I noticed a peculiar thing over the past couple of decades.

One group of people who met me well into my Jeffrey years still call me Jeff.

Black people.

I had let it go for a long time but a few months ago, I decided I finally needed answers.

So I called one of my best friends, Joe, and asked him point blank.

“Why do you and almost all other Black people call me Jeff? I have never told you my name was Jeff. I didn’t introduce myself as Jeff when we met nearly 20 years ago in St. Louis. I haven’t even written my name…



Jeffrey Kass
Writer for

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