SDOT Director Sam Zimbabwe answers name change criticism

May 18, 2019, 7:45 AM | Updated: 4:34 pm
Sam Zimbabwe...
(Seattle Channel)
(Seattle Channel)

Seattle’s new Department of Transportation director Sam Zimbabwe has drawn criticism and questions surrounding his last name. He tells The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH that the story behind the name change is quite simple.

“I’ve never been shy about who I am,” he said.

Zimbabwe is the name of an African Country. Frankly, Sam is not African-American. To be further blunt, it’s prompted some curiosity as to how he got that name. After all, it’s not the name he was born with. For much of his life he went by “Sam Zimmerman-Bergman.”

“(Zimbabwe) is actually my legal name, I wasn’t raised with it,” he told Jason Rantz.

Zimbabwe explained that he changed his name when he got married.

“When my wife and I got married, we combined our four family last names into one family last name,” he said. “It was too hard to figure out how to combine our original family last names into just one.”

“I have heard there is a controversy about it, but I’m struggling to understand why that would be,” Zimbabwe said.

Despite that explanation, some remain skeptical. KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson has insinuated that by using a name people associate with Africa, a white guy could use it to get ahead.

“I’d like to know how Sam Zimbabwe — a white guy with the last name of an African country — has avoided the mob mentality of going after people for cultural appropriation that is so common in today’s society,” Dori previously said. “Sam Zimbabwe is Jewish, and both Zimmerman and Bergman are common Jewish last names. As we know, there is a lot of antisemitism in Seattle. Is it easier to rise to the rank of city department director in Seattle with an African last name, rather than a Jewish one?”

Jason Rantz on AM 770 KTTH
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SDOT Director Sam Zimbabwe answers name change criticism