Can an ethnic name hold you back?
A Kansas City girl believes so. 19-year-old Keisha Austin has been bullied so much in her predominantly white community that she decided to change her name to something more "white" in order to fit in. Keisha -- now named Kylie -- said that her birth name carried too many negative racial stereotypes and she's always been uncomfortable with a name like Keisha while growing up in an area that didn't have a lot of black people. She recently told the Kansas City Star paper that kids at school would tease her, asking her if there was a "La" or "Sha" in front of her name, and her teacher even asked her if she spells it like the singer, Ke$ha.
As an early Christmas gift, her mother gave her the $175 name change:
"It’s not something I take lightly. I put a lot of thought into it. I don’t believe you should just change your name or your face or anything like that on a whim. I didn’t want to change my name because I didn’t like it. I wanted to change my name because it didn’t feel comfortable. I don’t connect to it. I didn’t feel like myself, but I never want any girls named Keisha, or any name like that, to feel hurt or sad by it."
"It’s like they assumed that I must be a certain kind of girl,' she said. 'Like, my name is Keisha so they think they know something about me, and it always felt negative."
Her mother Cristy is white and said she purposely chose the name "Keisha" because she wanted a name of strong "pride" that would reflect the black woman that her daughter would grow up to be.
"I saw it as a source of pride. I wanted her to have that. It felt like a gift I gave to her, and she was returning it. Keisha was the only name I ever thought of, and when I talked to her in my belly, I talked to Keisha. But she’s still the same person, regardless of her name.”
To give a little insight into the negative stigma that the name may have carried, The Kansas City Star added:
Pop culture changed things. And so did systemic racism. Last year the hit song “Cashin Out” by rapper Ca$h Out referred to Keisha not only as a kind of marijuana, but also a ho. Kendrick Lamar, one of hip-hop’s biggest names, has the song “Keisha’s Pain,” about a girl stuck in poverty, using her body to survive.
Names, and whether people are discriminated against because of their names, has been a topic of discussion for a long time. Last year, CBS ran an article asking if black names were a burden:
Are black names a resume burden?
I do believe now when a resume comes across an employer's desk they could be easily discriminated against because they know that person is of African-America descent," she said. "It's a difficult decision."
Minorities of all kinds have wrestled with whether to celebrate their culture by giving their children distinctive names, or help them "blend in" with a name that won't stick out. Thousands of Jews have changed their names, hoping to improve their economic prospects in the face of discrimination, as have Asians and other minorities.
Blacks, however, have chosen increasingly distinctive names over the past century, with the trend accelerating during the 1960s.
The NY Times also published an article, "'Whitening' The Resume" that explained how using a "white name" can get you a call back, and the National Bureau of Economics conducted a recent experiment with resumes and concluded:
A job applicant with a name that sounds like it might belong to an African-American - say, Lakisha Washington or Jamal Jones - can find it harder to get a job. Despite laws against discrimination, affirmative action, a degree of employer enlightenment, and the desire by some businesses to enhance profits by hiring those most qualified regardless of race, African-Americans are twice as likely as whites to be unemployed and they earn nearly 25 percent less when they are employed.
What are your thoughts on those who desire to change their name to sound less ethnic?