- Category: News
05 Nov 2013
- Written by Stephen A. Crockett Jr. / The Root
After enduring taunts and insults about her name, a 19-year-old biracial teen decided she'd had enough.
Keisha Austin will now be forever known as Kylie Austin, the Kansas City Star reports.
Gone is the birth name given to her by her white mother because she believed it represented a strong, feminine, beautiful black woman.
"I saw it as a source of pride," her mother said. "I wanted her to have that."
The Kansas City, Kansas, teen also hopes that by losing her birth name, she will shed the stereotyping that feels woven into the fabric of her name.
Kylie didn't grow up in a diverse community, so "Keisha" became a constant source of shame, she told the Kansas City Star.
The teen says her name was often mocked by peers asking if there was a "La" or a "Sha" in front of it. One teacher asked if she spelled it with a dollar sign instead of an "S," like the singer Ke$ha.
"It's like they assumed that I must be a certain kind of girl," she said. "Like, my name is Keisha so they think they know something about me, and it always felt negative."
Pop culture didn't help the teen, considering Kendrick Lamar's "Keisha's Pain," an ode to a prostitute and the struggle that comes with a life on the streets. Then there's the double-duty effort by rapper Ca$h Out on his radio favorite, "Cashin Out," which boast the lyrics "I'm riding with a ho named Keisha, smoking on Keisha."
Kylie doesn't believe that the name Keisha is ugly, but the reactions that she's received by having it are.
"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," the teen told the Kansas City Star.
"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," she said. "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."
The name change came as a reluctant early Christmas gift from her mother, who was conflicted by the situation since "Keisha was the only name I ever thought of, and when I talked to her in my belly, I talked to Keisha," she said to the Kansas City Star.
According to studies reported by the Daily Mail, names are the first interaction that employers have with potential employees.
"White names got about one callback per 10 resumes; black names got one per 15. Carries and Kristens had callback rates of more than 13 percent, but Aisha, Keisha and Tamika got 2.2 percent, 3.8 percent and 5.4 percent, respectively," the Daily Mail reports.
So if a name can hold the weight of a life in its palm, is Kylie justified in letting go of "Keisha"? In losing her name, does she lose herself?
Her mom doesn't think so.
"She's still the same person, regardless of her name. But her happiness is what is most important to me," she told the Kansas City Star. "I love and support her, and whatever she has to do to feel good on the inside, I have to be OK with that."
(Read more at the Kansas City Star and the Daily Mail.)