‘Burdened by bigotry …’

This is Cristy Austin with her 19-year-old daughter, Kylie.  Kylie’s original name was Keisha Lenee Austin.  Kylie’s mother, who is white, had a specific reason for selecting the name “Keisha”:

… to her, it represented a strong, feminine, beautiful black woman. As a white woman who would be raising a biracial daughter she wanted to instill that confidence and connectivity to the culture.

“I saw it as a source of pride,” Cristy says. “I wanted her to have that.”


Kylie had her reasons for changing her name:

The one she was born with never felt right. The looks she got when strangers met her were rooted in racial stereotypes. Before she graduated from Shawnee Mission North High School last year, some classmates associated her name with video vixens, neck-rolling and Maury Povich tabloid fodder.

Story here.  Go read it and come back to comment.  Kylie also says that she never grew up around black people.

3 thoughts on “‘Burdened by bigotry …’

  1. Dang, I never knew Keisha was a black name. Shaniqua, yes. But not Keisha. We get loads of that over here in the EU too, nothing new there. And as much as I understand this young woman’s decision, I’m not sure I support it, as I don’t know if we’ll get respect that way. Not to mention the signals it sends younger women and men of color with non-western/white names (as well as empowering whites).

    Also, it is absolutely exceptional that we get this wave of new posts from you.

  2. I feel like that’s one of those decisions where in another 19 years she might have a different perspective and change back. But certainly as a teen it would seem like an easy key to a less painful life. [And thumbs down to her school for letting that kind of racialized bullying occur.] It would be helpful on college/job apps but in person I think she might find that people don’t just suddenly start treating her like a white person. Good luck to her, though.

  3. My parents thought about names for my sister and I, and chose non-stereotypical names for this reason. I feel for Kylie, because I can’t imagine hating my name so much. I wonder if she had been around more black people if she may have been able to enjoy her name, and hold more antipathy towards the racists who continued to target her name. ‘Keisha’ is not a problematic name – racists are the problem.

    All the same, we all choose different ways to respond to racism directed toward us, and I can’t knock Kylie for her choice. Folks change their names all the time. It’s just sad that racism was the spur for this one.

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