I once was a child in grammar school. I had to carry backpacks twice my weight, hide gum under desks and find out I was nearsighted after all. And to think, my teacher thought I was just an ethusiastic student, eager to solve every math problem on the board!
Almost everyone was a new kid at some point in their lives, and I had to reintroduce myself and get to know new faces and names. But when it came the time to tell them my name, their response was “Your name is ghetto.”
My first name is Rayshonda. But now, people call me Rae for short. (Yes I dropped the “y” lol). I was not satisfied with the mispronunciations. I honestly, thought my name was easy to pronounce. There was no other way to say it. At least that’s what my mother told me. I’ve been called Rasheeda, Rachel, Raven, Rayshona, Rolanda, and names that are far from the actual. It made me wonder if people were really listening or did they have their minds made up already.
But a name can attract or repel certain attention. It can create a shallow sense of who you are to people. And culturally, it’s designed as another representation of what you are. Everyone can assume Rayshonda is Black. No need to see me for an interview if my name gives you an impression that I might be Black and with being Black comes certain stereotypes you may or may not believe.
Trying to break into the work force, I often felt my name was the reason I rarely was chosen for interviews and my resume was often overlooked. I had friends with names that were “less ethnic or exotic” and we’d apply for the same job, resulting in them moving forward and I, waiting patiently for that wonderful call back.
An experiment” by the NBER (National Bureau of Economic Research) faculty research fellows, Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathan was conducted to measure descrimination of applicants according to their names. They created resumes with “white” names and “black” names, sending them to different ads and waited for responses. The results honestly, weren’t surprising.
According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, applicants with “white” names only have to send out 10 resumes for one call back while applicants with “black” names needed to send out 15.
“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.” – NBER
Coincidence or can even a name determine your fate in the work force or the world period? How the world perceives you often outweighs who you really are. When there’s not enough time in the day to get to know a person, cast your negative connotations away, and be open minded, assumptions, stereotypes, and descrimination can have their way.
Keisha Austin from Kansas City changed her name to “Kylie,” to avoid further teasing and the racial overtones that were in the butt of every joke. ‘It was like they assumed I was a certain kind of girl,’ Kylie said. Her mother was against the name change but I understood Kylie’s situation.
I also wanted to change my name and honestly did not like my first name being said by anyone. It was because it was assumed I was “ghetto” and the fact that no one said my name right, even when I slowly pronounced it for clarity. I wanted a higher probability of a call back when job hunting and even provided my nick name to attract employers. Even though it was assumed I was a man instead of a woman, it worked!
Unfortunately, we live in a society where even our names can determine who we are as individuals. And in order to be considered what you already are, be it human or qualified, it may take a little assimilation. It’s no different than ridding a foreign accent, changing your last name or even appearance.
I honestly can’t fault Kylie Austin for dropping the name Keisha. Who I can fault are the students, the teachers, and society whose prejudice and descrimination make those who are in essence no less human than they are feel as if they are.
Even if your name is Keisha or Kylie you’re wonderful. You’re human.