THE BLOG
11/07/2013 04:58 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

An Open Letter to Kylie (formerly known as Keisha) Austin

Hello Kylie,

I'll begin this letter by commending you on your bravery to share your story and reveal such a painful truth. It's not every day that a 19-year-old becomes a trending topic all because she decides to swap out her "black" name.

While I understand your rationalization to change your name from Keisha to Kylie, I must say I was quite saddened by your final decision. With a somewhat "black" name myself (pronounced Sha-von), I can wholeheartedly relate to the stereotypes and generalizations that come with carrying a name that typically isn't found on a pre-made keychain -- it definitely doesn't make for a climatic ending to the class field trip.

But as I learned who I was, and more importantly who I was not, I've learned that a name is just that, a name. By no means does it define me. I define it. Whatever preconceived notions someone has formulated based on my email signature line or resume header are immediately shut down upon contact.

Besides, pronunciation assistance and spelling errors aside, "black" names aren't so bad. They're original, typically fun to say, and nine times out of ten, are accompanied by a great familial story. Some of our best, black talent have well, "black" names. Consider Barack, Carmelo, Beyonce, Oprah, or Bre'Andria, Cre'Andria and Dre'Andria Thompson, the African-American triplets who recently graduated top of their class from Norfolk State University -- all "black" names, but names also associated with greatness and remarkable achievement.

It pains me to see you distance yourself from the very culture that contributed to your existence. You say your former name did not feel "comfortable" and you were unable to "connect to it." My question to you is have you ever tried? More than words on a certificate, your birth name represents a rich, complex and colorful history rooted in so much more than corny rap lyrics and slight alterations beginning or ending in "La" or "Sha." It's also worth noting that on the scale of "black" names, "Keisha" tends to falls toward the conservative end of the spectrum.

As a biracial young woman living in Kansas City, Missouri I can guarantee you'll have plenty more battles to fight beyond your name. This will not be the first or the last time people will judge you based on things other than who you really are. If I changed every little thing about myself in an attempt to ease other people's minds I'd be a 110lb, weave wearing med student with blue contact lenses and a husband I hate cooking for.

Your peers are ignorant, highly insecure and most likely threatened by potential they see in you that you have yet to see in yourself. No, the side comments, stereotypes and typecasts are never fun, but after awhile they fade away. You might have had to step outside of your Kansas City comfort zone to experience this, but trust me, they eventually would have subsided. By no means does your name, outfit, weight or any other attribute for that matter besides you, define you. You tell people who you are, never is it the other way around. While "Kylie" may get you a preliminary interview, it's your character, intellect and human spirit that will get you the job and move you forward in life.

While I hope your new found name change will give you the peace you're searching for, I pray this is the first and last time you adjust yourself because of what others think. Life is full of jerks and unless you have a thorough understanding of who you are and a "brush the dirt off your shoulders" mentality, you'll continuously find yourself in similar situations. And when those situation occur, it's you, not "Kylie" that will determine the outcome.

Find you, be you and love you.