Why I Regret Giving My Daughter a “Ghetto” Name

November 8, 2013  |  

Many moons ago, when I was pregnant teenager and totally clueless about how the world works, I gave my daughter what is now considered an ethnic name (I think this is a politically correct way of saying “ghetto name”, but whatever). Recently, a young biracial woman living in Kansas City, where there is a relatively small population of black people, decided to change her name from the Keisha to the more ethnically neutral name, Kylie. She was bullied because of her name and she said the name just didn’t ever feel right to her.

After reading story, I thought about how I have long regretted giving my daughter an ethnic name. Not because it would allow others to immediately classify her by race – I have no issue with that. My concern is that I may have possibly given her a name that is deemed ghetto.  I have to wonder if giving her this unconventional name, have I set her up for another unnecessary stigma? I would hope not, but given the reality of racial bias in this country, it does concern me.  There is also research to support that job applicants with a black sounding name are less likely to get a call back.

My daughter’s name is Qui Ante’ (pronounced Kee-on-tay). It means brave warrior and is also a combination of my name and her dad’s name. For my moms who are also wine aficionados, you’ll notice it is very similar to Chianti. I assure you, that  part is purely coincidental.

When I gave my daughter her name, I honestly wasn’t thinking about how it would look on a resume.  I was 17 and wanted something unique that had meaning and a little pizzazz. Like my name, Diamonte,  which means diamond in Spanish. Needless to say, her name has that in spades. At the time, it sounded cute, so I went with it. When I got older, and the bias in the world became more apparent to me, I began to feel a sense of regret and began researching the name change process. I haven’t done anything with the information because I felt it something she should decide for herself , but I still wanted to know what options would be available to her should the time come where she needs to change it.

If she ever decides to change her birth name,  she would always be known to family and friends as Qui Qui. But, when she applies for a job, the resume would reflect a more ethnically neutral name like Quinn. This is actually the name I started to give her and decided not to. But like they say, hindsight is 20/20.

Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with giving our kids black names. There are beautiful names like Kenya, Imani and Ebony that are clearly black names, but here’s the difference – the are also actual words and not a bunch of consonants and vowels somebody threw together to sound different. Granted, the world is changing as we can see from the fact that we have a President whose name is Barack Hussein Obama, but let’s not get it twisted. There is a distinct line between ethnic and ridiculous and I think parents have to be more aware of that line. At 17, I wish I just wish I had been more aware.

Why? Because, with so many things out there that are beyond our control  designed to hold black kids back, is it not our responsibility, as parents, to give our children names that don’t add to the nonsense? After all, name giving is something within our control.

With all that said, after the article on Kylie was released, I decided to have a talk with my daughter about her name. I haven’t ever really shared the regret I feel and wasn’t sure how she felt about  her name. I had to wonder, does she think her name is ghetto? Does she wish it were something else?

When I asked her had she ever considered changing her name to something simpler, her answer surprised me. She said, “No, I love my name. It’s unique and I’m the only one who has it.” She went on to tell me that no one had ever made her feel like her name was ghetto. It appears she’s often complimented on the name and it makes her feel proud to know it means brave warrior.  

I told her about my fear that the name might put her at a disadvantage when it came time to apply for jobs. She said she doesn’t think her name will matter once they see everything she brings to the table, but if it proved to be an issue, she’d cross that bridge once she got there. All I can say is, smart girl.

I am happy to know my daughter is proud of the name I gave her, because a name is typically the first thing we give our kids. But if I had to do it over again, I would have just gone with Quinn.

Do you ever regret the name you gave your kids?  

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