Rajj Patel is one of the better-known names on Twitch. He hosts the wildest, most popular ongoing reality TV-like shows on the platform, including the Rajjchelor, a low-budget streamer take on The Bachelor, and Rajj Royale, a dramatic debate show. From now on, however, he’s simply going by his real first name: Austin.
In a Twitlonger posted yesterday, Austin, who is not Indian, chalked the re-brand up to a change in values over the years. Rajj Patel began as an offensive caricature with a faux-Indian accent in 2013, and though Austin gradually stripped away the accent and even the Patel portion of the name in recent years, he still regretted his choice of persona.
“Over the past few years, and particularly in the last few months, I’ve grown a lot as a person. Part of that has meant being open and honest about my personal life and background — but along with that comes some painful realities about things from my past I’d do differently,” Austin wrote, referencing “everything happening in the world” right now and how it’s encouraged him to share what he’s learned with his fans. “When I look back on myself in 2013, I was ignorant and approached the Rajj character as an actor. I had a big group of friends in the Indian community and thought that meant that I understood the consequences and history of the choices I made on camera. Although it was never designed to be insensitive or harmful, I know now that is exactly what it was. I should never have named myself Rajj or taken on this character.”
He went on to say that he feels like it’s his responsibility as a creator to ensure that his viewers feel included. He apologised to those he made feel unwelcome: “For those of you who were impacted personally, the South Asian and Indian community, I would like to give you what is long overdue, I’m sorry. As a white man of privilege, I will never be able to understand the struggle and hardships that people of colour go through every day, and my words and actions have the power to add to that experience. I understand this now.”
This, he said, is the end result of conversations with “friends and colleagues from the Indian community” who took the time to educate him.
So he’s Austin now, joining other white pop culture figures like the band Lady Antebellum in re-branding partially in reaction to the recent national discussion around racist violence. His shows aren’t going anywhere, but the old name is going straight out the window and into the junkheap of 2013 edgelord memes it never should have left. But it’s also kind of wild that he dragged it kicking and screaming into the year 2020 in the first place. On one hand, it’s always good to see big-name influencers reckon with their poor past choices and ultimately resolve to learn and grow, because it teaches their large, often impressionable audiences that there’s merit to acknowledging your mistakes — even on a massive stage. On the other hand, few streamers of Austin’s renown have so brazenly brandished a racist joke for so long.
It’s not hard to see the bind he was in, though it doesn’t excuse his continued use of the name. On Twitch your brand is everything, and a full-on name change can be risky. This goes double for somebody like Austin, whose catchily titled shows carry more clout than he does as an individual personality. On top of that, the various Rajj shows — now untitled, as Austin has not hosted a show since his name change announcement — frequently mine the edgier side of Twitch for contestants. The 2013-edgy name, ill-conceived as it was, fit the bawdy, sometimes straight-up objectionable pandemonium of the shows. Despite the long-overdue name change, it’s yet to be seen if Austin will continue to promote similar content and personalities — some of whom, while entertaining, might also make viewers feel unwelcome or un-included, perhaps more so than a name.
While the soon-to-be-renamed shows will remain “intact,” Austin concluded his post by saying that he intends to continue growing.
“Admitting mistakes can be uncomfortable, but I wanted to be open about my journey, do what I can to put things right and hopefully add to the conversation,” he said. “We all need to stay aware that what we do and say affects others. Moving forward I want to continue educating myself and being sensitive to things that I will never fully understand. I invite you all to do the same.”