The “Dear Abby” advice column is under fire after suggesting that a parents should whitewash their child’s name in order to better assimilate into white culture.
Columnist Jeanne Phillips was called racist after responding to a question about “foreign names” and suggesting that the reader should reconsider naming their children Indian names instead of Western ones, since it would result in unrelenting taunting and a lifetime of criticism, The New York Times reports.
“My wife, who was born and raised in India, is insisting on Indian names for our children,” the questioner (“Making Life Easy”) began: “The problem is they are difficult to pronounce and spell. I’m not opposed to Indian middle names, but think traditional ‘Western names’ may be more suitable, since we will live in the United States. How can I make my wife understand that having ‘unusual’ names makes certain aspects of kids’ lives more difficult?”
“Not only can foreign names be difficult to pronounce and spell, but they can also cause a child to be teased unmercifully,” she wrote. “Sometimes the name can be a problematic word in the English language. And one that sounds beautiful in a foreign language can be grating in English. I hope your wife will rethink this. Why saddle a kid with a name he or she will have to explain or correct with friends, teachers, and fellow employees from childhood into adulthood?”
Many called out the advice column.
Simran Jeet Singh, an activist and father, clapped back at the tone-deaf advice columnist.
“Dear Twitter,” he wrote, “A famous advice columnist is telling people to whitewash their kid’s names if they want to be accepted. How should I tell her that’s wrong and racist?”
Many others had a heated reaction to the column and called the columnist out for racism too.
“Wow. @dearabby that is a very racist suggestion. Very sad that your solution to bullying is erasing ones heritage rather than you taking responsibility for your own people’s systemic white supremacy that creates and perpetuates racist oppressive narratives,” wrote
“If people can learn how to say Tchaikovsky, then they can learn how to pronounce a South Asian name,” said @jhumkagupta.
“Ugh, such a gross response by Dear Abby! Gaelic names have become quite trendy w/white Americans- if we can say “Siobhan” & “Aoife”, we can handle “Lakshmi” & “Vickram”! Honor the child’s heritage & family, and use your whiteness to insist people pronounce them correctly, dad!” writes @gescim.
Author Valarie Kaur said she named her son Kavi, meaning poet, in honor of the Sikh poet great-grandfathers. She took issue with the column’s suggestion saying Phillips is “clinging to an old America, where white is considered the norm and everything else deviant and inferior,”
“Abby’s column was deeply infuriating and also revelatory,” Kaur said.