“Dear Abby”columnist Jeanne Phillips is under fire after agreeing with a man who said he’s worried because his wife, born in India, wants to give their children Indian names.
The offending advice prompted a New York Times article and was shared online by Dr. Simran Jeet Singh, an educator, writer and activist.
“Dear Twitter, 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?” he tweeted.
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?
Simran Jeet Singh pic.twitter.com/URNbMT5LZ7
— Simran Jeet Singh (@SikhProf) October 16, 2018
“Not only can foreign names be difficult to pronounce and spell, but they can also cause a child to be teased unmercifully,” Phillips wrote in her response. “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.”
The daughter of Pauline Phillips, who founded the “Dear Abby” column back in 1956, Jeanne Phillips was quickly reminded that we are now in the 21st Century.
“Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi called the column “deeply racist and problematic.”
“Names have meaning,” she tweeted. “They have history. They tell us who we are and where we come from. The first step of colonization is to erase the heritage and culture of indigenous people. Advising someone against giving their child a ‘foreign name’ is deeply racist and problematic.”
Names have meaning. They have history. They tell us who we are and where we come from. The first step of colonization is to erase the heritage and culture of indigenous people. Advising someone against giving their child a “foreign name” is deeply racist and problematic. pic.twitter.com/fdGORIR06O
— Padma Lakshmi (@PadmaLakshmi) October 17, 2018
Not that everyone was in agreement with the belief that Phillip’s response was racist.
“It’s not racist to acknowledge reality; pretending otherwise is asinine. Names shift across time and across continents; acknowledging that a “unique” or “foreign” name adds a complication is a simple statement of fact, and it holds true whether in the USA or in India,” a social media user tweeted.
It’s not racist to acknowledge reality; pretending otherwise is asinine. Names shift across time and across continents; acknowledging that a “unique” or “foreign” name adds a complication is a simple statement of fact, and it holds true whether in the USA or in India. #Blanket
— TheTruthIsOutThere (@LuciHoneychurch) October 19, 2018
Another insisted that Phillips was correct: “She’s right, get over it.”
She’s right, get over it .
— Ike Awgu (@IkeWeLike) October 17, 2018
The reaction online showed that Phillips’ take on the matter reinforced the left’s myth of systemic white supremacy. Some opted to take what could have been an educational moment and used it to further divide Americans.
Here’s a sampling of the responses from Twitter:
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.
— ariana delawari (@arianadelawari) October 16, 2018
So many brown people actually do this though. “What about __ as a name?” And they’ll respond with “no I don’t want them to have a hard time at school. I want a name that works for both cultures.”
— Miriam Arghandiwal (@_Maro) October 16, 2018
You have totally jumped the shark. Please retire.
An Indian family with interesting and pretty easy to pronounce names:
Asha ("hope" in Sanskrit)
Paras ("touchstone" in Hindi)
Sahana ("patience" in Sanskrit) https://t.co/y7sFgagke9
— Asha Rangappa (@AshaRangappa_) October 19, 2018
Not just whitewash. Dear Abby is promoting cultural genocide. Names are often an integral part of one's identity, lineage & culture. For Sikhs, our names are rooted in & derived from our faith.
Also Todd is no more "normal" than Harpreet. Kathy is no more "normal" than Juanita. https://t.co/x00HmSoWog
— Jo Kaur (@SikhFeminist) October 16, 2018
My first name means most beloved. My middle name means unique. I cheerfully point out that my mom essentially named me “lovable weirdo” and that’s exactly what she got. Thank you, mom, for not being afraid of what the white people think because I love my name. https://t.co/1bLgPlZ8LN
— Battle Chef Slugcat (@zoupmachine) October 20, 2018
Many times as a child I wished for a "normal" name. As an adult, I couldn't be happier to have my weird name. If nothing else, it's always weeded out the telemarketers. https://t.co/sp696kIM4S
— Jaleh (@jaleh_f) October 17, 2018
The problem isn’t with the name. I think the problem is with those who pick on the kids who have “foreign” names.
— Marcus Jackson (@marcusdj813) October 18, 2018
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