Buckle up for the worst ‘Dear Abby’ advice you’ve ever heard
Dear Abby is proving she’s the opposite of fine wine in that her popular advice column — which has been around since 1956 — is not aging well at all. Take this viral tweet exposing some truly backward, offensive advice she recently gave about ‘foreign’ names, for instance.
Professor and activist Simran Jeet Singh shared a recent “Dear Abby” letter where a white father writes about how anxious he is over the fact that his Indian wife wants to give their future child a name that reflects her heritage.
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
“My wife, who was born and raised in India, is insisting on Indian names for our children,” the dad whines. “The problem is they are often 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.” He then asks Abby how he can bully his wife into relinquishing her heritage via names for their non-existent children because he thinks an Indian name would prove to be “difficult” for the child.
LOL who’s gonna tell him that literally everything about having a child is difficult, and a name that reflects half of said child’s heritage isn’t it?
Abby, showing herself for the white, privileged dinosaur she is (remember when she said asking about guns in homes for play dates was impolite?), offers some truly stunning racism and narrow-mindedness to pass off for “advice.”
“Your wife’s concept of giving the children Indian names is lovely,” she chides. But what about the problems a name that isn’t John or Mary or Aidan would surely cause for a child? “Not only can foreign names be difficult to pronounce and spell, but they can also cause a child to be teased unmercifully,” Abby writes. “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.”
GRATING. She said grating. So basically if your child has a name that isn’t as bland as a box of Triscuits, your kid is fucked I guess! Sorry, those are the rules! “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?”
Uh-huh. Lots to unpack there, so please allow the good people of the internet to do it.
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
If people can learn how to say Tchaikovsky, then they can learn how to pronounce a South Asian name.— Jhumka Gupta, ScD, MPH (@jhumkagupta) October 16, 2018
"One that sounds beautiful in a foreign language can be grating in English." First of all, Indian names are not English. This assumes that whiteness is the standard by which other cultures are measured. Throw the whole racist article away.— jaan doe (@soundrahan) October 16, 2018
@dearabby some people put zero effort into trying to say my forfeiting name because it scares them. That doesn't make my name problematic or impractical, it makes the other person an idiot.— Mαrωα 🥀 (@MarwaBalkar) October 16, 2018
This is terrible advice, and also — don't worry that your kid is going to get teased for their name, worry that your kid is going to be the one teasing other kids for theirs. https://t.co/Hd3kxm5tw3
— Robyn Halloween Pun-acchia (@RobynElyse) October 17, 2018
Singh, who wrote the viral tweet, has further thoughts on Abby’s deranged advice.
Cultural Imperialism: The form of oppression under which the dominant group gets to decide what is normal or acceptable or culturally good, and everything else is rendered deviant. -- Kate Henley Averett— Simran Jeet Singh (@SikhProf) October 17, 2018
We gave our girls traditional Sikh names because we are so proud of our heritage. I pray that they love themselves so much that they do the same. 💕— Simran Jeet Singh (@SikhProf) October 16, 2018
Also worth addressing is the fact that this man is completely diminishing his wife’s culture — and Abby’s “advice” did nothing to address his own problematic behavior. What’s more damaging here, really? Hint: it’s not the list of baby names his wife likes.