PHOENIX (KSAZ) -- The writer of the "Dear Abby" column is facing some controversy over an advice she gave to to a couple who was struggling over the name of their future baby.
While the letter was published on September 13, renewed attention to the advice given came recently. In the letter, the spouse of a woman who was born and raised in India has a stated wish of giving the children names that are considered "Western", since they will live in the United States. Meanwhile, the wife wants to give their children Indian names.
As with most, if not all, of the letters sent to the column, the writer's identity is not revealed.
In response, the column's writer said popular names in one country "can cause problems for a child living in another one".
"Not only can foreign names be difficult to pronounce and spell, but they can also cause a child to be teased unmercifully...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?" the response read.
The response drew the outrage of Sikh activist Simran Jeet Singh, who equated the response as advice to parents to "whitewash" their kids' name if they want to be accepted.
Dear Twitter,— Simran Jeet Singh (@SikhProf) October 16, 2018
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
In later tweets, Singh said he gave his girls traditional Sikh names, out of pride for their heritage, and also accused the writer of cultural imperialism.
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
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
Even television host Padma Lakshmi weighed in on the controversial advice.
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
Other Twitter users have criticized the columnist.
“Van Buren” might be beautiful in Dutch, but it sounds grating to my American ears. Maybe you should change it to something easier and more American like “mayo” or “wonder bread.” I’m just so concerned for your own good.— slim octavo (@slimoctavo) October 17, 2018
Is my name too ethnic for your America?— Dontae Mears (@realdontae) October 17, 2018
No thanks. Not interested in advice from a racist. So deeply disappointed in you. And done with you. Unless you issue an apology and take some racial sensitivity classes. And read about white supremacy, white privilege, imperialism, whitewashing, white hegemony, etc.— Huma Not Abedin (@hoomie24) October 17, 2018
You’re out of touch. That advice regarding Indian names was terrible and doesn’t reflect American, melting pot values. Your advanced age indicates you grew up in a racist time. Know that America is now a mix of a cultures and ethnicities.— Rekha Forever (@justrekhathings) October 17, 2018
One user even pointed out that "Abby" is a name with foreign roots.
Abigail, from the Hebrew name אֲבִיגַיִל / אֲבִיגָיִל Avigail, meaning "my father's joy" (alternatively "my father is exultation", or "my father is joy").— Nicholas Yenson 🏳️🌈 (@NicholasYenson) October 17, 2018
The writer has yet to respond to the controversy. According to the column's official website, the column is written by Jeanne Phillips, under the name "Abigail Van Buren".