One of the primary jobs of parents is to protect our children at all costs. One woman on Reddit wonders if that includes protecting her future kids from the racism her Egyptian husband endures. If she could prevent them from experiencing discrimination by giving them her European last name instead of his, should she? Or would doing so be perpetuating the very racism she doesn’t want them to experience?
“I am in the process of trying for a baby with my husband, who is wonderful and [whom] I adore,” throwawayyy102930384 began her post on the AITA subreddit. “When I got married, I did not take his last name, mostly because I just didn’t feel it was necessary. I also assumed I would give our kids his name if he wanted it that way (which he does).”
Her husband’s last name is El-Masri. It’s a common enough name, but she feels it has unfortunate post-9/11 associations: an al-Qaeda leader and an al-Qaeda mentor were both named al-Masri. In the early 2000s, a German-Lebanese man named Khalid el-Masri was arrested in Macedonia because of his name’s similarity to the latter, and tortured by the CIA for years. While throwawayyy’s husband is American, she said he frequently gets stopped by police and is mistreated by TSA. She notices that people treat him better when she’s around than when he’s by himself, and she hates that.
“But this all makes me wonder if my future child(ren) would be better off with a bland white name,” she continued. “I want to give my kid the best start in life that I can. I recognize that this child will still have a darker complexion than I do and still face racism and bigotry in their life, but I feel a responsibility to limit this bigotry and protect my child to the extent that I am able. On the other hand, I wonder if [it’s] racist or bigoted to want to give my kid the ‘white’ name to shield them from the bigotry of my country. Would I be a better person to tell those racist institutions that I won’t bend to their will by doing this?”
This is quite the quandary. We appreciate why, as a white woman, she would want to get multiple opinions from others rather than simply go with her privileged gut reaction.
Some Redditors thought she had the right idea.
“It’s not a parent’s job to defeat racism at the expense of their child’s potential opportunities,” Thebuch4 wrote.
“Provided you and your husband talk about it and you are both happy with the names you choose, that’s the main point thing,” Tight Log wrote. “The world will always be a shitty place (and lovely place) no matter what ye do so do what you think will make you both happy.”
Others wondered if she might compromise and combine hers and her husband’s names, either hyphenated, or with his name as their middle name.
“Have you considered the possibility of making a mutual new last name and you all change it to that?” FormerLurker0v0 wondered. “Make it something that blends both your cultures, just like the children, and that way everyone matches without any potential problems later when the children go to school and everyone has a different last name and they ask why.”
But we are far more interested in the answers from the non-white and mixed-race readers, who know a little more about what throwawayyy’s future children will face.
“[S]peaking as a mixed person who has a whitewashed identity (family thought it would be easier to be only ~american~) I would urge you to consider giving your child your husband’s last name,” sposts20 wrote. “I frequently feel disconnected from my heritage bc of whitewashing, and honestly the whitewashing doesn’t make too much of a difference with how I’m treated. Your kid is most likely going to come out brown. They will be treated like they are brown. No name will change that. I understand why you would want to cloak them in as much whiteness as you can, but that is most likely not going to be their reality. … Speaking from experience, whitewashing can hurt. I appreciate the thought you’re putting into this. Good luck with everything.”
Many hoped that throwawayyy’s children will one day be able to join the Barack Obamas and Malala Yousefzais of the world, who embrace their Muslim names and make them admired throughout the world.
“I always wanted a white sounding name when I was younger, but now I’m so glad I have the name I have because it reminds me of my family and the pride we take in our culture,” pimentoplanes said. “Your husband is not just going to be passing down his genetics. He will be giving your kids a rich and beautiful heritage that will become a part of them. I understand it’s hard but all I can say is that I feel stronger for my name. If you don’t give them that name because of fear of racism, I can’t see how that won’t normalize racism for them and have them internalize that their race and culture is something that should be hidden and suppressed to pander to racist white people.”
Throwawayyy was grateful for this response, writing, “This gives me hope that they will grow through some hard times but be just fine on the other side.”
We’re holding onto that hope, too!
These diverse books starring Black and brown girls are entertaining for all kids, while representing our world.