I’m sure you’ve heard the news about the grocery store in New Jersey that refused to inscribe a three-year-old’s birthday cake with his name, Adolf Hitler. And his parents complained, accusing the folks at Shop-Rite of intolerance:
“There’s a new president and he says it’s time for a change. Well, then it’s time for a change,” he said. “They need to accept a name. A name’s a name. The kid isn’t going to grow up and do what [Hitler] did.”
Though I certainly don’t agree with their choices, it’s absolutely Mr. and Mrs. Heath Campbell’s right and prerogative to choose their children’s names. But by naming your child after someone, you are thought to be honoring that person. For example, if/when Brian and I ever have a daughter we intend to name her after our maternal grandmothers. As a tribute. Because we like what they were about.
Naming your kid after somebody is serious stuff because that name, and therefore all the associations that name carries, is going to live with that kid for his or her entire life. It’s saying you endorse and support the things that person did. Sure, my grandma had her faults but they certainly don’t compare to calling for the extermination of an entire race of people.
Asking someone to be tolerant of your child, after you have proven your own intolerance by naming him after a racist tyrant (thereby endorsing said tyrant’s actions) – that’s a tad hypocritical, don’t you think? And as for the “I’m not (prejudiced against X group) – I totally have (X group) friends” card… please just put that away:
The Campbells ultimately got their cake decorated at a Wal-Mart in Pennsylvania and about a dozen people attended the birthday party, including several kids of mixed race, the dad said.
“If we’re so racist, then why would I have them come into my home?” he asked.
Something tells me those mixed-race kids probably did not actually attend that neo-Nazi birthday fête. In fact, they’re more likely to be seen hanging out in Alaska with Sarah Palin’s one gay friend.
Like it or not, just as much as it’s the Campbells’ prerogative to name their kids Aryan Nation and Adolf Hitler, it’s Shop-Rite’s prerogative to reject inscriptions they deem offensive as store policy. I agree that if we don’t know our history, we are doomed to repeat it. But that doesn’t justify glorifying those dark moments in history. Having lived in the South for most of my life I’m familiar with the fine line between knowing history and celebrating hate, and it seems pretty clear to me what side naming one’s child Adolf Hitler falls on.