Saturday, July 11, 2015

When Your Baby Name Becomes Racist

You have to feel for all the parents who named their kids Atticus over the past decade. The name has surged in popularity since 2004 (before then, it never even ranked in the top 1,000) because of good feelings surrounding the Atticus Finch character in Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird."

Now, the book's sequel depicts him as a racist.

From the New York Times:
Shockingly, in Ms. Lee’s long-awaited novel, “Go Set a Watchman” (due out Tuesday), Atticus is a racist who once attended a Klan meeting, who says things like “The Negroes down here are still in their childhood as a people.” Or asks his daughter: “Do you want Negroes by the carload in our schools and churches and theaters? Do you want them in our world?” 
In “Mockingbird,” a book once described by Oprah Winfrey as “our national novel,” Atticus praised American courts as “the great levelers,” dedicated to the proposition that “all men are created equal.” In “Watchman,” set in the 1950s in the era of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, he denounces the Supreme Court, says he wants his home state “to be left alone to keep house without advice from the N.A.A.C.P.” and describes N.A.A.C.P.-paid lawyers as “standing around like buzzards.”
This is bad news for the 5,159 kids named Atticus since 2004 (including 34 girls). There were 855 babies called Atticus in 2014 alone. The name has never been more popular in recorded U.S. history — we are at peak Atticus.

Knowing that, it seems cruel that Harper Lee would do this to America's parents (assuming she actually wanted this book to come out at all).

Harper, of course, is an even more trendy name right now. And I have to think that star will continue to rise, even if people feel betrayed by the author.