By Nathan Barton
Should it be illegal?
The Atlanta Journal-Constition tells us that in Georgia, bureaucrats are telling a couple what name they can NOT give their child. “An Atlanta family is at odds with the state over their right to give their daughter the last name of their choosing. Elizabeth Handy and Bilal Walk, claim that Georgia officials are refusing to grant their daughter — ZalyKha Graceful Lorraina Allah — a birth certificate. … State officials, however, said the child’s name… does not fit the naming conventions set up by state law. They say that ZalyKha’s last name should either be Handy, Walk or a combination of the two.”
First off, let’s note that these parents are incredibly stupid, giving this poor baby girl such a ridiculous name. They are saddling her for life with constant misery; a life of constantly having to spell her name out for people, for trying to fit her name into everything from employment applications to contracts to buy anything. And to stereotyping; regardless of her race or ethnic background she will be prejudged and probably identified as a ghetto-dwelling urban Muslim black. I suspect that she will have to fight and get most people to call her Grace or perhaps Lorrie (Lori) or Lorraine, all common girls’ names. Her names will be an especial burden if she turns out, for example, NOT to be a graceful woman. And she may find that a lot of people are very offended at her last name.
Mama’s Note: I very much agree that names are no business of the state, in any case. If these parents are indeed Muslim, I can’t see how they would want to use the name of their “god” that way, and if they are not, some actual Muslims may well take such umbrage that the child would be in serious danger. The term “stupid” doesn’t begin to cover the insanity of this whole thing.
But does the State have any business in dictating the names? Apparently, they do not object to the ZalyKha Graceful Lorraina part (which is still really stupid), but the Allah “surname.” (This hardly can be called a “family name” although perhaps her parents believe we are all part of Allah’s (God’s?) family.)
Giving a child a different last name or surname than that of one or both parents is, again, stupid. It makes it difficult to understand and track family relationships and therefore genetics and potentially (for most of us) significant inherited diseases or defects (or even, strengths!). It is confusing, both to young children and to employers and friends – and even families. People will argue that the State has an important interest in tracking family relationships and individual identities, and that shared family names are important to that.
Mama’s Note: The family unit is so fragmented these days, especially among the inner city folk where the identity of the father is so often unknown… and unknowable. Little of the above would likely apply to this child, since she will probably never know her extended family, or care about it. The far greater problem would be the irrational response of fundamental Muslims in her community.
But does THAT justify the government’s intervention into what the parents decide? After all, the child can (when she is an adult, at least) petition a court to change her name to something reasonable. And it seems that the odds are that she will NOT grow to adulthood with the same parents that conceived and birthed her: she may have multiple fathers and mothers (serially or simultaneously) and a whole raft of half- and full-siblings. She might even be put up for adoption or fostered out, and given an entirely new name.
Ultimately, it comes down to liberty. The only people who have any right to name their child are the birth parents. And in the long run of life, only the person themselves has any right to claim and use a name of their own choice. The excuses for the state to intervene are not sufficient to take away this liberty (if there could be ANY “reasons” or excuses – which I doubt). Cultural? Who made the state the guardian of culture?
Would you consider giving this little baby girl this awful name an act of aggression against her by her parents? A form of child abuse? It very well may be. (I’ve known people whose parents named them things like Waylon Wall, Ima Hooker, and Walter Thistle Nettles. Pretty bad.) But is that the business of the government to intervene? No matter if it “might” be (if you accept anything should be the government’s business), the consequences of giving government such power are certain to be very bad.
Mama’s Note: I once worked with a doctor named Christian Loveblood. No idea how he coped with that all his life. He just happened to be a very good surgeon!