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Black Parents Called Out For Giving Son A ‘Culturally Inappropriate’ Name

Black parents admiring their sleeping newborn
LWA/Dann Tardif/Getty Images

One of the most sensitive and special decisions a parent will make is the name they will give to their child.

And other people can be incredibly opinionated about that decision, pointed out the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.

After growing up in the foster care system, Redditor CulturalInappropriat wanted to honor a mentor who had meant a great deal to him during that time.

But when his family voiced concerns about naming his baby a name from another culture, the Original Poster (OP) was taken aback.

He asked the sub:

“AITA for giving my child a ‘culturally inappropriate’ name?”

The OP made one special connection during his time in foster care.

“I am Black, and my wife is also Black. I spent most of my childhood in the foster care system, but for a good part of it, I was taken care of by an elderly Russian gentleman (we’ll call him Dimitri Petrovitch).”

“While he never formally adopted me, he played a major role in my upbringing, and I am very grateful for all that he has done for me.”

“Unfortunately, he passed away many years ago, and he never had any children.”

The OP wanted to do something to honor his mentor’s memory.

“Fast forward to today, my wife and I recently had a son.”

“To honor the memory of my mentor, I decided (with my wife’s approval) to name my kid Dimitri Petrovitch Williams, Williams being my last name, and Petrovitch being my son’s middle name.”

“However, it seems like it’s only my wife and I like this name, as her extended family has been quite upset over it, saying things like, ‘What kinda name is Dimitri?’ and ‘You ain’t white, you ain’t Russian, why did you give your son such as a white name?'”

The OP was shocked at the response from family and friends.

“It’s true that there’s no part of me that’s Russian (and I barely speak Russian), but I feel like he’s been such a big part of my upbringing that I had to honor him somehow.”

“I confided in my friends too, and they said something along the lines of, ‘You a Black man, and you gotta be proud of your own culture. You gave your son an identity that he’s not even a part of, he’s gonna have a hard time in school with that name.'”

“So my wife’s family isn’t happy with our decision, and it seems like my friends don’t really have my back either.”

“I’m keeping the name, that’s for sure, but should I have reconsidered? Maybe I could’ve honored my mentor in another way?”


Fellow Redditors weighed in:

  • NTA: Not the A**hole
  • YTA: You’re the A**hole
  • ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
  • NAH: No A**holes Here

Some thought what the OP and his wife did was an incredible gesture. 

“Eastern European here, with a cousin Dimitri. We call close family friends Uncle, this man you describe is definitely an Uncle. Doesn’t matter if he isn’t related by blood. He’s family. It’s a family name.”

“It’s a beautiful name and it’s lovely you’re honoring Uncle this way. NTA, and it’s wonderful that you are honoring his/our culture this way as well.”

“Best of luck with your sweet baby!” – mimimart

“The connections one makes as a child, especially growing up in the foster system, are sometimes the only tangible things they get to hold onto. Good on OP and his wife for naming their child after the one constant in OP’s life.”

“Hey OP, NTA. If any of your family needs a kick in the pants, so to speak, direct them to this post. You are not the a**holes, but they certainly are.” – peppy_dee1981

“Family isn’t just the people related to you by blood. The people who nurtured you along your journey, rejoiced in your successes, and gave you a soft place to land when you hit low points are family, too.”

“OP, you called this man ‘uncle.’ He obviously cared for and about you, and naming your child after him is a beautiful way to keep him alive in spirit.”

“Also, names have always crossed cultures. I’m Indian, and my husband is Jewish. My son’s middle name is Irish because he’s named after a relative whose name was ‘Ellis Island-ized’ when he emigrated from Eastern Europe 120 years ago.”

“It makes perfect sense to me that your son’s name is Dimitri. Rock on!” – DollyTheFirefighter

“You know the saying, ‘Blood is thicker than water’? No no no, the real one. ‘The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb,’ yeah, that’s the one.”

“The bonds you choose are stronger than the ones you are born into. ‘Dimitri’ may have been some of the best family you had. NTA.” – ___UWotM8

“Dimitri raised OP and shared his culture with him. Heritage is about more than genetics. It’s shaped by the people in our lives and the places that we live.” – TinyLlamasWithBooze

“Definitely NTA. You honored an honorable man who helped shape and form your life, morals, and ethics.”

“And also: IT’S YOUR CHILD. NAME THEM WHATEVER YOU DEEM APPROPRIATE. Kanye named his children what again?” – Jeanne_Hollow

“For what it’s worth, growing up I knew two boys named Dimitri, and both of them were Black. I know that was likely a placeholder name, but still.”

“The name may not be, broadly speaking, part of Black culture (at least according to your in-laws; I’m not Black, so I don’t want to overstep saying what is or is not Black culture), but it’s part of your personal history and culture, and that matters, too.”

“Absolutely NTA.” – Hedgiwithapen

“NTA. It’s not culturally inappropriate. You found a name you like, plain and simple. You didn’t do it for any other reason except pay respect to a man who helped you become the man you are.”

“It seems to me your families just want to make it a race-related thing. One of the worst kinds of racism, where race identity is so ingrained that to be unique or yourself is an act against one’s own race. The kind of racism that makes a man question if he appropriated the name of his child.”

“That poor child’s extended family look down at him over his name, not dream of the great man he can be.”

“You are showing a child that race or name doesn’t make you who you are, it’s about the positive influences you keep around you. With a story like that he’s got a lot of positive influence with him.” – DeletedZombie

Others didn’t understand why the people in the OP’s life were so upset.

“Black woman here. I went to school with a few black Dmitris (although they usually spelled it differently) and at least one Demetrius, so I don’t understand what the big deal is.” – roseofjuly

“I grew up in the southern US and variations of the name Dimitri/Demetrius/etc were pretty common for Black guys. Maybe it’s not a ‘culturally’ Black name, but he certainly won’t get teased at school for it.” – philaselfia

“I live in the deep south in a heavily Black populated community and the only people I’ve ever met with the name Dimitri were Black males. I always thought it was a culturally ‘Black’ name.” – button-stick

“NTA. I am glad I’m not the only one. My friend said, ‘You’re white, your wife is Hispanic, and you gave your son a Black name.'”

“It’s actually Omar, so we get a lot of comments about the Arabic roots of the name, too.”

“Be proud, my friend, you honor a great man and that is all a name has to be. If your son turns out like him, you would be happy, right?” – tuppensforRedd

“NTA. The ONLY people you need to please are you and your wife. Trust me, any name you pick will upset somebody.”

“The name you chose has deep personal meaning. Don’t allow anyone to rob you of such a lovely chance to honor your family and pass a genuine symbol of love and support to your child.”

“It’s a great name, by the way.” – azazel-13

“Well, wasn’t that person ignorant.”

“There are a lot of Arabic names in Spanish since the Moors conquered Spain and they came into common use.”

“Like Fatima can be a common Hispanic name. It’s the name of Khadija’s daughter, first wife of Mohammed, and supposedly also his daughter. Not to mention the surname Medina, which, hello, is the city Mohammed fled to.”

“NTA.” – ThePeasantKingM

“Bruh. I’ve talked to other Asian friends who have the same freaking reaction. And I don’t mean like south Asian but easy Asian.”

“Your name isn’t Kennedy. What’s your real name? What’s your Asian name?”

“And it’s like bruh. I am the third f*cking generation. I was raised here and my parents mostly were too. My name is Bob. That’s it. Just Bob.” – iRedditPhone

“I’m a Hispanic with an Irish first name and my mom got the same grief mostly from my dad’s side. ‘You’re not white so why are you giving her that name?!’ and ‘She’s not going to know her Hispanic roots now!'”

“It didn’t matter that my middle name is very Hispanic. NTA.” – GoodQueenFluffenChop

“NTA, you didn’t give your son a ‘white’ name or a ‘Russian’ name; you named him after a man who was good to you and who loved you.”

“I think that’s beautiful, and long as you and your wife are happy, that’s all that matters! Make sure your son knows where his name came from and why it’s important!” – maimee78

The subReddit was left shaking their heads at the reactions the OP and his wife were receiving from their family and friends over the name they’d chosen for their baby.

At the end of the day, they had chosen a name that was meaningful to their family, and as long as it was important to them, it would be important to their baby, no matter what others had to say about it.

Written by McKenzie Lynn Tozan

McKenzie Lynn Tozan has been a part of the George Takei family since 2019 when she wrote some of her favorite early pieces: Sesame Street introducing its first character who lived in foster care and Bruce Willis delivering a not-so-Die-Hard opening pitch at a Phillies game. She's gone on to write nearly 3,000 viral and trending stories for George Takei, Comic Sands, Percolately, and ÜberFacts. With an unstoppable love for the written word, she's also an avid reader, poet, and indie novelist.