I've been asked "what is your English name?" many times for the last two decades ever since I moved to North America as a 18-year old student. My answer has consistently been "I don't have one. My name is Mihae |MEE-hay|."
Whenever I got the question, I wondered why they asked the question. And few times, I did ask. Here are some of the answers I got: "Oh, because many people do have one, don't they?" "You know, it is easy to remember and pronounce."
One advice I got was to put an "English" name on a resume to increase the likelihood of hearing back. And that was true according to many researches on this matter and my own experience. I heard back from many more employers - there was a noticeable difference. I did get a job with my "English" name and it is the job I shouldn't have taken anyway based on the toxic culture and workplace violations.
Our name means something. My name means so much to me. It is given to me by my grandpa. I know how much thoughts he put into my name before giving it to me. My name carries my cultural identities, family identities, and personal identities. It is not something I need to hide and cover it with an "easy-to-pronounce, culturally-more-appropriate" name but something I am absolutely proud of.
Above is a portion of a LinkedIn post after seeing a campaign, The Name, by P&G.
Campaigns like this by P&G matter. To make changes, we need to realize how systematic racism and biases (both conscious and unconscious) have dehumanized so many of us. We need to realize and accept that innocent remarks with good intentions can lead to othering. We need to take ownership of our actions’ consequences and strive to learn how we can avoid causing the harm again.
Every time I experience othering and biases, every time I read and hear about those experienced by other marginalized people, I reflect on my behaviours, actions, and words. Have I caused any harm? Am I doing enough?
Often times, I’m paralyzed by the amount of work that needs to be done to bring about more changes, undo so much of the harm that’s been done for such a long time, now knowing what to do and where to start, and balancing “doing the right things” and checking on my mental health.
I had have a book by Michelle Mijung Kim, The Wake Up, in my book wish list for a long time. I admire the work she does. I was really happy when her book was published. I knew I would learn so much from her book. I hesitated to start reading though because of the fear of being so depressed. The injustice, the sufferings, the ignorance, the white supremacy, and the feeling of helplessness, uselessness, and overwhelmingness when facing our history and reality at a large dose all at once by reading a 279-page long book on social justice… I knew I had to mentally prepare myself for it.
This May, as we are celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in the United States and Asian Heritage Month in Canada, I finally started reading. I’m half way through the book. I’ve been loving the book and learning so much from it as I expected. I am taking breaks from it, taking deep breaths as I’m going through the book to manage my mental distress.
The book is really well-written and filled with resources, recommendations, and relatable experiences. I love how sometimes she is bluntly honest with the reality and how she has felt and how warm and encouraging she is with her recommendations and advice. The notes at the end of her book have an extensive list of all the resources (such a rich list of resources for further reading) she has researched and quoted. I strongly encourage this book to anyone who wants to and is willing to do their part to contribute.