“If I’m gonna tell a real story, I’m gonna start with my name”
~ Kendrick Lamar
On our journey of self discovery and self identity, we begin to write that story as soon as we are born and it continues to write itself from our first steps, to our first kiss, to our high school graduation, to starting a family, and eventually to our death, but it starts with our name. Even after death we can be immortalized through our name because in it, contains our accomplishments and successes, but it also contains our challenges and obstacles, and people really like reading a story they can be inspired by, feared by, and fall in love by.
Our names hold the stories of you and I. But sometimes we forget that our names, our stories, have a prequel. That prequel is the journey and formation of that name and you as a person and it’s all credited to your parents. Have you ever sat and wondered what your name means? In many Asian countries, many parents give name which often represents certain positive qualities or characteristics in a person. Sometimes it could be your first name or your middle name or even last names. My name, Albert Ekaputera Tanjaya, is special because my middle name, Ekaputera, means “first son” in Indonesian. My first name, Albert, is named after a beloved catholic priest at our local church in my hometown of Malang. Though my name may not be symbolic or represent a trait, it has history and it has meaning.
As Asian Americans, we might have changed our names to “Americanized” names because perhaps, we were ridiculed in middle school or our parents wanted to give us an easier time meeting people or our parents knew it might be to our advantage for work applications and college applications, or perhaps we felt that difference and we wanted to blend in. I’m here to write to you that your names are beautiful and that your names have rich history that should be untouched and unfiltered. I urge all of you to embrace it. Your name is the product of your parent’s journey, successes, and struggles. If people can’t say your name, you can always educate them. If people remain ignorant, you look at ignorance in the face and you educate it. In today’s world, we are changing to move and embrace our cultural identity as it is. We no longer bend to satisfy others, but rather to satisfy ourselves. The only problem is that systematically, if we embrace our real name, we get punished in the workforce. A 2014 study in The Economist showed that when Americanized names are used, people earn about 14% more income than their foreign counterparts. How do we as a community combat this? For starters we would have to embrace our real names and show companies that just because they can’t spell it or say it doesn't mean your worth and value will change. Many companies today have dedicated millions in their department of diversity and inclusion and with that, comes with the hope of no more discrimination. To see progress will take time, but also the grassroot efforts of our resilient communities.
Just like a series of books in a volume, you are one of many books in your lineage, but you are unique, your name is special so don’t tuck it away, and you are full of unwritten history still waiting to be discovered.