It happens to me. I’m not going to lie. In fact, I bet it happens to everyone at some point. You are scrolling through Facebook and suddenly a name pops up on your timeline that you don’t recognize. You have to think for a few minutes on who it could be. Either for confirmation or out of curiosity because you can’t figure it out, you click on the profile. You scroll through pictures and looking for identifiers. Suddenly you remember. Oh, that’s who it is. They must have gotten married. Maybe they are using a middle name for some reason. The whole Facebook name change confusion happens to me quite a bit. I think it is a by-product of the work that I’ve had. When you work with families and “clients” you learn quickly to increase your social media security so that it’s just a little bit harder for people to track you down. The most common change-confusion is the middle name use or someone got married.
Recently, I changed my name on Facebook. I went from Nathan Pebbles to Nathan Choi. No, I didn’t get married, not yet anyway. In fact, I’ve resisted doing this change despite the nature of the work I’ve done and I haven’t really had any issues with clients or former clients tracking me down and being stupid. The reason for the name change is a reminder. A reminder to pretty much all of my friends and even some family. That reminder is, I’m Korean. South Korean to be specific. In fact, according to 23&Me I’m almost 87% Korean and 13% Japanese. The change has come from years of discussions with people about race about differences and about change. One of the most frequent responses that I have heard throughout the years has been “man, Nate, sometimes I forget that you are Korean” or “I don’t even see you as Korean or anything different” or even “I kinda just see you as a dark white guy” (yeah, that’s happened).
My name change is also in response to this new “colorblind” society that has been emerging. Not colorblind as in we are accepting of other cultures and we embrace them, but “colorblind” as in we ignore those cultures and those differences and simply apply the same flesh-colored bandaid to everyone. The issue is that this new colorblind society wants to treat everyone the same regardless of color or culture. I’m here to say, that’s wrong. We need to embrace our differences, embrace the various cultures, learn about different worlds and experience societies different than ours. The colorblind society that is emerging right now is dangerous. You say you are colorblind, you say you don’t see me as Korean, or even accept me as a dark white guy, but are you willing to learn about the culture behind me. Behind your neighbor who wears a head covering. Behind your coworker who is wearing the “BLM” mask. Behind the client that fast and prays during Ramadan.
So the history behind my name and change. When I was adopted my name was Choi Yong Soo. In the Korean culture and most Asian cultures, the family name or last name is very important and goes first. In the United States, the individual is more important and thus the individual is recognized first followed by the family name. In my case, the last name I was assigned was Choi. So my “last name” in Korean would be Choi. I was adopted. In fact, as the story goes, I was found on a train and taken to an orphanage. I have no doubt that the nuns there embraced me and gave me a name that found fitting. When I was adopted, my mom wanted me to keep a piece of my Korean culture and made Choi my middle name. Consequently, if I got into trouble my mom would yell “Nathan CHOI!”, that’s when I knew I was in deep trouble.
This name change isn’t a sign of disrespect or even ignoring being a “Pebbles”. If any of you know my family at all, we are essentially a quilt of a family. All my brothers are adopted, my father is my step-father, in fact, that only constant members of the family that have been there from the very beginning was my mom and myself. No, this name change serves as a reminder that I am not just a dark white guy. No, I am not like you. In fact, there is a world and culture behind me. I count myself fortunate to have experienced several cultures in my life. I have been to Native American pow-wows, mission trips to Mexico several times, visited a Korean church and tasted the amazing food. I have lived in suburbia and have embraced the inner city. The colorblind society that I hope emerges out of all of this is not one where we are all made to be the same to be accepted, but instead, we are all different and accepted.