A little history
Back when I chose YiddishNinja as my handle on Twitter, Github, and elsewhere, every ad for developers or technical people was looking for a “ninja” or a “rock star.” “Ninja” was a shorthand for a polyglot developer. So Yiddish in reference to my Eastern European Jewish heritage and Ninja in reference to my tech geekery felt very memorable; good branding. And it was. People remembered YiddishNinja and remembered me as YiddishNinja.
But I hadn’t even thought about whether it was respectful to the culture from which I was “borrowing” it. Once I did, I realized it was time to make a change.
It wasn’t gonna be easy
I’d spent a lot of time and energy becoming known as YiddishNinja, so there was some investment and awareness I’d lose. Additionally, when I switched from @GregBulmash to @YiddishNinja on Twitter, some Russian squatter grabbed @GregBulmash, posted a handful of odd tweets, and then left it to rot. Not only couldn’t I get it back, I’d lost control over what was being tweeted from MY name.
I doubted I’d return to YiddishNinja, but I didn’t want some stranger with unknown intent tweeting as @YiddishNinja and creating confusion when I chose the next evolution of my online identity.
Is it respectful?
In recent weeks, I’ve thought a lot about my white privilege. Between using the handle YiddishNinja and running a CoderDojo chapter, I was using two Japanese terms.
With Dojo, it’s with respect for that culture and tradition, so I felt less bad about using it. Additionally, it’s part of a massive worldwide organization of free coding clubs for kids, an amazing NGO I’m proud to be affiliated with. Then there was the other consideration. How much would the kids benefit from a name change and would it be worth all the time and money I’d have to take away from them to do it?
But “Ninja” wasn’t reverent. It was tongue-in-cheek, it played more on a cartoonish stereotype than on honoring or respecting the history or tradition of the Ninja.
Ninja had to go
I brainstormed a lot of new options, “market tested” a few with friends, and researched how to change my account names without opening @YiddishNinja up to squatters.
The new handle I chose, “LetMyPeopleCode,” better reflects my reality as a Jewish software developer and educator. There’s still some work to do. I’ve changed my handle in many places (Twitter, Twitch, Github), and this site is now taking over as my personal blog, but I’m sure I’ll find others over the next few months.
Using Ninja might not seem like much of a big deal. In the cacophony of its appropriation in Western culture, my use was a barely audible note. Doing the right thing might feel like throwing a pebble into a pit, but when millions of pebbles are thrown in, the pit gets filled. Just because we can’t see or feel the social impact of our individual changes, we can’t let that discourage us from making them. They add up.
So please wish YiddishNinja a loving farewell and say hello to LetMyPeopleCode.