“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet.”
– Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
Would it, though?
A name holds a history, a story, a moment. Names are lived. Everyday, my family name, “Hockaday,” reminds me of how my Black ancestors were ripped from their homes and left only with a name, not even their own. I remember when my Korean grandmother, who I call my “Harmony,” gave me the name “Sung-ee” after the Korean word for castle. Then, confusion imprisoned me in the castle’s deep, dark dungeon, and I’m still lost in that abyss. Confusion became my chronic affliction, tearing me between my names, my cultures, my roots. My names are a reminder of the intersecting paths from which my life began, from narratives of life in Korea under Japanese occupation to Tuskegee Airmen, but these stories don’t match my White-passing appearance. Navigating Georgetown as a multiracial student, I’m left floating adrift; navigating life as a Black, Yellow, and White kid, I feel Marooned.
Walking around at CAB Fair my first semester, I found amazing clubs to represent me as a Black or Korean student, but nothing that represented me as a Black, Korean, and White student. I ended up joining various cultural clubs and taking classes to learn about my identities, but I still struggled to figure out where I fit in. Growing up with the murder of Black people omnipresent on my TV, it seemed wrong to call myself Black when my skin color afforded me so much privilege. And could I even call myself Korean when the language that is so essential to the culture stumbled out of my mouth? Through it all, I knew I wasn’t White, because no White kid grows up with a new racial epithet thrown in their face every week. Existing between all these worlds, I remained completely, utterly, deeply confused.
As the first semester progressed, I slowly found more and more students just as lost as I was. I wasn’t alone in this struggle; there were countless students trying to navigate the seas of questions, uncertainties, and insecurities that pervade our everyday lives. A group of us came together, and we formed Spectrum, a new multiracial and multiethnic club. Through our events, I found a space to figure out not only where my existence lies, but also where others live and breathe in their own in-between worlds. Conversations with new and returning voices were pivotal in helping me to understand who I am. Spectrum became the community I needed so badly during my first semester at Georgetown. Truth be told, it’s the community I still need.
“Sho’nuff: Alright, Leroy, who’s the one and only master?
Bruce Leroy: I am.” – The Last Dragon
Others may try to describe my identity, they may try to change my identity for their convenience, they may try to recount my narrative to me, they may try a lot, but they’re just trying. The communities, the friends, and the love I found at Georgetown taught me that I’m my own master, and I’m writing the chapters of my life.
I grew up with the aroma of Bulgogi dancing around my nose and drawing me to the kitchen. Hangul popped up on the TV during Korean shows, and laughter filled that house when my Harmony translated the jokes to my sister and me. Her cheer and love fill my memories. The strength of Korean women was ever so evident in my Harmony, a woman who lived through Japanese occupation, left Korea to start a new life in the United States, and still works 40-hour weeks in her late 70s. Nothing can ever stop that woman. She’s resilient, she’s stubborn, and she’s my Harmony. I’m Korean, and I’m joyful.
My skin color shields me from worrying about whether I’ll be a victim of police violence. That doesn’t mean I haven’t cried while imagining that the next video flashing across Facebook might be of someone in my family. Racial slurs were thrown in my face at school, from “dog-eater” to “half n*gger.” The legacy of Emmett Till lingered through my father’s attempts to protect me from a world that might try to kill me. I’m attending a university that was built through enslavement, through the system that stole my ancestors’ names from them. Nevertheless, I’m here, and I’m reclaiming this name. I’m Black, and I’m proud.
Cabbage kimchi touches collard greens on my dinner plate. Al Green plays after DEAN on my Spotify. The confusion, the pain, and the love are all mixed together. I’m a joyful, proud Blasian, and nothing will ever stomp out my soul. I’m mixed, and I’m confident.
It may appear as though I’m finished with my identity crises, but my joy, pride, and confidence don’t prevent the arduous struggle that is filling out boxes on a form. I’m still completely, utterly, deeply confused. However, I no longer feel alone in this confusion; my shade is just a little bit less Maroon.
Image Credit: Egan Barnitt