Back when I chose YiddishNinja as my handle on Twitter, Github, and elsewhere, the tech industry was using “ninja” as a shorthand for polyglot developer. So Yiddish in reference to my Polish/Ukranian Ashkenazi heritage and Ninja in reference to my tech geekery felt very memorable, and very right. But over the years as I’ve become more “woke” about cultural appropriation, I started to think I might want to change it.
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. I didn’t want some stranger with unknown intent tweeting as @YiddishNinja and creating confusion, and when I chose to leave @YiddishNinja behind, I couldn’t return to @GregBulmash.
In recent weeks, I’ve thought a lot about my white privilege (not as big as a white Christian’s, but almost so). Between using the handle YiddishNinja and running a CoderDojo chapter, I was appropriating two Japanese terms. Now with Dojo, it’s with respect for that culture and tradition, plus leaving the worldwide CoderDojo organization of over 2,000 free coding clubs for kids would significantly hinder my ability to do good for local kids because rebuilding the name recognition of Seattle CoderDojo and rebranding all our materials would not provide benefits for the kids that outweighed the costs.
But “Ninja” wasn’t reverent. It was tongue-in-cheek, it played more on a 1980s B-movie stereotype than any honoring of the history or tradition of the Ninja, and it had to go.
I brainstormed a lot of new options, “market tested” a few with friends, and researched how to change the name without opening it up to squatters. The new handle I chose better reflects my reality as a Jewish software developer and educator. There’s still some work to do, such as winding down this site and spinning up a new one under the new handle (and yes, I secured the letmypeoplecode.com domain name). I’ve changed my handle in many places (Twitter, Twitch, Github), but I’m sure I’ll find others over the next few months.
Me using Ninja might not seem like much of a big deal. In the cacophany 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.
(more links coming soon)