If I ever adopt a pen name, it will be out of necessity. There are two Jen Wangs out there who write, and while one blogs about race and the other is a primarily an illustrator/cartoonist, there's enough intersection to make me want to avoid confusion. I've thought about using my Chinese name, Wang YueRu (or as it would be in print, YueRu Wang). However, if I couldn't get my friends to embrace it in situations where there was more than one Jen, how am I supposed to get readers and publishers to remember me? Yes, I have to make my work memorable first and foremost, but a writer's name is also their brand.
When Hibari-sensei's Classroom was on Livejournal, I joined a limerick writing group. In a discussion about submission guidelines, a moderator assumed I was not a native English speaker based on my handle, thus misinterpreting my point that strict style rules may discourage beginners from learning the form. I imagine that I would have similar struggles if I were to go by YueRu Wang. At the end of the day, I am still Jen, and I don't want to take away from those who have struggled more with a culture that does not embrace their name. This is something I wish Hudson had realized. His actions are a slap in the face to every writer of color who, for every publication that embraces diversity, has been dismissed by ten others—and we're not even talking about the daily struggles of having their name mispronounced, dismissed as too hard to pronounce, and mocked.
I also think Sherman Alexie shouldn't be held accountable. His backpedaling apology has set back efforts to make the literary world more diverse. He equated affirmative action with nepotism, playing into the hands of critics like the Sad Puppies. Instead of explaining the need to seek out minority voices and the context that their unique experience provides, he fumbled through an explanation that seemed to imply he only wanted a token Asian. Now readers are going to be suspicious when they see a foreign name, questioning whether the author got accepted on merit or on the biases of the editor.
Furthermore, in an effort to save face, Alexie kept Hudson's poem and pseudonym. This means Hudson got away with his lie, as his original goal was to get published. Even with the number of writers speaking out, he still has not faced the consequences (after all, we can be dismissed as angry social justice warriors). Alexie needs to do something to show that this is unacceptable.
Authenticity is important in the creative world. Plagiarism is a crime, and made-up non-fictional accounts are quickly condemned when the truth comes out. Heck, people don't even like the idea of ghost writers. Co-opting another race reeks of falsehood and furthers a history of oppression. Michael Derrick Hudson and Sherman Alexie have hurt of all of us who struggle to be heard with their selfishness. They need to start looking at the bigger picture beyond their privileged literary bubble.