Thursday, April 09, 2009

Texan Republican Legislator: Asians Should Make Their Names Easier For "Americans" To Deal With

Sometimes it is hard to decipher whether comments like Representative Betty Brown's are ignorant, racist or both. She made headlines on Tuesday while asking questions of Ramey Ko concerning voting rights and accessibility for Asian-Americans. Making the process easier to vote is a great thing, but the way you go about it is important as well. This would be an example of how not to proceed.

From The Houston Chronicle:

Brown suggested that Asian-Americans should find a way to make their names more accessible.

“Rather than everyone here having to learn Chinese — I understand it’s a rather difficult language — do you think that it would behoove you and your citizens to adopt a name that we could deal with more readily here?” Brown said.

Brown later told Ko: “Can’t you see that this is something that would make it a lot easier for you and the people who are poll workers if you could adopt a name just for identification purposes that’s easier for Americans to deal with?”

Brown and her Republican colleagues then fanned the flames by not apologizing and instead accused Democrats of playing the race card. Yet if you go by the old creed of "It isn't what you say but how you say it," then hearing Brown's comments reek of ignorance and extreme ethnocentrism. Chinese may be hard for her to learn, but I doubt she's ever had the thought that English could be hard for others to learn as well.

Now plenty of people go by nicknames, whether they are Asian or not. Voting should be done with a person's legal name and the state of Texas should inform voters of that responsibility to use their legal name. No one has to change their name to suit narrow-minded elected officials like Betty Brown. It's as simple as that.