Texas Rep. suggests Asian voters get easier names to "deal with"

Some interesting news of political dumbassery coming out of Texas... In Austin, during House testimony on voter identification legislation, state Rep. Betty Brown suggested that Asian Americans might want to adopt names that are "easier for Americans to deal with" when they want to vote so their names will match what is on registration rolls: Lawmaker suggests Asian-descendant voters should adopt names "easier for Americans to deal with."

That's sensitivity. Brown made her statements during testimony from our very own reader Ramey Ko, who was there representing the Organization of Chinese Americans. I'm sorry, Betty, if our strange, exotic Asian names cause such an inconvenience to you and your people. I guess you forgot the fact that us crazy-named folks are your people too... whether you like it or not.

Similar to laws that passed in Indiana, Georgia, and Florida, the voter ID bill under discussion would create more restrictions on the types of identification a voter would need to produce at a polling place -- a government-issued photo ID or two forms of non-photo ID from a designated list. This isn't particularly good news for the poor, elderly, college students, and minority groups.

Here's how it all went down, according to our man Ramey, straight from the Texas State Capitol. As he describes, it's a doozy:
I testified on behalf of OCA, and I used my three minutes of testimony to discuss how such a law would burden the APA community specifically. I talked about how Asian Americans are less likely to have photo ID, how poll worker discretion can create problems for Asian Americans, how burdensome and expensive getting naturalization documents can be for naturalized citizens, and also about how name-matching has been a particular problem for Asian Americans in states such as Florida, because of our use of transliterated names, adopting "Americanized" names for certain purposes, having multiple parts to names, frequent confusion of and misspelling of our names on documentation, etc.

After the testimony, the committee members could ask questions. State Representative Betty Brown asked me several questions, including a few on the name thing. A link to the video of yesterday's hearing is below. The questioning starts at about 3:31:30 (so go back three minutes to see my testimony). Brown makes several offensive statements during the course of the questioning, so take your pick.


Here is the exact text of one of the things Rep. Betty Brown said:

"Rather than everyone here having to learn Chinese - I understand it's a rather difficult language - do you think that it would be to you and your citizens to adopt a name that we could deal with more readily here?" (there is not a word missing there; that's what she said)

And then Betty Brown puts the onus on the Chinese-American community to not be disenfranchised by the Voter ID bill:

"I see a need here for young people like you, who are obviously very bright, to come up with something that would work for you and then let us see if we can't make it work for us."

In contrast, Dr. Alma Allen responded:

"I'm not a proponent of changing your name, I think names mean something in families…We don't want to damage cultures and ask people to change their names for the purpose of voting."

After that, you can see Rep. Brown kind of realizing the import of what she said, and she tries to do a little mea culpa at the end, saying she didn't really mean that we should change our culture, etc.

Not really that objectionable (except for the assumption that I'd know, I guess), though funny, she also asked if photo IDs were required to vote in China, to which I responded, "I don't think there are elections in China."
Zing! Good one, Ramey. I can see that Rep. Brown wasn't necessarily trying to be offensive... but that didn't stop her from digging a deep, dark hole and filling it with ignorant and disrespectful comments. Li, Wong, Park, Huynh, Chong... we're all here to stay, and we're not changing our names for you. "Deal" with that.

The Texas Democratic Party is demanding she apologize: Lawmaker defends comment on Asians. But Brown ain't having it, saying that Democrats are blowing her comments out of proportion, and making it "just about race." You're damn right it's about race! She made it about race, alienation, and the other. That's racist! (Thanks, Ramey.)

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