Update: Texas Rep. Betty Brown’s statement about her comments about Asian names

Via Angry Asian Man, who’s always ahead of the AAPI news cycle: Texas State Representative Betty Brown released a statement through her spokesman today, in which she apologizes for her comment during a legislative session earlier this week, and then says the line that’s being quoted was taken out of context.

That line, if you haven’t seen it by now, is one in which she suggested Asians could change their names to something that “Americans” (which we’re apparently not, even though the law in question is a voting IS bill) could more easily deal with:

“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?”

Here’s her statement today, which was sent out but is not available on her state legislature web page:

State Representative Betty Brown apologizes for her remark in the Elections Committee on Tuesday, April 7th. Representative Brown appreciates Ramey Ko’s testimony which made the Elections Committee aware of experiences Asian-American’s have when acquiring identification. Representative Brown appreciates the diversity of Texas and the enrichment that the Asian-American community has brought to our great state.

She would like for you to be aware that the quote that is being circulated is one sentence out of a conversation she was having with Mr. Ko, who represents the Organization of Chinese Americans, while he was testifying. The conversation was regarding possible difficulties in translating names. Later in the conversation Representative Brown explained what she had meant by her comment. “I’m not talking about changing your name. I’m talking about the transliteration, or whatever you refer to it, that you could use for us.”

Representative Brown expresses gratitude to her Asian-American friends for their demonstration of support by her during this misunderstanding.

Ramey Ko, the representative from the Organization of Chinese Americans (and, notably, the founder of Asian Americans for Obama during last year’s presidential campaign), posted his reaction to Brown’s statement on the Asian American Action Fund website:

…the apology doesn’t address her use twice of language that implies Asian Americans aren’t Americans:

“Do you think that it would behoove you and your citizens to adopt a name that we could deal with more readily here.”

“Can’t you see that this is something that would make it a lot easier for both you and for people who are pollworkers, if there were some means by which you could adopt a name just for your poll identification purposes that would be easier for the Americans to deal with?”

I think that implication is reflective of a lot more than just misspeaking about names.

And regardless of whether she is talking about explicitly changing Asian names to Westernized ones, she clearly is asking Asian Americans to shoulder the burden and cost of somehow “streamlining” our names in order to vote.

I agree with Ko, that even if the comments were innocent, they reflect a deeper undercurrent that washes through not just Betty Brown’s blood, but many people, and though usually hidden and controlled under a facade of modern political correctness, can bubble up and reveal an ugly xenophobia that has in America’s past turned public, hateful and violent.

I’m afraid that it’s still there, just beneath the skin.

Added May 1: Here’s a list of coverage of the Betty Brown issue which also includes the hilarious text of an open letter to Betty from the blog Dsigrasian.

1 Comment to "Update: Texas Rep. Betty Brown’s statement about her comments about Asian names"

  1. April 11, 2009 - 11:01 am | Permalink

    1. Get your Betty-Brown-Approved-Name here.

    2. Throw that Texan into the well after Tikki Tikki Tembo.

    3. Texas style, ‘drive friendly’ away.

    4. Pray there’s only one of her.

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