Representative Betty Brown Doesn’t “Want to Learn Chinese” to Say Your Name

by Latoya Peterson

Representative Betty Brown of Texas made waves yesterday by requesting that Asian voters “adopt a name we could deal with” when voting and filling out identification forms. The “we” specifically means meant Americans – but obviously, in Brown’s world, there are no Americans of Asian decent.

The Houston Chronicle notes

“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?”

In reading over this article, three things jumped to mind:

Issue One: Problem was, most of these people were already using two names:

Ko told the committee that people of Chinese, Japanese and Korean descent often have problems voting and other forms of identification because they may have a legal transliterated name and then a common English name that is used on their driver’s license on school registrations.

Issue Two:
Ko, brought up people of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean descent. They all got lumped into “Chinese” when she gave her answer.

Issue Three:
There is already a problem with Asian American voters being disenfranchised for various reasons. This comment may actually work out to be something positive for Asian American voters as Brown’s ignorant remarks brought attention to a measure that would have normally flown under the radar.

UPDATE: Readers PPR Scribe and Sukjong note that there is a fourth issue at play.

Issue Four: Brown’s comments help to reinforce the common stereotype that Asian-Americans are perpetual foreigners, that these citizens who are trying to exercise their right to vote are not “real Americans.”

Obviously, Brown denies any racism in her comment. Her spokesman Jordan Berry notes:

Berry said Democrats are trying to blow Brown’s comments out of proportion because polls show most voters support requiring identification for voting. Berry said the Democrats are using racial rhetoric to inflame partisan feelings against the bill.

“They want this to just be about race,” Berry said.


Feel free to let Betty Brown’s office know what you think (politely people, make sure you say something that can go into an official record):

Office #s:
(512) 463-0458
(903) 675-9500

(Thanks to readers Kameelah, Cherrie, McKeeKee, and Brinstar for the tip!)

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