Just A Little More On Betty Brown

Friday, April 10, 2009

Via mails and across the wire:

Boston Mayoral Candidate Sam Yoon Denounces Texas Lawmaker's Remarks

During House testimony on voter identification legislation this week, North Texas state legislator Betty Brown said that Asian-descent voters should adopt names that are “easier for Americans to deal with.” In response, Boston City Councilor-at-Large and mayoral candidate Sam Yoon, the first Asian American to hold elected office in Boston, released the following statement:

“It is insulting and simply wrong to suggest that Asians should deny their heritage in order to participate in the electoral process. Asian Americans have a proud and diverse ethnic heritage that prominently includes our language and our names. I join John Liu’s call for a full apology for the insensitive remarks of Representative Betty Brown.

“As this incident in Texas shows, there are many obstacles in the way of racial tolerance. I’ve been fighting a battle in Massachusetts to ensure voting rights for Chinese Americans who are denied a fully transliterated ballot. Unfortunately, we have a long way to go before Asian American citizens in this country are treated equally.”
From Ramey Ko via AAA-Fund Blog

In my conversation with [Texas Rep. Brown’s] Chief of Staff yesterday, she explicitly said that they were releasing the statement through [former Texas Rep.] Martha [Wong] rather than making it publicly because they didn’t want it to be in the press anymore.

I’d also note that 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.

“Alright, 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 it will work for us.”

And finally, it shows a lack of appreciation for the fact that whatever solution she might come up with, millions of Asian American voters today will be affected by the legislation.
Betty Brown's Response

Statement from State Representative Betty Brown
Thursday, April 9th, 2009
Contact: Jordan Berry – 903.288.7581

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.
At least this is going to make anyone else think twice about bringing this idea up again.