In a puzzling move which she insisted isn't about race, a Republican state lawmaker in Texas said in House testimony Wednesday that Asian Americans should change their names to ones that are “easier for Americans to deal with.”
Democrats jumped on the comments by state Rep. Betty Brown. Her remarks came during a Texas House Elections Committee hearing, who'd invited a Chinese American representative to testify about ballot accessibility.
“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 remarked.
“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?” she added.
A spokesman for the Texas Republican legislator told the Houston Chronicle her comments weren't about race -- she was only attempting to "overcome problems" with identifying Asian names "for voting purposes." Brown made the comment after the Chinese American representative, Ramey Ko, said people of Chinese, Japanese and Korean descent had trouble voting because their legal name may differ from the English name they use on their driver's licenses.
Democrats demanded an apology. Local Democratic Chairman Boyd Richie said that the Republicans were trying to suppress votes with a voter ID bill and that Brown is “adding insult to injury with her disrespectful comments.”
"State Representative Betty Brown's racially insensitive remarks have no place in America, and she should immediately and unconditionally apologize for her remarks," wrote Asian-American Democrats of Texas President AJ Durrani, according to a post on the Burnt Orange Report. "Please contact State Representative Betty Brown about her unacceptable remarks and ask her to apologize immediately in a public forum."
The following video was published by Austin, Texas NBC affiliate KXAN on April 9, 2009.
The original version of this story duplicated one paragraph. It has been corrected in this version and updated with new comments and a video.
Stephen C. Webster contributed to this report
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