Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

What’s in a name, Betty Brown style

You know, I was just thinking the other day that what this legislative session was lacking was a dose of absurdity. Thank God for people like State Rep. Betty Brown.

A North Texas legislator during House testimony on voter identification legislation said Asian-descent voters should adopt names that are “easier for Americans to deal with.”

The comments caused the Texas Democratic Party on Wednesday to demand an apology from state Rep. Betty Brown, R-Terrell. But a spokesman for Brown said her comments were only an attempt to overcome problems with identifying Asian names for voting purposes.

The exchange occurred late Tuesday as the House Elections Committee heard testimony from Ramey Ko, a representative of the Organization of Chinese Americans.

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.

Brown suggested that Asian-Americans should find a way to make their names more accessible.

“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?”

Just so we’re all clear here, Rep. Brown is one of the voter ID pushers, who has already tried to attach a voter ID bill as an amendment to an unrelated bill. There’s no particular reason I can see to give her much benefit of the doubt. BOR has video of the exchange as well as the substantive response to this. Miya, whose name I’ve always found pretty easy to deal with, says “Imagine telling a Polish American that his name needs a few extra vowels, just to make it easier to pronounce”. Speaking as someone whose mother’s name was Abbruzza, which is a shortened from Abbruzzese, I can relate to that.

Having dealt with the serious, let me now join in with the mockery, of which there has been plenty. (If you click on only one of those links, make it the last one so you can see what your official Betty Brown American Name is. Mine is Roy “Cracker Barrel” Brown.) See, the problem with Betty’s suggestion is that it didn’t go far enough. Why stop at just Asian names? There’s plenty of so-called American names that are too hard for people to deal with and thus get screwed up all the time. I want to see someone introduce a bill that will enforce a little standardization on names. Like “Katherine” for example – is it spelled with a C or a K? And is that second vowel supposed to be an A or an E? How do you expect poll workers to verify people’s identity if we don’t even know how to spell a common name like that? And that’s just the beginning – don’t get me started on “Kristin/Kristen”, “Stuart/Stewart”, “Mark/Marc”, “Sara/Sarah” – the list goes on and on. Only you can save us, Betty! Assuming that’s “Betty” with a Y and not “Bettie” with an IE, or – God help me – “Bettye” with a YE. You can’t be too sure these days.

UPDATE: Here’s a nice link roundup from the Asian American Action Fund blog.

UPDATE: Still more from Martha, Stace, and Letters from Texas.

UPDATE: Rep. Brown apologizes.

Related Posts:

4 Comments

  1. Peter Wang says:

    So what’s wrong with my name? Oh, I guess if you can’t read, any name is too difficult.

  2. I am Forrest “Pabst Blue Ribbon” Brown. Sadly, I think she’s already got grandchildren with the same name.

  3. Baby Snooks says:

    Betty Brown is just another example of why a growing number of Republicans are no longer voting for Republicans.