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Liu condemns Texas congresswoman for remarks on Asian names

City Councilman John Liu (D−Flushing) joined Asian American leaders nationwide last week in condemning Texas U.S. Rep. Betty Brown (R−Athens) for suggesting that citizens of Asian descent change their names to something “easier for Americans to deal with.”

Brown made the comments during a hearing held by the House of Representatives’ Elections Committee on Feb. 7 amid a discussion of voter problems affecting immigrants in elections.

Brown was responding to Ramey Ko, a representative of the Organization of Chinese Americans, when she made the controversial statement.

“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?”

She later added: “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?”

The statements have spurred a nationwide outcry and Liu, the first Asian American to be elected to the City Council, demanded that Brown apologize or resign.

“It is outrageous and insulting for you to suggest it would ‘behoove’ us to adopt another name, to give up our birthright and a part of our own identity, in order to exercise our right to vote,” Liu said in a letter to Brown. “Perhaps it would indeed behoove the great State of Texas to boast of a Legislature with honorable elected officials who are not obstacles toward equal opportunity and democratic participation. I urge you to either issue a formal apology for your misguided comments or resign immediately.”

Brown issued a statement late Friday afternoon that said her comments were taken out of context and not intended to be insulting.

“Later in the conversation, Rep. 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,’” the statement said. “Rep. Brown expresses gratitude to her Asian American friends for their demonstration of support by her during this misunderstanding.”

Liu said her statement does not go far enough.

“Rep. Brown’s statement is a fair first step, but she must acknowledge more. It is not only the one sentence about ‘transliteration’ on which she chose to base her apology. It is the other statements during her conversation in full with Mr. Ko, where she suggested making the situation ‘easier’ so ‘Americans’ can understand and better ‘deal with.’”

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e−mail at or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 138.

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