What’s in a name?

WHAT’S IN A NAME?…. By now, you may have heard about the very foolish remarks made by a Texas Republican about Asian Americans changing their names for the convenience of everyone else. It’s quite a story.

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.

State Rep. Brown asked Ko, “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?”

What amazes me about this is that Brown was talking to someone named “Ko.” It’s pronounced, “Ko.” Just two letters, pretty hard to screw up. Why it would “behoove” Ko to adopt an “easier” name is a mystery.

But if we take Brown’s point a little further, maybe Asian Americans aren’t the problem here. Texas is represented, for example, by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R). It’s easy to misspell Hutchison — I’ve added an “n” after the “i” more than once — so maybe the senator would be so kind as to change her name so we could deal with it more readily. For that matter, Texas’ congressional delegation also includes names like Hensarling and Neugebauer. Those aren’t easy to say or spell, so if they wouldn’t mind picking something more common, I’m sure that would be more convenient for a lot of people.

More to the point, the hearing was about voter identification, and Brown asked that Asian Americans make matters “a lot easier” for voters and “poll workers.” Of course, a lot of Asian-American voters have already done exactly that, which in turn has led to — you guessed it — problems at the voting precincts because the proper names don’t match the “easier” names.

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