Call me Eugene MacGyver

By Eugene Cho 04-13-2009

090413-macgyverWhat do you do with something like this?

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."

I've heard these sort of comments many times before but when they come from one of your government leaders, it's a punch to the guts. Brings up memories of "Go back where you came from..."

Or even the recent elections that "B-a-r-a-c-k O-b-a-m-a" doesn't sound American so he must be a Muslim, and thus, he must be a terrorist?!? Huh?

But if Asians have to change our last names, I want to be called: Eugene MacGyver or Eugene Kennedy III.

Alright, what do you think?

Me? I know that Rep. Betty Brown didn't mean harm. Having watched the video, it wasn't mean-spirited in any bit, but it certainly demonstrates ignorance. I often hear people speak of how far we've come. Certainly true. We should truly enjoy the progress of our nation.

But we should not fool ourselves that we've arrived -- lest we fall prey to our collective ignorance.

As a follower of Christ, I'm thankful and compelled for the work of reconciliation that God has called us to. Thankful for the grace given to us through the cross of Christ. Grace given and grace extended. But having said that, let's just say it: While not mean-spirited, the statement is ludicrous.

[article] AUSTIN - 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.

Easier for voting?
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?"

Democratic Chairman Boyd Richie said Republicans are trying to suppress votes with a partisan identification bill and said Brown "is adding insult to injury with her disrespectful comments."

Brown spokesman Jordan Berry said Brown was not making a racially motivated comment but was trying to resolve an identification problem.

Berry said Democrats are trying to blow Brown's comments out of proportion because polls show most voters support requiring identification for voting. Berry said the Democrats are using racial rhetoric to inflame partisan feelings against the bill.

"They want this to just be about race," Berry said.

Eugene ChoEugene Cho, a second-generation Korean-American, is the founder and lead pastor of Quest Church in Seattle and the executive director of Q Cafe, an innovative nonprofit neighborhood café and music venue. He and his wife are also launching a grassroots humanitarian organization to fight global poverty. You can stalk him at his blog or follow him on Twitter.

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