Having a hard time pronouncing that Chinese name? Don’t ask the person to pronounce it for you…just tell them to get a new name.
Last week during a House hearing on voter identification, Texas State Rep. Betty Brown (R) was diagnosed with foot-in-mouth syndrome after she suggested Asian-Americans change their names because they’re too hard to pronounce. Said the dear Congresswoman:
“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?” In addressing Mr. Ramey Ko, a representative from the Organization of Chinese Americans, Brown went on to ask, “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?” I can only imagine the amount of restraint Mr. Ko must have had to keep him jumping over the Brown’s desk and dropkicking her.
In my capacity, I deal with dozens of international students; many of whom do – in fact – have names very difficult to pronounce. But have we gotten so arrogant and self-absorbed as a nation that we can not take five seconds out of our life to learn a name? Admittedly, many of my aforementioned students – probably recognizing the difficulty of their name – have adopted Americanized names for the sake of accommodating everyday social interactions. But that should be up to them to decide, not some ignorant, culturally-insensitive, Texas cowgirl…especially when she would not ask somebody named Krzyzewski (pronounced “Sha-zef-skee”, by the way) to do the same.
In Brown’s defense, I can somewhat understand her position, given how diametically opposed I am to people who give their children ghetto names. But to directly attack a specific ethnic group just to avoid the occasional lesson in cultural and ethnic acceptance takes the cake. Somebody, PLEASE, pass legislation to make Texas a separate country.
Thank you. End of rant.