Open Letter to Representative Betty Brown

Dear Representative Betty Brown:

Recently you made a comment that “Asian-descent voters should adopt names that are easier for Americans to deal with.” This controversial comment has outraged the Texas Democratic Party, citizens of the state of Texas, the Asian American community and Americans of all races across the United States who put their faith in the legislators that they have elected to represent them.

It is clear that your comments are the result of a menace that has plagued generation upon generation of Americans: ignorance. Clearly, you have lacked interactions with Asian Americans, who take pride in the names their parents gave them. Clearly, you have no understanding of the thought and significance that go into these names. Clearly, you are disregarding the fact that the United States is comprised of diverse individuals with equally diverse cultures. But perhaps the most offensive component of this scenario is your refusal to offer an apology to the many Americans that you have offended.

Your refusal of an apology and defense of your remarks make me wonder—who will be next? What will follow? Will you also call for Latino Americans, African Americans and European Americans with uncommon names to change them as well to accommodate their peers? Was there a reason for singling out Asian Americans? When we’re left with a nation of John’s and Betty’s, will you then call for Americans to alter other aspects of their cultures? Their religion? The way they dress? How they celebrate holidays?

Representative Brown, you asked Organization of Chinese Americans member and activist Ramey 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?” I must ask YOU: “How will abandoning a part of you that you have had since birth make things easier?” What are we teaching people when we close our minds to who they truly are and ask them to do the same?

We have learned that in America, anything is possible if you are willing to work hard and dedicate yourself to a cause that you believe in. I believe that diversity makes us special. I believe that I can go to the polls with an uncommon name and be treated the same way as someone named Jane Smith. I even believe that no ignorant individual is beyond redemption…even you, Representative Brown. I urge you to use this unfortunate incident not only as an opportunity to reach out to the people you have offended, but also to educate yourself and others on the rich diversity of our great nation.

Melissa Montenegro

This entry was posted in Asian American, diversity, race, Representative Betty Brown, voting. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Open Letter to Representative Betty Brown

  1. rachelmeeks says:

    A very mature and eloquent letter. This is really outrageous. I’m not asian-american, but my maiden name was “Sykora,” which people had a lot of trouble with. I can’t imagine being asked to change it for convenience’s sake. And names just in general are always well thought our and lovingly chosen. Jane Smith’s parents thought as long and hard about their daughter’s name as Joker Arroyo’s parents (that’s a real person btw)! So unfair.

  2. v55173w says:

    Thanks for the feedback! I love my name…always have, and I can’t imagine ever changing it just because someone else thinks it’s too difficult to learn! I figure if I ever get married, I’d even consider hyphenating. Montenegro is a part of who I am.

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