Brown Apologizes for "Misunderstanding"

Ed. Note: In response to national outrage, Texas GOP Rep. Betty Brown issued a written apology for her remarks about Asian American names. What do you think of her apology? Please comment below, or send us your thoughts and we’ll post them on our Blog.

Statement from State Representative Betty Brown
Thursday, April 9th, 2009
Contact: Jordan Berry – 903.288.7581

State Representative Betty Brown apologizes for her remark in the Elections Committee on Tuesday, April 7th. Representative Brown appreciates Ramey Ko’s testimony which made the Elections Committee aware of experiences Asian-American’s have when acquiring identification. Representative Brown appreciates the diversity of Texas and the enrichment that the Asian-American community has brought to our great state.

She would like for you to be aware that the quote that is being circulated is one sentence out of a conversation she was having with Mr. Ko, who represents the Organization of Chinese Americans, while he was testifying. The conversation was regarding possible difficulties in translating names. Later in the conversation Representative 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.”

Representative Brown expresses gratitude to her Asian-American friends for their demonstration of support by her during this misunderstanding.


Update from our friend Ramey Ko:

In my conversation with [Texas Rep. Brown’s] Chief of Staff yesterday, she explicitly said that they were releasing the statement through [former Texas Rep.] Martha [Wong] rather than making it publicly because they didn’t want it to be in the press anymore.

I’d also note that the apology doesn’t address her use twice of language that implies Asian Americans aren’t Americans:

“Do you think that it would behoove you and your citizens to adopt a name that we could deal with more readily here.”

“Can’t you see that this is something that would make it a lot easier for both you and for people who are pollworkers, if there were some means by which you could adopt a name just for your poll identification purposes that would be easier for the Americans to deal with?”

I think that implication is reflective of a lot more than just misspeaking about names.

And regardless of whether she is talking about explicitly changing Asian names to Westernized ones, she clearly is asking Asian Americans to shoulder the burden and cost of somehow “streamlining” our names in order to vote.

“Alright, I see a need here for young people like you, who are obviously very bright, to come up with something that would work for you, and then let us see if it will work for us.”

And finally, it shows a lack of appreciation for the fact that whatever solution she might come up with, millions of Asian American voters today will be affected by the legislation.

Note: The AAA-Fund welcomes a diversity of views and voices. In that spirit, the views expressed in this article are the author's own. Unless an article states that it was written by the AAA-Fund or its Board of Directors, it does not necessarily reflect the views of the AAA-Fund.


  1. Justin says:

    This is not an apology. It’s an unpology.

  2. gautam says:

    Here’s a Houston TV news story about the aftermath of Brown’s remarks:


  3. Justin says:

    That was from their 4PM broadcast. They version that aired during their 6PM broadcast was better, I thought. Hopefully they’ll post that too.

  4. When will elected officials have the honesty and grace to apologize for real instead of speaking doubletalk to avoid admitting they were wrong and ask forgiveness for giving offense? Representative Betty Brown’s defensive “unapology” is a sop which is unacceptable and insulting.

  5. this sounds like a hannah montana apology.

    i’m so sick of public figures giving these non-apologies or statements in which they claim that they didn’t realize their statement or action was offensive. the messed up thing is that they always seem to be forgiven because the media attention just disappears afterwards. wtf? i for one would love for asians nationwide to organize and ruin their careers.

  6. She shifts blame to all those who disagree and thus misunderstand her. We understand her perfectly and it’d behoove us for her to resign from serving a nation unlike the one she thinks it ought to be.

  7. Summermoat says:

    I understand completely what Betty Brown said & what she meant. I saw the footage of this conversation. It is you (Betty Brown) not us (Asian-Americans) that is having a “misunderstanding.”
    Also I find it amusing that the “apology” states “She would like for you to be aware that the quote that is being circulated is one sentence out of a conversation..”
    Listening to the full conversation actually makes her look worse, “Transliterated, or whatever it’s referred to” Which is it? Transliterate or Translate? They’re two different things.

    Now most of us with “difficult Asian names” living in America write our names in the Romanized/Transliterated form NOT foreign script, so you don’t have to worry about learning Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Indonesian, Thai, Vietnamese etc. etc.
    Our names are already transliterated and you’re not talking about our names being changed, but you want us to adopt a name that’s easier to deal with? Because WE “can’t see” that it would make our/your poll workers lives easier?

    I like..no scratch that I love my surname. I’ve been made fun of b/c of my name. I’ve heard/seen crazy versions of my name by people who can’t spell/copy/read. I’ve been told I’m not even going to try to say your name (by people who kinda got then forgot it). I’ll take the screw ups in my name because why would I change it for you even temporarily?It’s my identity, I don’t want to be Sarah Johnson or anything like that…ever, I like being different.
    And If you told me ten years ago that in 2009 an mixed African-American with “a difficult name”, a father from another country, partially raised in Indonesia would be our 44th President. I would say nooo way, maybe further down the road not 2009.
    Boom! Here we are, and I gotta say it feels great to have a man in the White House that we can relate to in many ways.

    It’s not easy being Asian, out of all the ethnic groups who gets all this crap? Everyone saying “oh you’re all the same” “where are you from?” here “no really where are you from?” we get racist comments/gestures “oh get over it, it’s nothing” companies make offensive shirts “two wongs make it white.” These would be considered small things? And then we’re supposed to temporarily give up our identity so people can deal with us & so we don’t cause any confusion at the voting polls?

  8. Whoa,
    It does not matter where you are from, and it never did. Where are you now and why are you here.
    I read this Brown comment and thought it was something probably taken out of context or massaged by someone to start a fight. This woman is trying to solve a problem not create a racist war of words. Come on. We may all need to lighten-up. My family was from England. They came here a long time ago. So what!!! I do not call myself and English-American. I am American. Once everyone that complains that they are being persecuted, embarrassed or slighted because something said in a brainstorming session needs to get over theirselves. Move on. I read all of these comments and there are some common thread’s. Not one has offered to help by Volunteering to be available on election day to help with the translation’s problems, might be a first step. But this will not work as then (we,you,us) would not have anything to gripe about. The second thing I see is a bunch of wood gathering, to fuel a fire that needs to go out. Wah Wah Wah

  9. Throw that Texan into the well after Tikki Tikki Tembo and Texas style, ‘drive friendly’ away.
    Pretend she offered a real apology, and pray there’s only one of her.

  10. Quan says:

    Let’s forgive this incident, but never forget. We don’t need to accept an apology written in the third person for someoneone from someone who clearly has no repentance in her heart and in her mind. Let’s have a Betty watch campaign… every move you make from this point, Betty, we’ll be right on you !!!

  11. This is not an apology. Will she tell Spanish people “you should speak English rather than Spanish.” She should resign.

  12. this was NOT an apology — she should resign effective IMMEDIATLY or Texas Legislature should force her out — there are so many Asian Americans in Texas – we should stand up for ourselves and have our voice be heard!

  13. Caroline says:

    Unfortunately, she’s not the only one in Texas – previously, during an immigration debate, State Rep. Leo Berman told a Chinese American attorney to “go home!” and “kiss my ass!” Justin posted about Berman before.

    Not surprisingly, they are both members of the FAIR front group State Legislators for Legal Immigration, which not only opposes undocumented but also legal immigrants. This just clearly shows the hypocrisy of the organization and its members.

    Not only are they not for legal immigrants, they’re not for citizens with funny names.

  14. Justin says:

    Not for citizens with funny names? Her name is a dessert. That’s a funny name.

  15. Alyssa says:

    She shouldn’t even hold a position that represents the people if she is too ignorant to understand the people of our country. As seen in the above quotes, she clearly implied (as any average individual could notice) that Asian Americans and other minorities should adopt a name that “we” could deal with more readily in the U.S.. What’s so difficult about pronouncing a name that isn’t completely Americanized? Seriously, adults that are pollworkers should be literate enough to pronounce English words, both those that are familiar and those that were not originally in English. Because I am currently a junior in high school, I can hope that those who are employed as pollworkers can understand the English language (hopefully they graduated from high school?!)

    Also, having minorities change their names to aid those that are incapable of pronouncing unique names (they shouldn’t even have the job then!) would take away from the great diversity in America. This country is supposed to be the “Melting pot” not a place where minorities are requested to change their identities.

    Another point: If this woman doesn’t even have the ability to make her point of view clear and understandable, she cannot be expected to have a reliable voice as our state representative. At the very least, she should give a direct apology to the minorities of America or resign (if the whole nation’s noticed, give a better apology!).

  16. Alyssa says:

    Not only were her comments offensive to Asian Americans (as I expressed in detail), her ignorance sticks out like a sore thumb! I am both Caucasian and African American and her tone towards Ramey Ko is like a slap in the face to any minority. She’s calling out every citizen that has a unique name, including Barack Obama. Brown has just ruined career in my eyes.

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