Texas Reps ideas recall isolationism

Texas Representative Betty Brown, R-Terrell, made the suggestion that Asians should change their names for ease of pronunciation, while talking with Organization of Chinese Americans representative Ramey Ko at a hearing on April 6.

On the same day, Oklahoma Representative Randy Terrill, R-Moore, sponsored a bill designating English as the state’s official language.

It may be that these English-speaking isolationist legislators simply don’t have the exposure to identify their own myopia.’

Brown’s ignorance of culture beyond her narrow world showed most clearly in another portion of the hearing on a pending Texas Voter ID law, where she seemingly forgot that China is a communist country.’

‘Is there a proof of any kind of identification in China in order to participate in an election?’ Brown asked at the April 6 hearing.

‘Well, there’s not a lot of elections in China,’ Ko responded.

‘Touch’eacute;,’ Brown said.

For a conservative politician who lived through McCarthyism to forget details about China’s differences in government are unusual at best and egregious at worst.’

Terrill’s HJR 1042 largely addressed such issues as designation of Oklahoma’s official dinosaur and official vegetable, in addition to the designation of English as Oklahoma’s official language.

Both Terrill and Brown cite bureaucratic overhead and accuracy as reasons to curtail the rights of naturalized citizens and residents to express their own culture.’

New citizens of the U.S. are no longer the poor and oppressed of other countries as imagined by Emma Lazarus.’ They can’t afford to be.’

With the price of a green card renewal at $370 and the cost of naturalization application at $380, the so-called natural rights of U.S. social freedoms are at a premium.

Yet, when immigrants get here, they realize naturalization does not automatically confer the right of self-expression on a new citizen when it comes to culture.’

In some alarming parallels to European Jews in early 1800s, naturalization as practiced by Brown merely serves to homogenize the population and separate them from their communities and traditional ways of tracking and communicating culturally important information.

Prior to the Prussian emancipation laws of 1812, the Berlin Jewish community’s records had been kept in Hebrew, a language understood by the community.’ When the 1812 law passed, these records were kept instead in German, a language less accessible to the community.

If, in a bureaucracy, the individual cannot access and respond of their own volition to a communication, can they really be said to be responsible for the information transmitted?

A language barrier causes the basic sniff test of personal responsibility to fail.’
Bureaucracy is an organizational tool to assist in the governance of the masses.’ It is a poor reason to disenfranchise citizens in a representational government.

In Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, missionaries argued special licensing was used to prevent them from working with Native American tribes they served.’ The missionaries were at the time working against the Indian Removal act, which led to the Trail of Tears.’

The American system of checks and balances offers us the opportunity to have a government that evolves with culture. Alienating people from the system removes their ability to work within it and, all too often, ends up contributing to massive human rights abuses.

Given long-standing racial tensions in the South, any cavalier dismissal of the rights of a minority group to maintain its culture seems either ignorant or arrogant.’

Either way it comes down, by alienating the Asian community – or any other with different languages and traditions – Brown and Terrill are unlikely to advance their state or national agenda.’

Dinosaurs, official or otherwise, have little place in an evolving political process. It is hoped Brown and Terrill will learn from history, even if they cannot look forward.

Shaista Mohammed is an anthropology and communication sophomore and may be reached at [email protected].

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