Eugene Cho

call me eugene macgyver from here on out

macgyver-movie

What 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

Go ahead, suggest a new last name for me!

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.

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22 Responses

  1. Dan Cho says:

    Awesome!

    At least she’s being honest. Yeah, right.

    I want to be known as Dan DANIEL.That’s right, in all caps. Not hard to pronounce, either. 🙂

  2. Tony says:

    Oh goodness… it would be Terrell, too. My wife is from that town and that definitely sounds like something one might hear there. Ugh. It always frustrates me when people say things that are hurtful and then refuse to acknowledge the fact that people are affected by their words. There are some serious implications that go along with this suggestion. The thought that one should be asked to distance themselves from something as central to their identity and culture as their own name is pretty dang ridiculous. Although I will admit that “Cho” is pretty tricky to “deal with.” I mean… maybe the “CH” makes a hard sound, like the word “chiropractor.” 😉

    By the way, as sweet as Eugene Macgyver sounds, I want to be the first to cast my vote for “Eugene Levy.” He was one of the stars of “American Pie,” after all.

  3. This isn’t really an Asian issue. It’s an immigrant issue. And it’s not new. Immigrant families have always lived with this same tension. My surname, Boydston, was originally Boyleston in Scotland — changed in America to make it easier on American tongues. Numerous Johnsons and Andersons and Carlsons coming from Sweden were encouraged to adopt American names because there were too many Johnsons, Andersons, and Carlsons to distinguish them from each other — even with middle initials. Schmidts became Smiths when they arrived from Germany. Brauns became Browns and Kochs became Cooks. Asimakoupoulos became Smith (and then Asimakoupoulos again — eventually.)

    Not all changed their names to fit in. Many just chuckled and went about their business because they had other concerns more pressing.

  4. Al Shaw says:

    Are we allowed to be humorous yet?

    If so, may I introduce your readers to a Thai student by the name of Apichart Patyiapinyapong, know to his friends as Chart?

    When does pragmatism become racism?

  5. Artin Boghosian says:

    An interesting note: I’m Armenian. As a result, there are certain letters in my alphabet that almost no Westerner could pronounce. Imagine trying to pronounce these: ts, kh, gh <- those are the transliteration of the actual letters in Armenian. Should Americans have to adjust to me or should I have to adjust to Americans? I don’t know, but there are a lot of immigrants in LA lol!

  6. Eric says:

    How about Bubba.

    Being from Texas I think alot of those guys have a hard time pronounceing anything but names like Bubba. I knew more Bubba’s in texas and I don’t think I’ve met one before or since.

  7. teresa says:

    My grandfather immigrated from Germany in 1909…his name was Bohnke (but had two dots over the o, making it pronounced more like Bernke). “Americans” couldn’t deal with it, so it quickly became prounounced “Bonkey”-which, as I learned on the first day of first grade at recess, was just like a little four legged animal with big ears….

    We have many friends whose names have been butchered in the process of becoming refugees and what they end up with is not even close to what they started with.

    I would have loved to give up my name, but no one should have to just to make someone else’s ignorance more comfortable.

  8. Matt says:

    if you named yourself Eugene Driscoll Osteen Jakes Stanley Bell Warren Graham, you could be a pastor with a confused theology but also attract every type of christian to your church :-P.

    I’d name myself Matthew Kimberly, or Matt Kim for short. I win! I keep my last name. 😛

  9. Karen Claassen says:

    First, I have to say: Thank you Matt. First laugh-out-loud moment of the day.

    You could, of course, become a traditionalist with AugustineAquinasWesleyBonhoefferBarth instead.

    Or go with the church bad-boys: AriusMarcionNestoriusOrigenPelagius.

    Thanks for this post, Eugene. While the video gave me the heebie-jeebies, it is a great demonstration of grace under pressure by Ramey Ko. As was Jian Ghomeshi’s behavior towards Billy Bob Thornton if you have seem that video making the rounds (if not, do NOT watch. Ugh.)

  10. Thanks for finding this Eugene. I’d like to thank the Texas legislature for helping me decide on the new spelling for my name:
    “Jack 危险 Canty”

    Soon to be used at my local polling place 😉

  11. Capt Ralph says:

    OK – I hope I am not changing the subject. My first reaction is…………not about names but I object to voting ballots in other languages. Not so much offended but concerned that (from my anthropology/linguistics background) democracy might not translate to other languages – and culture is largely found in the context of language. And I agree with Teresa, many (if not most) European immigrants “Americanized” their names – and then their grandchildren changed them back! 🙂 Just ask the “awesome rev” at Mercer Island Covenant Church. Rev Greg’s grandfather took the name Smith – and the “awesome rev” (thanks “hooked on phonics” changed it his last name back to Asimakoupoulis. 🙂

  12. Capt Ralph says:

    ooopppsss Asimakoupoulos……….

  13. MAC says:

    @jack- I love it.

  14. Rick in Texas says:

    @Eric – I live in Texas and I don’t know anyone named or called Bubba. And if characterizing people is inconsiderate, it’s always inconsiderate. I’m not in the least upset with the remark you made, but I do find it interesting that insensitive remarks about asians are out of line, but characterizations that suggest Texan men are so stupid that they cannot pronounce names that are not like Bubba are apparently OK. And incidentally I am not a Texan by birth – I was born and grew up about 70 miles from Eugene’s Bay Area home.

  15. DW says:

    you seriously couldn’t have picked a better name. MacGyver has always been my hero.

    oh, I should have added also that MacGyver is so much easier to say and spell than your crazy asian names like “Cho.”

  16. Frank says:

    I’m changing my name to Mike Krzyzewski to help all the “Americans” in Texas.

  17. neu says:

    Lord, this upset me. As someone whose full name is 22 characters long and has many letters of the alphabet, my parents had to shorten my name some on my birth certificate, without jeopardizing the meaning.

    People STILL can’t pronounce it correctly. I tell them to drop the hyphenated part of my name, and they still can’t pronounce it. As a 15 year old in college, I was seriously considering changing my name so people would stop acting so ignorant about it.

    I have this rule: if you can pronounce Shigeru Miyamoto, my name should not be hard. I’m usually too ticked off to give people Nigerian Linguistics 101.
    And if you think Shigeru is so hard to pronounce, like the Representative mentioned, God help you.

    I’m sick of the Anglo-Saxon name thing going on. People wouldn’t blink an eye if my name was Patience Door (translation of my name).

    @ Artin – part of my name is Urhobo (ethnic group in Nigeria) and it has combinations of “vw” and “gh”. Small world, ain’t it?

  18. Wow, I hadn’t heard that. It’s really sad that people still talk about stuff like that.

    It reminded me though of a children’s book called The Name Jar (http://www.amazon.com/Name-Jar-Yangsook-Choi/dp/0440417996/) about a Korean girl who moves to the US and is at first encouraged to pick an American name. In the end she decides to keep her given name and take pride in her heritage.

    My daughter has a German first name and an Old English middle name. My son has a Gaelic first name and an Elvish middle name… I’m sure they will be taunted for that too, but I hope they can live into their names.

  19. Peter Chou says:

    Thank you for this blog entry. I found it hilarious. I grew up having my name constantly butchered because of the way it was spelled. Like you, it is pronounced “Cho”, but I’ve been called “Chu, “Chow”, and “Coo-Oh”. I think if I were to change my name it would be Max Powers.

  20. Andy M says:

    I think this is rather amusing considering that we can’t even pronounce some of our own names in America. Between just meeting random people and then the work that me and my wife do, we see a lot of strange names of Americans that either the spelling is odd, or the pronunciation, or both. Not to say that it is bad to have those names, (though I sometimes feel bad for the child who got named), but how could we tell immigrants to change their name when we can’t keep up with our own?

    Seriously, American’s need to challenge themselves by learning more of their own language, and then others as well. If anything, learning a person’s real name is significant, and taking the time to learn how to call someone by their name could be a good way to start a relationship.

  21. eugenecho says:

    @brad:

    i agree that it’s NOT an asian issue. it involves an immigration issue. but if you think this is EXCLUSIVELY an immigration issue, i strongly disagree with you.

    peace in guam.

  22. charlestlee says:

    Hey Eugene,

    Just call yourself Eugene Lee…easy to pronounce and we could be brothers. 🙂

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One Day’s Wages

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Collaboration.

col·lab·o·ra·tion
kəˌlabəˈrāSH(ə)n/
noun

the action of working with someone or a group of others  to produce or create something.

May we hold our logos, egos, and tribalism have their place. May we hold them loosely for they too shall pass. May we collaborate for the sake of the greater Kingdom of God ... which endures forever. As we honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., don't forget the God behind the man. The one true God who deposited this dream into MLK is still speaking to us today. Are we listening?

Be courageous. Be brave.

Being invited by the King Family to speak at the MLK worship service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in 2016 remains one of the most unexpected honors of my life. On the right is his daughter, Dr. Bernice King and his sister, Dr. Christine King Farris. Walking throughstreet markets in different parts of the world is the best. Soaking in the culture. Listening to the local language and music. Enjoying the amazing cuisine. Meeting new friends. Praying for the Gospel to penetrate. #ChiangRai Blessed be the local, indigenous leaders for it is they who live in the very communities they seek to love. For it is they who understand their context and culture...better than a Westerner ever will. For it is they who will continue to tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love when visitors like me leave.

Yes, blessed be the local, indigenous leaders. What an honor and privilege to celebrate with the on-the-ground local @thefreedomstory team to celebrate the recent opening of their Education and Resource Center for the local youth in Chiang Rai, Thailanf. This was made possible through a partnership and matching grant by @onedayswages and The Freedom Story.

While it was an honor to be there to cut the cord and say a few words, this is an example of collaboration. Much love to the Freedom Story team including their co-founders Tawee Donchai and @Rachel Goble, to their staff who live in the community, who understand their context and culture, and who tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love. And of course, much love to the students themselves for they each matter. Finally, to each person that donated to @onedayswages to make this grant possible.

May hundreds and even thousands of youth be impacted, encouraged, and mentored. May they capture a glimpse of God's love for them.

Photo: @benjaminedwards Part 2 on my wrestling with the complex issue of human trafficking. In part, documenting my trip to Thailand for @onedayswages...to listen, learn, and visit one of our partner orgs @thefreedomstory. More to come.

There's such painful and poignant irony in pursuing justice...unjustly. One way we do this is when we reduce people into projects...and thus, propagating the dangerous power dynamic of US as heroes and THEM as helpless and exclusively as victims. So dangerous.

Human trafficking is not just an issue. It’s ultimately, about people. Depending on the sources of statistics, there are anywhere from 29-40 million people in some form of forced labor and slavery, including sex trafficking.

And one thing I’ve learned, personally, is how easy it is easy to reduce people into projects which is why mutuality, reciprocity, and dignity are so vital. These are critical because God never intended people to be reduced into projects.

We forget this and we indirectly foster a culture and system of victimization or worse, the pornification of the poor or in this case, "the trafficked." And when you start dehumanizing the poor or trafficked, you have no genuine desire to build relationships with them. You believe or build stereotypes in broad strokes, singular, black and white narratives that have been told about them. You believe the lie that they have nothing to teach us and are incapable of contributing to the larger society.

Lord, break our hearts for the things that break your heart. Give us eyes to see others through your eyes. Give us humility so that we acknowledge our own need to learn and grow. (Photo via @thefreedomstory)

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