Councilmember Marion Barry seems to be on a roll these days offending Asians
and Asian Americans. The
former mayor of the district just referred to Asian-owned businesses as
“dirty” one month ago. Now he's added more fuel to the fire by targeting
nurses from the Philippines.
fact, it is so bad, that if you go to the hospital now, you'll find a number of
immigrants who are nurses, particularly from the Philippines, and no offense,
but let's grow our own teachers, let’s grow our own nurses, and so that we
don’t have to go scrounging in our community clinics and other kinds of places,
having to hire people from somewhere else,” Barry said at a budget hearing with
the board of the University of District of Columbia last week.
clarified his statement that UDC
should be the premier nursing program that trains local residents to fill the
nursing shortage, his explanation didn’t appease activists.
National Federation of Filipino American Associations called Barry’s remarks
“racist” and “bigoted,”
to The Washington Post. The
organization also joined several national and local Asian American advocacy
groups to launch a
Sorry Barry” campaign. In an
online petition campaign, the group urged the former civil rights veteran to
“issue a formal apology for his latest insensitive comments towards Asian
Pacific American and immigrant communities.”
also struck an international nerve when Ambassador Jose Cuisia of the
Philippines called the councilman’s comments “deplorable.”
Barry’s penchant for blaming Asians, who only want to work for their American
dream, fuels racism, discrimination and violence. Such rhetoric does nothing
but harm relations among community members, when the times call for developing
relationships and finding solutions to common challenges. He owes Filipino
nurses an apology for his recent tirade,”
said in a statement last Wednesday.
hasn’t admitted to any wrongdoing for his recent gaffe, but
Washington Post reported last
Thursday that he did request a formal meeting with the ambassador. No date has
been publicly announced.
is about improving human relations. There are still cultural gaps between
various groups in this country and we have a responsibility to understand and
close them,” he told The Post.
the earnestness of Barry’s olive branch remains uncertain.
did not apologize to Filipino nurses even when
House of Representatives Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton of D.C. pressed him to do so
last Thursday and reminded him that “racial rhetoric surrounding such issues
does a particular disservice beyond the offense to the group that is singled
first drew notice on April 3 during his victory speech for winning the primary
for his council seat, when he said that “Asians are coming in and opening up
businesses and dirty shops” in his neighborhood and “ought to go.”
when people thought Barry had a change of heart after apologizing for that
slip, he is now refusing to
accept that his latest comments were racist even
after activists confronted him at last week’s hearing with the city’s Office of
Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs, which he oversees. Instead, Barry continued to
blame the media for making his statements controversial.
also remained defiant yesterday when former D.C. Attorney General Peter J. Nickles
“unfit to be in public office” and called on the D.C. Council to censure him.
Nickels [sic] is continuing his character assassination of me and his personal
vendetta against me. Thank God no one on the Council is listening to him. This
is a democracy. When the people elect you to an Office, only the people can
take you out. Mr. Nickels [sic] knows this or has he forgotten it; he
should just stop it,” Barry said in an e-mail sent to The Washington Post.
Barry is censured, it would not be his first time. He was previously
censured and stripped of his committee chairmanship in 2010 after violating
conflict-of-interest rules. An investigation found that he awarded his
then-girlfriend a $15,000 city contract.
former four-term mayor was also arrested for cocaine use and possession in 1990
during his third term as mayor. “Bitch set me up,” his response to the arrest
that referred to another ex-girlfriend-turned-FBI informant, became a
notoriously popular line.
* * *