Five Asian American members of the Maryland Assembly who represent districts in Montgomery and Prince George counties in suburban Washington, D.C., have blasted statements made by former D.C. mayor and City Councilman Marion Barry disparaging Asian American business owners in D.C.
At his primary reelection victory party April 3, Barry said, “We got to do something about these Asians coming in and opening up businesses and dirty shops.
“They ought to go,” he continued. “I’m going to say that right now. But we need African American businesspeople to be able to take their places too.”
The comments, initially reported by WRC-TV, triggered a firestorm of protests. Barry apologized April 5 for the remarks.
The five Maryland lawmakers of Asian descent — Indian American Democratic delegates Sam Arora, Kumar Barve, and Aruna Miller; and Susan Lee and Kris Valderrama — asked for Barry to “apologize for his intolerant comments and stand up for economic inclusion for people of all colors.”
“At best, Mr. Barry’s attack on Asian Americans is deeply troubling, and at worst it is race baiting,” they said in a statement.
Yes! He has got to go!
In an interview with the Associated Press after the protests of his remarks escalated, Barry said, “I want to express my deep apology for offending some members of the Asian community and the D.C. community. I have a solid record of relationships with the Asian community.”
The former mayor won the Democratic primary for his Ward 8 council seat with 73 percent of the vote, all but assuring him of another four-year term.
Crack is Whack!
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AP reported that D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, Council Chairman Kwame Brown and some of Barry’s fellow council members have also criticized Barry.
“I am deeply disappointed by Councilmember Barry’s comment,” Gray said in a statement. “There is no room in this wonderfully diverse city for comments that disparage anyone on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, disability or sexual orientation.”
Barry, 76, served four terms as mayor, a tenure interrupted by a six-month term in federal prison on a drug charge.
Since his return to the council in 2004, he has made other racially charged statements, AP reported.
During a recent radio appearance, he objected to an architectural firm recommended to build a new public high school because it was “all-white.”
In addition, with Gray and Brown under federal investigation for possible campaign misdeeds, he has suggested that black politicians are more heavily being probed than their white counterparts.
According to the U.S. Census, the African American population has dipped to just about 50 percent of the D.C. population. The city is now 34.8 percent white and the Asian American population has increased to 3.5 percent.
Barry told AP that he was wrong to single out Asians, but he refused to back away from his assertion that some Asian American-owned convenience stores and carryout restaurants don’t “respect” residents in his ward.
“Ward 8 residents are spending their hard-earned dollars in these stores because they are the only stores in the immediate neighborhoods; my constituents want respect, too,” he said in a statement. “It is to these less-than-stellar Asian American businessmen in Ward 8 that my remarks were directed.”
“We need businesspeople who’ll be a part of the community, not exploit the community, give jobs to those of us in the community, and to contribute to the well-being of our community, have fresh vegetables and fruits, etc.,” Barry said.
Barry noted that during his tenure as mayor, he created the city’s Office of Asian-Pacific Islander Affairs and established a sister-city relationship with Beijing.
A coalition of more than 30 Asian organizations also condemned Barry’s remarks, calling on him to “provide a sincere apology and ensure meaningful engagement with our communities.”