Marion Barry Scapegoats Asians

Washington, D.C. Councilmember Marion Barry caused an uproar last Tuesday over his racist comments against Asian shop owners in his ward.

“We’ve got to do something about these Asians coming in, opening up businesses, those dirty shops. They ought to go . . . We need African American business people to be able to take their places,” Barry said after keeping his seat during the council primary.

The controversial politician has since tried to backtrack and modulate his outrageous opinion of Asian business owners. Barry visited a man he called, to his face, as a “good Asian” on Friday and managed to make things worse.

Peter Cho, whose family grocery has been in Barry’s jurisdiction since 1984 and is a vice president of the Korean-American Grocers Association, was not appeased. “It was like a racist comment, because he did specify one group of people,” Cho told the Washington Post, still smarting from the councilmember’s earlier words.

Barry’s singling out of one group is problematic to say the least. First, are Asian shops the only dirty ones in the area? Doesn’t the condition of these “dirty” businesses reflect the environment more and indicate broader problems that Barry and other D.C. officials have been unable to address?

More importantly, Barry continues the odious practice of blaming Asians which has led to discrimination and at times violence against a group that only wants to work for their American dream.

A letter released by D.C. area and national Asian organizations points out that Barry’s comments “fan the flames of racial divisions and imply that Asian Americans are not invested in developing a robust economy that benefits all residents.” It also expresses concern “that remarks such as these can perpetuate stereotypes of Asians taking jobs away from other Americans, which can fuel racism and animosity towards community members. In fact, individuals of Asian descent are frequently blamed for the economic woes that this country has faced when perceptions are fostered that our community is thriving in this economy at the expense of other minority communities with whom we work and live alongside.”

Perhaps Barry ought to look at a mirror first before he starts wagging his tongue, blaming others for his impotence at uplifting his own community

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