LOS ANGELES, California—Filipino American, Asian American and Pacific Islander community leaders have banded together to demand an apology and condemn the racist remarks made by Washington DC Councilmember Marion Barry.
Barry, a former DC Mayor and now serves as a city councilman, attacked Asian business owners in a speech after winning his bid to serve in the city council earlier this month, and followed that up with a derogatory statement against Filipino nurses and teachers on April 23.
“We join the many Asian American organizations in urging DC Councilmember Marion Barry to immediately apologize for racist remarks made against immigrant health care workers and teachers,” wrote National Federation of Filipino American Associations, National Chairman Ed Navarro.
“We call on Mr. Barry to engage with the broader community to uphold his oath as an elected official to represent and respect the interests of every member of his constituency,” said Tom Hayashi, executive director OCA, a national organization dedicated to advancing the political, social, and economic well-being of Asian Pacific Americans (APAs) in a separate statement.
Earlier this month, Barry accused Asian business owners in his district for operating “dirty shops.”
“We’ve got to do something about these Asians coming in, opening up businesses, those dirty shops,” Barry said in his victory speech which was caught by several NBC affiliates. “They ought to go. I’ll just say that right now, you know. But we need African-American businesspeople to be able to take their places, too.”
Barry, who was initially very defensive, then apologized after much political pressure from his peers — but not before tweeting pictures of the shops he was referring to.
Then, in a public hearing on April 23 at the University of the District of Columbia, Barry continued to spew more negative rhetoric towards Asian Americans and in particular Filipinos, who serve as nurses and teachers.
“In fact, it’s so bad, that if you go to the hospital now, you find a number of immigrants who are nurses, particularly from the Philippines,” said Barry. “And no offense, but let’s grow our own teachers, let’s grow our own nurses — and so that we don’t have to be scrounging around in our community clinics and other kinds of places having to hire people from somewhere else.”
Demanding an apology
NAFFAA and several Asian American groups are now demanding an immediate apology calling Barry’s remarks insensitive and inflammatory.
“Mr. Barry continues to fuel racism and animosity towards other immigrant and ethnic groups with his bigoted statements,” said Navarro. “We reject this continued Asian bashing by elected officials like Mr. Barry and demand that he apologize for his insensitive and irresponsible remarks. We also call on him to engage in a meaningful dialogue with our community so we can better educate the broader American public about the significant contributions that our diverse immigrant communities have made to this country.”
“His speech indicates consistent difficulty to conduct himself in a decent and reasonable manner commensurate with his duties as an elected official,” said Hayashi. “Absent of these initial steps, confidence in his ability to represent and respect the interests of every member of his constituency is highly suspect.”
Navarro went on to say: “Filipino nurses and teachers have performed admirably in America’s health care and educational system and they don’t deserve the harmful and xenophobic rhetoric that pits them against other American professionals. We demand an end to inflammatory outbursts that only fan the flames of racial division and hatred.” Joseph Pimentel/AJPress