D.C. Councilmember Marion Barry on Monday proved once again that he simply cannot help himself when he appeared to suggest that Filipino and other immigrants have somehow prevented black Washingtonians from becoming nurses.
Response to the comments that Barry made during a hearing on the University of the District of Columbia’s budget was predictably swift. The National Federation of Filipino American Associations described the former mayor’s remarks as “racist” and “bigoted,” as the Washington Post reported. Filipino Ambassador Jose Cuisia described Barry’s comments as “deplorable” in a statement posted on his embassy’s website.
“[W]e take issue with Councilmember Barry’s claims that Filipino nurses, teachers and immigrants are not members of “our” community,” said the Say Sorry Barry Campaign in a letter onto which NaFFAA, the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Association and more than two dozen other groups signed. “In saying so, Councilmember Barry dismisses immigrants’ talents and contributions to our neighborhoods because of who they are and where they come from.”
Barry’s comments come three weeks after he referred to Asian-owned businesses in Anacostia as “dirty shops” while speaking to supporters after the District’s April 3 primary.
The Ward 8 councilmember blamed the media for distorting his comments before a testy exchange with David Chung, chair of the D.C. Commission on Asian and Public Islander Affairs, during a budget hearing earlier on Thursday. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton is among those who have also spoken out against Barry’s comments.
“Councilmember Barry’s penchant for blaming Asians, who only want to work for their American dream, fuels racism, discrimination and violence,” added Cuisia. “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.”
Barry has yet to apologize, but perhaps the best thing he can do at this point is to simply keep his mouth shut. Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones after all.