Washington ex-mayor under fire for Asian jibe
AFP WASHINGTON WASHINGTON’S controversial former mayor Marion Barry has come under a fresh storm of criticism after he attacked “dirty” Asian-run businesses that operate in poor parts of the US capital.
Barry, a leader in the civil rights movement whose mayoral stint was marred by his arrest for drug use, went on the offensive as he won the Democratic Party’s primary for another term representing Washington’s poorest ward.
At a rally, the 76-year-old said that African Americans — who make up the overwhelming majority in his Ward Eight — should replace the fast-food restaurants and other businesses run there by Asian Americans.
“We’ve got to do something about these Asians coming in, opening up businesses, dirty shops. They ought to go, I’ll tell you that right now,” Barry told the election rally on Tuesday night.
His remarks triggered a furor in part as they came weeks before the 20th anniversary of the Los Angeles riots, in which protesters outraged over the police beating of a black motorist targeted Korean American businesses.
“His language is inexcusable, especially in a city as diverse as our nation’s capital,” said Representative Judy Chu, who heads the Asian American caucus in the US Congress.
Eleanor Holmes Norton, who represents the US capital in Congress and knew Barry from the civil rights movement, said she was stunned and reminded the former mayor in a telephone call of “the values we first shared as students” fighting for racial justice in the South.
Barry later apologised, saying he was “very sorry for offending the Asian American community,” but insisted that his remarks were taken out of context. “The comment was meant to convey that some stores need better service to and engagement with the community than what is provided now,” he wrote on Twitter.
“It costs nothing to keep the store clean. Nothing to add healthy items. Nothing to know your patrons.
Nothing to have the will to do better,” he said.
Barry, the Mississippi-born son of a sharecropper, was in his third term as Washington’s mayor when he was arrested in January 1990 for crack cocaine use and possession in an FBI sting operation caught on video.He was sentenced to six months in prison, but won another term as mayor in 1994.