Loose Lips

Marion Barry Keeps Digging

What's the best way for a politician to handle making ridiculously insensitive remarks about Asians? Who knows? But observe the Marion Barry way.

Last night NBC4's Tom Sherwood reported that during the Ward 8 councilmember's election-night victory speech, he bashed Asian business owners and their "dirty shops."

Barry's quote: "We got to do something about these Asians coming in and opening up businesses and dirty shops. They ought to go. I’m going to say that right now. But we need African-American businesspeople to be able to take their places, too.”

When the predictable shitstorm occurred after the story ran, Barry stuck to a tired old playbook of blaming the media and playing the victim.

On the Twitter, Barry initially said that his comments were "taken out of context construed as disparaging 2 entire Asian biz community." He then added that many of his Twitter critics "don't have to live here & don't have to experience the plexiglass barriers between them and the store owners." (As if Ward 8 were the only place in D.C. where stores had plexiglass barriers, or Asian-owned stores were the only ones that used them.) As a helpful reference, he included a picture of a store that uses plexiglass. A bit later, Barry offered a not-really apology: "I am very sorry my comments were sensationalized & really did offend people."

On WPFW's D.C. Politics this morning, Barry also defended his statement while adding that he had a long, positive track record of working with the Asian community.

"I went to China ... 1984. Opened up relationships when the United States government wasn't having good relationships with the Chinese community," he said.

LL can't find of any record of a Nixon-like detente that occured with China because of Barry's visit. But LL did find, in Nexis, a Post article from that era that says Barry upset many in the Chinese-American community when he got back from the trip by partnerning with the Chinese government to build the giant arch you see in Chinatown.

"City officials paid little heed to warnings that many Chinese-American residents who fled communist rule on mainland China years ago would be offended by any project that was sponsored or financed by Peking's government," the Post reported.

(Also note: When Barry came back from the two-week trip, the Post reported that there were about 100 people at the airport waiting for him: "Many were carrying signs bearing such messages as 'We Missed U.'")

So far, this approach hasn't seemed to be working for Barry. Both Mayor Vince Gray and Council Chairman Kwame "Fully Loaded" Brown put out statements condemning Barry's comments about an hour ago.

Listen to the entire WPFW show here:

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  • Capital Break

    Marion Barry = Ward 8's Kim Jong il

  • AM Next

    He reminds me of Lester Maddox.

  • DC 8

    he speaks the truth. c 4 yourself if u dare 2 come to ward 8

  • Drez

    Who gives a damn if Gray and Brown condemn Barry after an election when the offer statements of support and campaign with him before elections?
    They're really just doing the same thing Barry is- offering conflicting messages for consumption by different communities.

  • http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com Richard Layman

    as someone pointed out in a comment on a Post story on this subject, the trope about anti-Asian store owner sentiment within the black community is pretty old. This review is of a 48 Hours story on the subject in 1990: http://www.nytimes.com/1990/07/12/movies/review-television-the-boycotting-of-a-korean-grocery-in-brooklyn.html

    That being said, wrt Barry wysiwyg.

  • SW

    Yep. He's not sorry he said something really racist, he's sorry the big bad media SENSATIONALIZED his comments.

    What a piece of shit.

  • Marylamb72

    If blacks want to open a business DO IT! Stop your incessant whining! If they have plexiglass and bars or follow you around the store it MAY just be because they have been robbed, vandalized and shoplifted so many times they can't count it.
    I bet if you checked out the few businesses owned by blacks in the neighborhood THEY have bars and plexiglass too. Remember, even your pal Jesse Jackson is relieved if it's a white guy behind him.

  • Tami

    While Marion Barry should have couched the statement better, the fact is atleast 50% of the businesses in his ward are owned by Asian-Americans, and their establishments unfortunately are deplorable. I moved from the South to D.C. to attend law school, and when I got here I saw all these corner stores that I actually thought were places that were being torn down until I went in and saw them. The insides look as deplorable as the outside. I have not patronized a carryout since the late 90s because of just what he is speaking about. When you go into the neighborhoods that alot of those merchants reside, the stores are strikingly different. Further, they don't and would never put up a similar establishment in their own communities. The products they sell at these stores are marked up in price by atleast 60%, and the sad part is they know that they can get away with it because for a long time there weren't any grocery stores in those areas and the residents had limited transportation such that they could not go to a grocery store to buy products and food. While many of us may condemn Mr. Barry, but I know in the neighborhood I live in we would never allow such establishments, regardless of how it promotes some persons or groups' theory of the American Dream. If you take the caloric intake of minor children in S.E., you would be shocked, largely because they are buying those oversized chicken wings and lard fried french fries daily. Perhaps, we may not like the messenger, but his message is dead on, and we need to get past the political correctness and realize that these places are not fit and should be called out. Or better yet, lets welcome them in our neighborhoods and then revisit this topic.

  • Typical DC BS

    @Tami: Easy solution - STOP BUYING CRAP FROM CRAPPY STORES. If they had no business, they would go out of business. When all people do is whine and complain, but still patronize stores they resent, sympathy goes right out the window.