Marion Barry, former mayor of Washington, D.C., and a current councilman, is not one of my favorite politicians. His past reeks of corruption, cronyism and just about everything bad in politics. Yet he keeps getting elected. During his first term as mayor in the mid-1980s, Barry left a legacy of helping the underprivileged and increasing efficiency in D.C.’s government. Since then his activities have been questionable. His 1990 arrest for possessing crack cocaine is only part of it. He has faced legal problems for failing to pay his taxes, bizarre traffic violation incidents, stalking a girlfriend and being accused of pocketing taxpayers’ money. Barry continues to serve as a councilman because few know how to utilize the patronage powers of his office as well as he does. That can be great for a person who needs a problem solved, as long as that person is a friend of Barry.
Barry’s latest controversy stems from his dislike for Asian businesses in his ward. He expressed this earlier in the month.
“We’ve got to do something about these Asians coming in, opening up businesses, those dirty shops. 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 said.
One of his fellow councilmembers summed up Barry’s words as “deplorable.” There’s no way to describe Barry’s comments without tagging them as racist. Although Barry apologized, he still targeted the “less-than-stellar Asian American businessmen” in his ward. Barry continues to argue that criticizing the Asian “dirty shops” is not racial. His new explanation is that it is cultural differences. It still sounds like bigotry to me.
Are there cultural differences between African-Americans, whites, Asians and other ethnic groups? Of course there are. There are cultural differences between people of the same race or ethnic group. White people in Appalachia aren’t going to relate to white people in Malibu, but that has nothing to do with Asians, dirty shops and Barry’s desire to replace them with African-Americans. This is the same type of prejudice and stereotyping that has been targeted unfairly against African-Americans since this country’s beginning. It is disgusting that Barry has shown he is just as narrow-minded as some of the white racists who want to drive this nation back to the nineteenth century.