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APA groups hit Barry barb on Asian businesses

WASHINGTON D.C. Asian American groups condemned DC Council member Marion Barry for his recent remarks about Asian-owned businesses in his Ward 8 district.
“As members of local and national organizations committed to advancing and protecting the rights of individuals of Asian and Pacific Islander descent in the United States, the undersigned organizations condemn District of Columbia Councilmember Marion Barry’s recent remarks regarding Asian-owned businesses at a campaign event in Washington, D.C.,” the statement from 18 Asian-Pacific American (APA) organizations declared.

The letter of protest was signed by APIAVote, Asian American Action Fund, Asian American Justice Center, Member of Asian American Center for Advancing Justice, Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS), Asian Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF), Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), Council of Korean Americans, Japanese American Citizens League (JACL);

National Association of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA), National Korean American Service and Education Consortium (NAKASEC), National Asian Pacific American Center on Aging (NAPCA), National Asian Pacific American Families Against Substance Abuse (NAPAFASA);

National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (National CAPACD), OCA, Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF), South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) and the Southeast Asia Action Resource Center (SEARAC).
On April 3, at his Ward 8 primary election victory party, Councilmember Barry made the following statement, “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.”

“Given Councilmember Barry’s previous commitment to civil rights, we are particularly disappointed by these comments. While Councilmember Barry has recently indicated that he was ‘sorry for offending the Asian community,’ we call upon him to provide a sincere apology and ensure meaningful engagement with our communities to improve the well-being of all individuals in the District,” the APA groups demanded.

They noted that Barry’s statement was a source of “serious concern” because it undermined the notion that developing the District of Columbia’s economy and neighborhoods is in the interest of all communities, regardless of national origin or ethnic background.
Numerous institutions, from small businesses to non-profit organizations, as well as individuals, provide vital services and job opportunities, contribute their tax dollars, and engage in civic and political life within the city, the groups noted.

According to 2007 data Asians owned nearly 6 percent of businesses in the District of Columbia, joining other communities in strengthening the economy.

Rather than acknowledging and appreciating the contributions that Asian businesses, alongside other racial and ethnic communities, have made to the city, the APA groups said Barry’s remarks fanned the flames of racial divisions and “imply that Asian Americans are not invested in developing a robust economy that benefits all residents.”

“Our organizations are also extremely concerned that remarks such as these can perpetuate stereotypes of Asians taking jobs away from other Americans, which can fuel racism and animosity towards community members,” the statement read.

“In fact, individuals of Asian descent are frequently blamed for the economic woes that this country has faced when perceptions are fostered that our community is thriving in this economy at the expense of other minority communities with whom we work and live alongside,” they added.

“In light of these concerns, we call upon Councilmember Barry to provide a meaningful apology and officially retract his statement; refrain from engaging in harmful rhetoric regarding Asian and other immigrant communities; and develop meaningful relationships with our communities in the District of Columbia to understand the contributions and challenges of community members.
“Our organizations also view this as a prime opportunity to work with Mayor Vincent Gray and council members on the “One City, One Future” initiative. We look forward to proactively identifying next steps that we can take together to continue to create more diverse and growing economy for all residents,” the APA groups said.

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