Marion Barry managed to insult the Asian American community earlier this month by saying that "dirty" shops in his ward ought to go. Last week, he did it again by criticizing the presence of immigrant nurses and in particular Filipino medical professionals.
"In fact, it's so bad that if you go to the hospital now, you'll find a number of immigrants who are nurses, particularly from the Philippines," Barry said at a council hearing Monday. "And, no offense, but let's grow our own teachers, let's grow our own nurses so that we don't have to be scrounging around in our community clinics and other kinds of places having to hire people from somewhere else."
Barry was grilling University of the District of Columbia (UDC) officials on their nursing program and demanding that they identify and train unemployed District residents.
The councilmember might have meant no offense, but much was taken.
A coalition of D.C. Asian American advocacy groups launched the Say Sorry Barry Campaign Wednesday, urging D.C. Councilmember Marion Barry to apologize for his insensitive remarks toward the Asian American community. The group asks Barry to stop using divisive rhetoric and to understand that his Asian American constituents deserve the same respect as other District residents.
The campaign issued a letter, part of which reads:
"We take issue with Councilmember Barry's claims that Filipino nurses, teachers and immigrants are not members of "our" community. In saying so, Councilmember Barry dismisses immigrants' talents and contributions to our neighborhoods because of who they are and where they come from."
The letter has received support from 27 local and national Asian Pacific American advocacy groups including Filipino Americans for Progress, the Japanese American Citizens League, and the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
The Philippine ambassador to the United States also cried foul, and issued a statement Wednesday condemning Barry for "intolerant and narrow-minded comments."
"Councilmember Barry's penchant for blaming Asians, who only want to work for their American dream, fuels racism, discrimination, and violence," said Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia Jr. "Such rhetoric does nothing but harm relations among community members, when the times call for developing relationships and finding solutions to common challenges."
"We are extremely disappointed and dismayed to be unfairly maligned by an elected official like D.C. Councilmember Marion Barry," added Marissa Usman, President of the Philippine Nurses Association of the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Region. "For many decades, Filipino nurses have been recruited to serve not only in this country but all over the world because of our professionalism, competence and complete dedication to quality patient care. Filipino health care professionals have become a vital part of America's health care system and we are proud of the work we do. We are committed to working together with other health care professionals to build strong, safe and healthy communities."
Marion Barry once brought minority groups together. He now seems intent on setting them apart.