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Marion Barry's Xenophobic Rhetoric Threatens Race Relations
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Marion Barry's Xenophobic Rhetoric Threatens Race Relations Casting Asian Pacific Americans as Perpetual Foreigners and a Threat to Economic Opportunities

24 April 2012

Tom Hayashi | Executive Director
202 223 5500 |

WASHINGTON, D.C. – OCA, a national organization dedicated to advancing the political, social, and economic well-being of Asian Pacific Americans (APAs), urges Washington DC Council Member Marion Barry to immediately apologize for xenophobic comment arguing for greater access to educational opportunities and jobs in health care for people of color communities.  We call on Mr. Barry to engage with the broader community to uphold his oath as an elected official to represent and respect the interests of every member of his constituency.

At a hearing in regards to the University of District of Columbia in April 23, 2012, he has observed that immigrant healthcare workers are dominating the field: "In fact, it's so bad, that if you go to the hospital now, you find a number of immigrants who are nurses, particularly from the Philippines.”

Barry went on to say, "And no offense, but let's grow our own teachers, let's grow our own nurses -- and 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."

This type of equally inflammatory messaging on the heels of similarly framed rhetoric issued during a campaign victory speech on April 2, 2012 against Asian owned businesses in Ward 8, his home district, is now setting a pattern of unacceptable public policy critique stereotypically casting APAs as being a perpetual foreigner.

Anti-Asian sentiments within often unfounded economic context have in the past have gravely influenced antagonistic sentiments resulting in the Los Angeles civil unrest of 1992, violent and fatal attack on Vincent Chin, in 1982, and the 1871 massacre of Chinese immigrants in California to name a few.

OCA as a national civil rights organization with over 80 chapters and affiliates urges all elected officials and political organizations, when addressing their audience to be respectful of the multi-ethnic fabric of America. APAs in their own right are and continue to be strong social, economic, and political contributors and leaders of all ideological persuasion and affiliations. 

Demonizing a specific class of people using fear tactics based on broad political and economic generalizations should not be tolerated by the community at-large. We call on the following actions to squarely address this problem:

1.  A meaningful apology to be immediately issued for the statement against Asian business owners in his campaign victory speech on April 3, 2012 and his recent statement against Asian Pacific Islander healthcare workers in April 23, 2012.

2.  Mr. Barry to meet with APA community advocacy organizations and other people of color advocacy groups to jointly address public policy strategies for educational and economic equity and equality within 30 days.

His speech indicates consistent difficulty to conduct himself in a decent and reasonable manner commensurate with his duties as an elected official.  Absent of these initial steps, confidence in his ability to represent and respect the interests of every member of his constituency is highly suspect.  OCA will continue to monitor this matter and be readily available to engage in a process of addressing this issue with APA and other communities of color advocacy colleagues in resolved solidarity to ensure that we all move forward together as allies and Americans.
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OCA National Center
1322 18th St. NW
Washington, DC 20036
P: (202) 223-5500 | F: (202) 296-0540 | E: