D.C. Council member Marion Barry struck an unyielding tone on Thursday in defense of his record of welcoming all people into the District’s “melting pot,” arguing the media took his recent inflammatory comments about Asian groups out of context because his first priority is finding jobs for the city’s poorest residents.
The comments at a hearing on the University of the District of Columbia on Monday were considered offensive by many observers in light of prior remarks he made mere moments after a landslide victory in the Democratic primary election on April 3. At that time, he said “dirty shops” run by Asians in Ward 8 should leave and be replaced by stores with black owners.
His remarks drew the ire of Asian community groups and gained new life after the remarks about Filipino nurses.
But Mr. Barry said the media has conducted divisive reporting and he is “not falling for it.” He couched his comments as an attempt to bring engaging business owners and jobs to his predominately black ward east of the Anacostia River.
“My fight is for jobs, jobs, jobs,” he said, noting Ward 8 has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. “I represent a ward that needs someone to fight for jobs. We welcome each and every kind of business into Ward 8, regardless of your ethnic grouping.”
But these business, he warned, must be ready to hire local residents and be involved in the community.