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'Dirty' Asian shops? Former Washington mayor under fire

United States America,Diaspora, Sat, 07 Apr 2012 IANS

Washington, April 7 (IANS) A former Washington mayor's controversial remarks about Asian businesses running "dirty shops" in the US capital city have drawn fire from 35 local and national organisations, including South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT).


Marion Barry, a former four-term mayor and a current city council member, had at a primary election victory party this week, said: "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."


"Barry's statement is of serious concern because it undermines the notion that developing the District of Columbia's economy and neighbourhoods is in the interest of all communities, regardless of national origin or ethnic background," the group said condemning the remarks.


"While 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."


Numerous institutions, from small businesses to non-profit organisations, 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 statement pointed out.


Within the District of Columbia, according to 2007 data, Asians own 5.9 percent of businesses, 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, Barry's remarks appear to fan the flames of racial divisions and imply that Asian Americans are not invested in developing a robust economy that benefits all residents, the joint statement said.


(Arun Kumar can be contacted at


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