Former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry stepped out of the frying pan and into the fire on Thursday, using a derogatory term for Polish people while apologizing to the Asian-American community for previous offensive remarks.
Asked about the roots of racial conflict in the United States, Barry, who now sits on the D.C. council, explained that America “has had racial tensions since it was founded. The Irish caught hell, the Jews caught hell, the Polacks caught hell. We want Ward 8 to be a model of diversity.”
“Polack” is a considered a pejorative term for Polish people, who prefer to identify as “Poles.”
Barry’s latest faux-pas elicited a fresh round of outrage, this time from Polish-American groups such as the Polish American Association, whose executive director Gary Kenzer demanded Barry “apologize to the Polish American community,” according to the Washington Post.
Barry initially denied using the term “Polacks,” but he quickly walked back the denial, sounding a more contrite note by admitting he should have said “Polish.”
This is the third recent bout of racially insensitive language from the controversial former Mayor, who has twice offended Asian-Americans in the last two months. Last month, he complained about the need to “do something about these Asians coming in, opening businesses, those dirty shops. They need to go.”
A few weeks later, he criticized the preponderance of Filipino nurses, adding, “No offense, but let’s grow our own teachers, let’s grow our own nurses, and so that we don’t have to go scrounging in our community clinics and other kinds of places, having to hire people from somewhere else.”
After an indignant furor from Asian-American groups, Barry apologized for the insensitive remarks, but doing himself no favors in the process.
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