DC Asian American Advocacy Groups Urge Apology from Councilmember Marion Barry for Insensitive Remarks About Filipino Nurses

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

We the undersigned strongly urge Councilmember Marion Barry to issue a formal apology for his latest insensitive comments towards Asian Pacific American and immigrant communities and call on Councilmember Barry to uphold his commitment to meet with local Asian Pacific American community leaders coming on the heels of his previous remark on Asian owned businesses.

At a Ward 8 neighborhood meeting last night, Councilmember Barry said the University of the District of Columbia’s nursing program:

"…is so bad, that if you go to the hospital now, you'll find a number of immigrants who are nurses, particularly from the Philippines, and 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.”

This remark follows comments Councilmember Barry made disparaging Asian businesses in the District earlier this month. As a coalition of Asian and Pacific American communities, 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.

Marissa Usman, President, Philippine Nurses Association of the Washington DC Metropolitan Region says:

We are extremely disappointed and dismayed to be unfairly maligned by an elected official like DC Councilmember Marion Barry. 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.

Filipino nurses, Asian Americans, and immigrants have a lot in common with Councilmember Barry and the Ward 8 community. As DC voters we want to find good jobs, good schools for our children, and safe neighborhoods for our families. As a coalition of Asian Pacific American community groups, we extend our support to Councilmember Barry’s efforts to do this work, but that can only happen with a foundation of mutual trust and respect.

We agree that there is a need for greater investment in the development of the U.S. workforce. Councilmember Barry needs to be reminded that demonizing immigrants or any segment of the community has no place in any constructive conversation, this rhetoric distracts focus from the real problems.

We invite Councilmember Barry to work with us in seeking constructive solutions to growing the Ward 8 and greater DC communities. The first step in this work requires Councilmember Barry to issue a formal apology for his statements and join us for a community forum to discuss how we can work together to build the DC we all believe in and belong to.

National Organizations

Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum

Asian American Action Group (AAAG)

Asian American Justice Center, member of Asian American Center for Advancing Justice

Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO

Asian Pacific American Legal Center, member of Asian American Center for Advancing Justice

Asian Pacific Americans for Progress (APAP)

Asian Pacific Islander American Vote (APIAVote)

Boat People SOS

Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership (CAPAL)

Hmong National Development, Inc.

Japanese American Citizens League

KAYA: Filipino Americans for Progress

National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association

National Asian Pacific American Families Against Substance Abuse

National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum (NAPAWF)

National Coalition on Asian Pacific American Community Development (National CAPACD)

National Council of Asian Pacific Islander Physicians

National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA)

National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA)

OCA

Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF)

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)

Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC)

Local Organizations

Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO – DC Chapter

Asian Pacific Americans for Progress – DC Chapter

Japanese American Citizens League DC Young Professionals

KAYA: Filipino Americans for Progress – DC Chapter

National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum – DC Chapter

National Organization of Vietnamese American Leaders of Greater Washington DC - NOVAL-DC

Voice of Vietnamese Americans (VVA)