At a news conference after the meeting, Barry and several Asian American leaders sought to present a united front, saying that the dialogue is an important step toward defusing long-standing tension between blacks and Asians. Asked about the underlying sources of the conflict, Barry said the United States “has had racial tensions since it was founded.”
“The Irish caught hell, the Jews caught hell, the Polacks caught hell,” Barry said, invoking a word that Polish people have viewed as disparaging. “We want Ward 8 to be the model of diversity.”
Asked later about his reference to “Polacks,” Barry at first denied using the word, then retracted it, saying, “I meant Poles.”
His remark prompted a demand from Gary Kenzer, executive director of the Chicago-based Polish American Association, that Barry “apologize to the Polish American community of this country.”
“You wouldn’t say a derogatory statement to an African American, a Jewish American, and we deserve the same respect,” he said.
Note that while the Washington Post did headline the story “Marion Barry commits new gaffe while apologizing to Asians,” it took them seven paragraphs to actually get to the P-word. This is in sharp contradistinction to the paper’s Bletchley Park-level of ability to discern racism as the cause of even the slightest twitch of bad news involving President Obama.