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I thought about this Merion Barry thing all night yesterday and didn't initially post cause I fux with Mayor-for-life. I shouted the mother fucker out in Cheap Bites for chrissakes! I'm also smart enough to realize, this is a situation where barbarians are fighting over scraps. I mean, what are we talking about here? This ain't Georgetown! This ain't Dupont! This ain't Jack Evan's Ward 2... It's Merion Barry's 8th Ward. Why are there "dirty Asian businesses" by Barry's description? Because Asians love Too Short and we GET IN WHERE WE FIT IN FOOL.
Look at the numbers from the 8th Ward. For the last 20 years and probably more, the 8th Ward represents the highest poverty rate in all of D.C. Most people don't want to serve this neighborhood, but Asians are willing. Yet despite owning many of the businesses in the neighborhood, Asians have not integrated. We only represent .5% of the population in the 8th so in many ways, we're carpetbaggers there.
This is what Barry had to say today via Columbus Telegram:
"We need businesspeople who'll be a part of the community, not exploit the community, give jobs to those of us in the community, and to contribute to the well-being of our community, have fresh vegetables and fruits and et cetera," Barry said.
Barry, however, did not back away from his claim that some Asian-owned convenience stores and carryout restaurants don't "respect" the residents in his ward.
"Ward 8 residents are spending their hard-earned dollars in these stores because they are the only stores in the immediate neighborhoods; my constituents want respect, too," he said in a statement. "It is to these less-than-stellar Asian-American businessmen in Ward 8 that my remarks were directed."
I'm sure a lot of Asians want to feed Barry to Red Pandas right now, but I'm not with that. I feel the man. If the tables were turned and we were being served by Black businesses who didn't live with us, break bread with us, and just dumped their combo no5 on us, I would be pissed too. We don't even eat this shit at home yall! I also liked that Barry pointed out the "plexi glass". It's interesting. The Plexi Glass isn't necessarily "dirty", it's symbolic. What bothers Barry isn't Asian businesses being "dirty" or even "Asian"... It's that a lot of Asian shop owners don't respect Black customers. The blame goes both ways. Neither side really tries to reach out and get to know the other, but I will say this. As the retailer SERVING the customer, I think this one is on Asians.
It would be entirely wrong for us to write off Barry's comments. He MUST be condemned for projecting stereotypes on us and the way in which he approached this problem. But, there is definitely a problem. The 99% percent needs to understand that we have power in solidarity. This is not a race thing. It starts with ameliorating a race thing (i.e. Asians-Blacks not getting along), but the real issue is that we are reduced to fighting over scraps in the 8th Ward. Asians need to understand that the 8th Ward isn't an impersonal port for us to fling our goods on. Yes, our prices our cheap and our service is fast, but we need to change the business model. It's a good thing we're getting called out. Let's take it and come back better, faster, stronger.
I'm telling you now, not just cause it's my joint, but if you want to see a prototype solution to Blasian relations, look no further than Baohaus. Counting Evan and myself, we employ 5 Asians, 9 Black People, 4 Latino (Chris is the light skinned ciroc boy that look like Montana), and 2 White People. Evan and I obviously are the owners but our Head Chef and 3 Shift Leaders are all Black and Chris. It's important to have different ethnicities in leadership positions.
This isn't by design, it's organic. We all just get along, but if you need a design, think but this and all is mended. Adopt the Bruce Lee method. Don't treat cooking like it's some exotic ancient secret art form. You give people a little and they'll give back. Teach the people in your neighborhood how to cook, hire other ethnicities, and integrate them into your business. If not because it's the RIGHT thing to do, it's the smart thing to do. They'll increase business, serve as a buffer, and in many ways replace that bullshit bullet proof glass that has been the extent of our outreach in Black communities.
The bullet proof glass is despicable. It's not non-violent, it's defensive. It's rude. It's crass and it says nothing about who we are. If we want to be mad at Barry for stereotypes, we should be mad at ourselves for perpetuating them... From the people who brought you the Great Wall, comes take-out bullet proof glass. We need to do more... And Merion Barry, work with us on a personal level. This is gonna take a village.
P.S. - Please read the comments, especially Canela's. This is a multi-faceted issue with lots of valid points. Looking back at this post, if I sat with this longer I would have edited 3 things.
1) That this isn't "on Asians". Clearly, Marion Barry stands alone in the wrong with his comments. I thought that was more obvious than it is. This article is not self-hating, it's about understanding why someone like Barry takes issue with the Asian community in Ward 8. I saw lots of people pissed off at Marion Barry writing responses that themselves seemed racist and inflammatory so the point of this article was to set Barry aside and angry commenters aside to look at the conflict itself. I still believe the main issue is that people are fighting over scraps in Ward 8. It's a difficult situation for both parties.
2) Both sides are ill equipped to deal with this issue. I think that is the big miscalculation in this post. I used a personal example and was too quick to provide a "solution". I know there is a huge language and cultural barrier for a lot of these owners. My parents had to overcome it themselves when they came to this country, but it's hard and every one deals with it in a different way. The important thing though is to realize that we need help, ask for it, and try to improve. There's a reason that there is so much tension in the neighborhood and we should recognize that.
3) The bullet proof glass. I still feel the bullet proof glass is something that is very symbolic of the situation. I know the glass is there as a defense measure and it can't come down until people are safe, but eventually, that's where you want to be. I think every one involved would love to live or work in a neighborhood where you don't need bulletproof glass at take out joints and liquor stores. There is blame to go around on both sides, but we need honest conversation about these things.