Ward [H]8: The Politics of Prejudice in #Ward8 and how it hurts us more than them
Just minutes after Ward 8 Councilman Marion Barry was elected to a third consecutive 4-year term on Tuesday night, he exhibited once again the outdated and downright egregious ideology that is holding Ward 8 back.
Instead of focusing strictly on education, economic development, employment, ethics or mending the relationships with his colleagues that are essential to productive government, the newly-elected “Mayor for Life” decided to go in another direction: “these Asians” and their “dirty shops” that “exploit” the community (“Exploit” is the wrong word, since I have personally received a 1,000 dollar scholarship from the Korean-American Grocers Association, who give back to the community) .
The eyes of the country turned to DC and its rabble rousing political stalwart once again and the eyes of DC turned to Ward 8 and its leaders as the root of our eternal embarrassment. The off-the-cuff and “off-the-hook” comments not only were published in The Washington Post and The Washington Examiner the next day, but made it to the online pages of CNN, Fox News, The Atlantic, Politico, Wall Street Journal, The Chicago Sun Times and numerous other national news sources.
It’s a tremendously sad thing to see our Ward and its leadership so deeply entrenched in racial prejudices that not only hold this city back, but the entire country. In community meetings and political gatherings around the Ward, the conversation is too often injected with the sentiment of keeping the growing White population at bay, out of their neighborhoods and out of top political leadership in the city. This attitude, therefore, transfers to the folks that elect them and has, and will continue to, foster a generational hatred and fear of diversity and interracial collaboration in the city.
When our Councilmember goes on stage on election night, to community meetings or sits on the dais of the City Council and again and again re-affirms his suspicion and (seemingly) dislike for new residents, White contractors or, more recently, “these Asians”, the relationships that our Ward could benefit from are severed. Ward 8 residents (or at least 3/4 of them) re-elected Marion Barry because he is an experienced, no-nonsense fighter for the people. However, while he “says what he means and means what he says”, he is single-handedly cutting off our Ward from the rest of the city.
Not only do these attitudes of hatred have negative impacts on our Ward 8 community but, nationally, fosters a negative image for the city as a whole. As someone who works for Statehood and full democracy for District residents, I know that the man himself has become the personification of the reason against Statehood.
“Why would we give DC Statehood when you can’t even get rid of Marion Barry?”, I hear people say. “Why should I support DC Statehood? So y’all can have a Senator Barry?”. This is not just because of his bout of ill-advised antics during his tenure as Mayor, but also because of what he says today; Tuesday is no exception.
I understand we must be committed to maintaining the community, making opportunity for the people who live here, preserving its culture and protecting its people. However, we have to simultaneously be open to working with different groups of people to achieve a common goal — prosperity. This is not just a lesson Marion Barry needs to learn, but our other community and elected leaders should as well. We shouldn’t encourage prejudice and hatred by electing leaders her personify and condone it.
We are coming up on a new era in our city where, if we want to succeed, collaboration and co-existence are necessary. The economic gap between races won’t disappear by spewing forth outdated rhetoric. Black-owned businesses won’t be the driving force on Martin Luther King Avenue by strong-arming White and Asian vendors out. There is so much more opportunity left to create in Ward 8. If our Councilmember focused more on creating new opportunity instead of struggling for the little bit that is already here, then we would have a Ward (and a leader) we could be proud of.