In an apology Friday to the Asian community, Ward 8 Councilman Marion Barry inadvertently ended up offending Polish people by using the word "Polack." The reference, which describes people of Polish descent, bears derogatory sentiments.
"America has had racial tensions from the time it was founded," Barry said. "Italians coming here, the Irish came here, the Jews came here, the Polacks came here, the Chinese came here."
Barry made the statement during an afternoon press conference at Matthews Memorial Baptist Church. The 76-year-old veteran council member, who was recently released from a hospital in Las Vegas, NV, following treatment for a blood clot, had intended to make amends for remarks he made after winning the April 8 primary that offended Asian shop keepers in his ward.
"We gotta do something about these Asians coming in, opening up these dirty shops," Barry said at the time. "They got to go. I'll say that right now."
Among those in attendance at the May 24 press conference was David Chung, a member of the city Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs commission, who took Barry to task over his comments at an April D.C. Council meeting.
Chung said however, that Barry's apology paves the way for dialogue on race relations and healing.
"The councilman joining us today is a positive first step toward healing racial tension," said Chung.