News & Politics

Uncle Marion?

Marion Barry’s string of racially themed gaffes have our writer pondering a new nickname for Hizzoner.

Marion Barry. Photograph by Christopher Leaman.

Marion Barry has earned many monikers in his day: Hizzoner, Mayor for Life, and Night Owl, to name a few.

After watching the once-brilliant politician let
racial epithets slip from his lips, we might want to come up with a new
How about Uncle Marion, or Grandpa, or simply Pop-Pop?

Last month our former mayor offended Asians by
accusing them of running crappy, dirty stores in Ward 8, where he now
as council member. Then he dissed a second nationality by
insinuating that Filipino nurses were taking up jobs that should
be going to DC residents. And yesterday, when he was trying to
mend fences with Asians, he referred to people of Polish descent
as “Polacks.”

Marion Barry is not a mean-spirited racist. A product of the
Civil Rights struggle, he truly believes in diversity and equality
and openness. But Barry is getting old. He’s 76. Perhaps it’s
time we started to look at him as a sweet old fellow who just
says whatever comes to mind.

With age comes license to talk. Past the age of 75,
the connection between the mind and tongue can become direct, without
the benefit or bother of an editor. We all have witnessed the
great-uncle or -aunt who blurts out inappropriate things at
the Thanksgiving table.

That could be what we are witnessing with Uncle Marion.

Keep in mind that Barry has been the smartest
politician in town for more than 40 years. As he dominated politics in
DC from
the day he arrived in 1965, he displayed a genius at running
the government and running for office. He knew every budget number,
every regulation, every voter, it seemed.

It’s kind of sad to see him become a babbling old fellow before our eyes.