Groups assail Bartlett over 'normal' comment No apology coming, an assistant says

March 05, 1993|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff Writer

Asian-American organizations expressed outrage yesterday at U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett for his "detrimental" remarks about Asian and other ethnic groups, but a Bartlett aide said last night there would be no need to apologize.

The Japanese American Citizens League yesterday called for the freshman Republican congressman to "publicly apologize" for the remarks, in which he asked why so many national scholarship winners were Asians and Middle Easterners and not "normal people."

"We are . . . expressing concern and requesting a public clarification and apology," said Dennis Hayashi, the league's national director. "It's important that he publicly apologize. Persons in his position should not perpetuate stereotypes."

The San Francisco-based group's call was supported by Chinese and other Asian organizations.

James Lafferty, a Bartlett aide, said yesterday that the 6th District congressman's remarks Wednesday were misinterpreted and that he was arranging a meeting with Asian groups to clarify the matter.

Mr. Lafferty said callers to Mr. Bartlett's office have been satisfied with his explanation and that there would be no need for the congressman to apologize.

"What he was actually talking about was different groups in the United States that have been successful," the aide said.

"There was no attempt and no intention to say Asians are not Americans or that their surnames were not normal or anything like that."

Mr. Bartlett also made a statement about never seeing "Orientals" on welfare. Mr. Hayashi decried Mr. Bartlett's use of the term because it "perpetuates the 'model minority' myth and indicates a lack of understanding of the problems still faced by many Asian-Americans today, many of whom live in poverty."

Karen Narasaki, a civil rights advocate for the group, said it was "even more distressing that neither Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer nor any of the other congressional members who were present raised any concerns."

Daphne Kwok, executive director of the Organization of Chinese Americans Inc., said Mr. Bartlett's gaffe demonstrates the need for elected leaders "to be very cognizant of the multi-ethnic society we live in."

The 6th District includes part of Howard County, all of Carroll and Frederick counties and Western Maryland. It is home to 7,662 Asian and Pacific Islanders, according to the Maryland Office of Planning. There are 137,663 Asian and Pacific Islanders in the state.

Doan Binh Nguyen, a Vietnamese civil engineer who lives in Columbia, called Mr. Bartlett's remarks "quite pathetic" and said, "It's quite discriminatory to differentiate the scholarship winners by their heritage. It's not right."

Mon Lam, a senior at Wilde Lake High School in Columbia who is of Chinese descent, said students who "worked very hard" for scholarships "were all very disappointed . . . very angry" at Mr. Bartlett. "It's very appalling," she said.

Dr. Jane Hu, founder of the Asian American Voters Coalition in Potomac, said, "Those kinds of racial comments are frequent."

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