Would you drink something called Dirty Asian Summer Punch? "Marion Berry's Dirty Asian Summer Punch," to be precise. This was actually being served up on the drink menu at The Pug in Washington D.C.
Yes, a satirical alcohol tribute to Marion Barry's controversial comments about "dirty shops" and Filipino nurses. The drink was advertised with a chalkboard sign featuring an bald, slant-eyed, buck-toothed Asian caricature declaring, "No tickee, no punchee." Crude? Offensive? Racist?
The D.C. Commission on Human Rights apparently thought so. They ordered bar owner Tony Tomelden to stop serving the drink and take down the sign. Washington Post columnist Mike DeBonis might have had something to do with that: D.C. orders 'Dirty Asian' punch off bar's menu.
The sign was removed Friday after a city agency threatened to drag Tomelden before the D.C. Commission on Human Rights in a rare display of the city’s little-known power to regulate speech in places of public accommodation.Damn, I feel like I see this kind of stuff all the time. What I don't see is anybody actually stepping to regulate. But the city steps in and threatens this guy with a $10,000 fine. Over a drink! And a sign. On one hand, I can appreciate a good jab at Marion Barry. But that sign is straight up racist and needs to go.
First, some disclosure: I may have played a role in sparking this whole dust-up. Tomelden posted the sign shortly after Barry made his controversial comments in April, but the city didn’t take note until last Wednesday, Sept. 5 — the day after I tweeted a picture of the sign while having beers with a friend. I can’t say for certain that someone saw the tweet and complained, but the timing is curious.
On Thursday, the Office of Human Rights delivered a letter to Tomelden calling the sign “racially offensive” and requesting that it be taken down and "Dirty Asian Summer Punch" be taken off the menu.
"We believe that such a sign is not demonstrative of the shared values and practices that make the District a fully inclusive environment for all residents and visitors," agency director Gustavo F. Velasquez wrote.
But I do have to ask, where exactly was the D.C. Commission on Human Rights when Marion Barry, an elected city official, was getting down with his own ridiculous racist remarks? And he wasn't joking.