On Feb. 3, the Asian Pacific American Affairs Commission, which I chair, met in Troy. Our Commission, appointed by the governor, is charged with advancing the full and equal participation of Asian Pacific Americans in the building of a greater Michigan. Moreover, we collaborate, promote and actively participate to make Michigan a greater place for everyone.
Imagine our chagrin when we learned that a person testifying during a Troy City Council meeting about the Multi‐Modal Transit Center, Mr. Gordon Schepke used a slur that was common parlance during the Korean War. While he was expressing his concern that future generations would be saddled with debt, his word from an earlier time remains offensive. The discomfort he caused was clear on the faces of those who sat near him.
Gov. Rick Snyder, in his 2011 State of the State, charged the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the Michigan Department of Civil Rights with overseeing a program called Global Michigan. In short, this effort seeks to recruit and retain immigrant talent and show people what a welcoming state our Michigan is.
He stated on MSNBC last week: “We educate people from other countries and then tell them to leave. That’s dumb. They are actually job creators.”
And in the Detroit News on February 3, Peter Karmanos wrote: “What's frustrating is that many of the talented workers we need are already here. Students from around the world flock to U.S. universities to study for advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).”
A comment made during a city council meeting in Troy that can be viewed by anyone with a computer does very little to show Michigan and the rest of the world what a culturally‐rich, welcoming and inclusive state we live in. Both state and national media have picked up other stories about Troy, and it is being portrayed as a place that is insular and backward, even though those of us who live or do business in Troy hope that is not the case. We cannot hope to be cultural ambassadors, competing with other states and countries for residents and employers, by being close‐minded.
H. Sook Wilkinson, PhD
Chair, Asian Pacific American Affairs Commission
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