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Letter to the Editor: Using Racial Slur in Council Meeting is Not OK

"We cannot hope to be cultural ambassadors, competing with other states and countries for residents and employers, by being close‐minded."

Dear Editor,

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.

Most sincerely,

H. Sook Wilkinson, PhD
Chair, Asian Pacific American Affairs Commission

Troy Patch accepts letters to the editor. Send yours to jen.anesi@patch.com; please include your full name and hometown. Letters may be edited for clarity.

Irv Wengrow February 06, 2012 at 03:26 PM
The Mr.Shepke mentioned in the Letter also happens to be one of the Mayor's nominees for the very important Planning Commission. He also is given as a "reference" by another of her nominees
Lucille Musser Arking February 07, 2012 at 05:32 PM
Every time a member of the Troy community speaks with stereotypical words about minorities they are causing our city to look to the rest of the world as if we are at least insensitive and at most cruel to some of g-ds people.Every time council ignores these cruel stereotypical words and they further confirm that image . It is not acceptable to say I meant it in another context . There is no context where these words are acceptable .
Jennifer Griffith Hilzinger February 09, 2012 at 04:22 PM
What a great letter and wonderful input from an important voice in our state. I was very embarrassed that the council did not provide either the explanation or apology that Dr Wilkinson and Dr Kirkbaum both came for. I hope they do what they can at some point to repair all of these bad feelings and relationships they are creating with Mayor Daniels leading the way.
Ed Lambert March 28, 2012 at 08:04 PM
Thanks, all writers above, for dancing around the word used. The term "Chi-Com" is not a racial slur. It is a term having wide currency and used specifically to describe the government of the "People's Republic of China," which is not a government in power as a result of democratic elections. The term was misused, I believe, because the comment was not directed against the government of China itself. Or maybe it was, for we know that the Chinese economy has heavy strings tying it to the government iself, even more so than what we experience with our own economy. On a related matter: the word "queer" has raised a storm of consternation. Those "consterned" should demand that all colleges and universities offering "Queer Studies" be banned from using the word. Google the term and see what comes up. The soundtrack for virtually every episode of "Will & Grace" should be scrubbed, too. I happen to be of Dutch ancestry and I would welcome jokes made at my "nationality's" "expense" because I can enjoy a joke without becoming oh so greviously offended. Well, how about it?
Lucille Musser Arking March 31, 2012 at 04:26 PM
Mr Ed Lambert, i wish to repeat what I said above. It is never acceptable to use slang words against a group opof people or a country which is made up of people. however the context I heard in city council meetings was in a context against chinese people. Let us stop this nasty behavior of putting anyone down who does not look like you agree with you , or think like you.
cookiepro2 March 31, 2012 at 06:40 PM
Ed, I wanted to present you with a simple analogy regarding this discussion about public language regarding groups of people. Suppose I am a store owner. Business has not been good due to the economy. I hire this employe who my friend Ed says is a really good salesperson and will help my sales increase. My customer base though dwindling is diverse and heterogenous and my thriving depends on keeping the widest customer base that I can. The first month something comes out that my new employee had said that offends a segment of my customer base. Instead of putting my business first and offering an immediate unqualified apology, my employee starts talking about her personal beliefs and her constitutional rights. I'm starting to think that this is not a good job fit. Further bad, her friends start coming into my store and talk about a lot of extraneous matters, like the "evil" superstore thousands of miles away and they throw out more language that offend other parts of my customer base. All this gets me mad because it has nothing to do with my business. I'm willing to overlook the above at my friend Ed's insistence even though my new employee has some strange quirks like tape recording meetings with my other staff and not wanting certain business mail to be opened by anyone but herself. However when she starts making a scene and yelling at my long-time store manager, I'm seriously thinking of at the very least putting her on a generous probationary period,
Lucille Musser Arking March 31, 2012 at 06:47 PM
Cookie pro2 , You explain the issue very well as it relates to our city being hurt by this nasty language . thank you .
Ed Lambert April 01, 2012 at 12:00 AM
cookiepro2, thanks for responding to my note regarding "Chi-coms." I have to take issue with your analogy, though. Remember, Daniels made her remark long before the election, and it did not surface untll later, by which time the opposition had already determined that it wanted her out. She has since made no such comments. "I'm seriously thinking of at the very least putting her on a generous probationary period," I agree wholeheartedly with this! As far as I'm concerned the mayor has been on probation since those not-so-wise criticisms of Szerlag. Can you point out where she's violated probation, though? I can't. I note, too, that her political opposition does not even attempt to answer that question. Instead, Sharon take note, it continues to revisit those opening, disastrous weeks, of which there were about 5 or 6, max. I go through the blogs and follow the commentary in Patch. It remains the same: focus on those first few weeks. Someone tell them it's already April tomorrow, quite a bit past January. I think she's well aware of the need to revisit that old text book on political survival: "Make as Much Nice as Possible with Everybody but Hold to Your Principles." That's why I wish to give her more time.
Ed Lambert April 01, 2012 at 12:13 AM
For all those offended by "slurs," especially those against gays: Go to the Cal. State Univ. Northridge website and find a webite devoted to Queer Studies. I found this simply by Googling those two words, as the third entry in a long list. What does this say about the argument regarding "offensive language"? It weakens it. However, many of us never thought the anti-Daniels uproar was based on any defensible argument in the first place. It was anti-Daniels even before the election was held. Fortunately enough for them, recall election laws don't require anything more than clear language and a wait time of 6 months, so the recall supporters don't have to embarrass themselves by failing to come up with substantive arguments about recalling public figures. This is an example of what contemporary liberalism has been attemping all along: Removal from the public sphere of any questions of morality. The "ME" generation simply cannot tolerate the notion that there exists some order higher than itself. Who knew!
Ed Lambert April 01, 2012 at 12:23 AM
"Let us stop this nasty behavior of putting anyone down who does not look like you agree with you , or think like you." - Lucille Musser Arking I agree. Please pass these words of wisdom on to the anti-Daniels bloggers and others--ya know, the folks who think the electoral majority in November voted blindly. What has them steamed, I believe, is that in recent years they discovered that their opposition no longer rolls over and plays dead--not judging from the ratings enjoyed by the alternative media. They cannot abide the notion that someone would disagree with liberal premises about government and society--ya know, back talk from the unwashed. Did anyone ask the person who used the "offensive" term whether he directed it against Chinese people, or are you simply inferring something he did not imply? It happens frequently, especially when we're already dead set against someone representing some sort of opposition. I, too, have made that mistake.
Lucille Musser Arking April 01, 2012 at 04:35 PM
Dear Ed Lambert , My profession has taught me to deal with data . To people who deal with data there are certain rules. One of those rules is if you get an idea or hear someone elses thoughts , you go look for data that supports or does not support the thought or idea . The idea of disagreeing with someone is not being nasty . Rules of manners say that it is not that you disagree . It is how you state that disagreement . I have watched 95% of city council meetings since the day they were put on television. About 8 years ago I started to keep a talley of who states their disagreements in public comments with words of respect and good manners . If you divide them according to the political thoughts, it may surprise you that those who identify themselves with being conservative has a 8 to one lead ,over those who identify themselves as progressives or idependents ,in using very nasty words or accusing council or city employees of being lazy or liars etc. So I do not think it is only the progressives who need my consider my previous message about nasty words . my data supports that conseratives have a much greater problem with having a acceptable vocabulary when they voice disagreement with the government. However it does not mean conservatives are nasty. The issues is that we have a small group of reactionaries in Troy who seem to think they are conservatives.
Lucille Musser Arking April 01, 2012 at 04:39 PM
Dear Ed Lambert (to continue the above ) Next issue relates to progressives angry about not wining council . The data is this 3 conservatives and one moderate/conservative won the city council election. If liberals (correct term in use today is progressive) Only the mayor is getting disagreement upon disagreement from the public .If the progressives are just spoiled and angry about the election why are they not recalling or fussing about all . They are not so angry and about the election but rather about one persons unprofessional behavior . The data does not support that theory of yours.
Lucille Musser Arking April 01, 2012 at 04:46 PM
Dear Ed Lambert ( to continue answering your points)Last but not least the issue of words can't be wrong because they are in the dictionary or they are used in othr context can easliy be settled by rules of good manners . To quote a very old idea as it was written by Emily Post who died at least 50 years ago . if the person of group does not likewhat you call them , then do not use it. That is the issue with the words the mayor used and the things she says . It is not a minor issue as she has hurt the reputation of our city across the world and those who continue to use such words or make excuses for them double hurt our reputation acros the world . Last but not least I am a progressive who have many respectful concervative friends . i do not believe that conservatives are necessarily nasty but boy we have a group of reactionaries here in Troy who call themselves conservarive. No I am not al the me generation as i most likely older then you. P.
cookiepro2 April 01, 2012 at 07:37 PM
Ed, We will have to agree to disagree about Mayor Daniels. I believe there has been sufficient reason and red flags, to put the question of her continuing as mayor on the ballot in November. If she does good between now and then, sure, I will vote no on the recall at that time. Meanwhile, I will be watching Mayor Daniels closely during the upcoming budget deliberations and city manager selection. One thing that would impress me would be if Mayor Daniels had something concrete to point to as a problem solver, for instance the Boyd street problems. I see that she is doing the meet and greet with some businesses around town and having office hours with residents, but does that really translate into anythng benefiical to Troy, it just looks like more politiking on her behalf. Probably past mayors would not address or give opinion to the Boyd street issue either, but that I think that might be Mayor Daniels's strength, the willingness to step outside the box in her role.
cookiepro2 April 01, 2012 at 07:48 PM
Thank you, Ms. Arking for your well-stated and reasoned posts. I, for one am tired of hearing labels like conservative and liberal tossed around, their side, our side, etc. Let's just agree to continue the status quo, that is Troy being a nice place to live and willingly paying the taxes that enable that.

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