A white Michigan city councilwoman’s “knee-jerk reaction” to describe a colleague’s remark as “ghetto” recently drew attention to ongoing concerns of “racism and spitefulness” within the local government.
Councilwoman Eva Worthing is a school teacher in Flint, Michigan where she represents the 9th Ward for the City Council. During a six-hour meeting Wednesday while an amendment to a motion was being proposed, she spoke up while her microphone was off in response to Councilwoman Jerri Winfrey-Carter, the representative for the 5th Ward and chairwoman of the council who is black.
“You know what, don’t get funny up in here, because I’ll turn this out,” Winfrey-Carter said after Worthing had quipped the reason for the amendment was, “Because we can.”
It was at that point that Worthing was reported as responding, “That’s ghetto.” Her remark was immediately called out by nearby Councilwoman Tonya Burns who said, “Really? That’s a racist term. Don’t say ‘ghetto.'”
For what it’s worth, Dictionary.com says of the term, “When ghetto is used as an adjective, meaning that something is ‘unrefined, low-class, cheap, or inferior,’ the word is considered derogatory.”
Since the incident, Worthing has issued a formal apology for the comment stating, “It was a knee-jerk reaction. I said, ‘That’s ghetto’ under my breath,” as reported by MLive. She further noted how she “felt threatened” by “unprofessional and unsophisticated” comments from Winfrey-Carter.
However, the drama in the council meeting didn’t stop there. Burns went on to state for the record, “Point of information, madam chair. I think it is a personal attack to say ‘getting ghetto,'” and addressed her concern over Worthing adding, “To say ghetto and to say it so easily and to laugh about it, that disturbs me. That’s just wrong…You teach children and you’re comfortable saying ghetto?”
Furthermore, Councilman Eric Mays said, “We take offense to you calling us ghetto. Now I’m going to assure you, I’m going to look up some words and call you something. I don’t want to call you trailer-nothing, but I will.”
He went on to add, “My reputation is, when you go low once, I go low two, three times. And the sooner that council people learn this… I keep score.”
Though she had apologized, Worthing did not leave the matter alone and took to Facebook where she expressed her grievances with the council, Burns in particular, for her selective outrage and for personal attacks.
Worthing alleged that Burns called her a “liar and a racist,” made insulting remarks about her weight, and even called her “Councilwoman Karen.”
“Why is this behavior allowed?” Fox News reported Worthing asking. Of the Karen remark she explained, “I feel [it’s] racist towards me.”
“I have been through so much abuse on this council. I have never been apologized to,” she went on, noting, “It is about race. All three white women on this new council have had their race pointed out by Eric Mays. There was no story and there was no apology.”
Mays had been removed as president of the council in a 6-0 vote and, according to MLive, he had insinuated that was racially motivated as well. “I see a different treatment getting ready to happen…Race might be a factor.”
“You got your knee on my neck politically,” he went on to say, likening himself to George Floyd after he was removed from the next council meeting in handcuffs for remaining out of order.
“There is so much negativity, racism and spitefulness in the current council,” Worthing said. “As leaders, we should be modeling the behavior that we want to see in our city. And unfortunately, that has yet to happen in the four years that I have been on council.”
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