Ypsilanti community calls for Mayor to resign after making racist comments

Friday, June 19, 2020 - 2:23pm

Protesters at Ypsilanti's Black Lives Matter protest on June 6.

Protesters at Ypsilanti's Black Lives Matter protest on June 6. Buy this photo
Annie Klusendorf/Daily

During a city council meeting over Zoom on Tuesday, Ypsilanti Mayor Beth Bashert made what she later called racist comments before casting a city council vote. As a result, community members have begun calling for Bashert to resign from her role as mayor, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The comments were made towards the end of the meeting just as the council members were preparing to vote on the reappointment of human relations commissioner Ka’Ron Gaines. While Bashert voted for reappointment, the rest of the council members voted no.

“Since I will be crucified if I vote against any Black person on any commission, I’m going to vote yes,” Bashert said during the call.

The comment was followed by disbelief from the other council members, of whom councilmember Nicole Brown later requested Bashert to apologize. 

“I think that is disrespectful, honestly, to our constituents and our community to say that you have to vote ‘yes’ because then, if not, you would be attacked because you didn’t appoint another Black person,” Brown said. 

Bashert followed by saying she would consider Brown’s comments. As the meeting was coming to a close, council members Anthony Morgan, Annie Somerville and Mayor pro-tem Lois Richardson also responded to the mayor’s initial comments.

In the meeting video, Somerville said the mayor’s comments were “highly offensive” to the Black members of the council and urged the non-Black councilmembers to be actively anti-racist.

“It’s unfair for the three Black council members, the Black city manager and the Black chief of the fire department to have to sit through and continuously deal with comments made about race by the mayor — to be completely clear — during council meetings,” Somerville said.

Bashert offered an apology after several council members spoke about the initial comments.

“I’ve heard the mistake that I have made, and I apologize, I do,” Bashert said. “I am a white person working energetically and hard on my racism that I was raised in, and I will continue to work on it, and I will continue to speak, and I will continue to ask that I be judged on by my actions more than my words.”

The following day, Bashert posted an official apology on her Facebook, noting that she “was defensive and frustrated and caused harm as a result,” but is committed to working against systemic racism and becoming an active ally for the Black community. 

Ypsilanti community members are calling for Bashert to step down from office, and many will be attending a protest next Monday to show support for the city’s Black community.

Summer News Editor Kristina Zheng can be reached at krizheng@umich.edu