After several days of what some call hypocritical foot-dragging, the Michigan Democratic Party finally decided a few days ago to upbraid a Democratic Buena Vista Township official and call for her resignation after she slurred a black colleague during an April phone conversation.
The five-person executive committee of the MDP, in a unanimous vote Wednesday, May 1, formally requested the resignation of Buena Vista Township Clerk Gloria Platko for her racially insensitive and offensive statements regarding the township supervisor. Her comments have no place in our party or otherwise, a press release said.
MDP joins a list of others, including the Saginaw branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Saginaw councilman Norman Braddock, five members of the Buena Vista Township board and several township residents.
During the April 22, Buena Vista Board of Trustees meeting, Interim Township Manager Dexter Mitchell played a recording of a telephone conversation in which Platko can be heard, close to the six-minute mark, using the N-word to describe Township Supervisor Dwayne Parker.
Platko eventually apologized for the slur, but not before first attempting to defend her remark and making it seem as if she was set up: They’re trying to make it sound like a racial thing. It’s not a race thing,” Platko said. “This was a private phone call that he recorded. This was directed toward one person. This was not directed toward a race or a group of people.”
In her apology, Platko admitted the comment was “derogatory”, although she continued to insist that she doesn’t “have a discriminatory bone in my body.”
Blogger Takes Party to Task
Days after the incident, Detroit News blogger Dawud Walid, the executive director of the state chapter for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, excoriated the Dems for not taking Platko to task.
Had a member of the GOP made such a comment, civil rights organizations would pressure the party to distance themselves from the guilty party. Moreover, Democrats would likely would bring up the incident as evidence of a pattern of hostility towards minorities.
Where are the statements from activists calling on the Democratic Party to oust Platko from their ranks? Why is there no Democratic statement on their state website condemning racism among its ranks next to their statement ribbing Governor Synder about “transvaginal ultrasounds?”
This reeks of political hypocrisy.
All Republicans are not racists – nor are all Democrats sincere about racial equality in America.
Walid was right on the money, of course. The Democrats had every obligation to call out Platko for her comments and was all kinds of wrong for not doing so until after he pointed out the MDP’s hypocrisy. Had certified GOP loudmouths like Dave Agema or Jase Bolger — or even some unknown small-town right-wing apparatchik — made the same remark, I doubt seriously that the Democrats would have waited for two weeks before a censure.
Dems Aren’t Immune
Democrats are no more immune to dumb talk about race than Republicans. Remember Virg Bernero’s ridiculous comments about Native Americans?
And just as justifications and denials don’t help Republicans when they utter racist garbage, neither do they serve Democrats’ interests.
Platko probably could have helped her case a whole lot more had she simply apologized right away and tried to avoid the justifications and denials.
We know, after all, that people make unfortunate and dumb-ass comments about race all the time. But it’s a lot easier to get past them when the folks who make such remarks:
- Don’t attempt to cover themselves with claims that the racist remark was “not directed toward a race or group of people.”
- Don’t follow up descriptions of black colleagues as “an arrogant nigger” by insisting that they don’t harbor any discriminatory attitudes.
- Don’t utter the remarks to another black man in a phone conversation and then intimate that they were framed.
Unsurprisingly, some in Buena Vista Township have defended Platko, echoing Platko’s claim that in her heart she isn’t a racist. One woman even said that the black man Platko slurred, Dwayne Parker, had an obligation to “put his big boy pants on,” as if Platko’s pejorative was just par for the course in the hard-knock world of township politics.
Words Reveal Beliefs
These people have every right to defend Platko if they so choose, of course. But for those disturbed by her comments, the contents of her heart aren’t what’s at question.
After all, few who utter even the ugliest remarks ever cop to actually harboring racist beliefs.
A store clerk in Detroit demeans and ridicules the store’s black customers on social media and his father insists he’s just a bad joker, not a bigot. A Republican in Kansas warns against “nigger-rigging” a project — clarifies by saying he doesn’t want it “Afro-Americanized” — and then swears he isn’t a prejudiced person. Platko objects to a black supervisor’s authority and makes it about him being black, but can’t see how that smacks of racially discriminatory dementia.
Targets of these comments and attitudes can’t afford to look away and act as if such remarks don’t spring from a dark and ugly and evil place. Parker, for instance, said he forgives Platko for the comment, but he also voted in favor of a resolution that she step down.
Like most political wrongs, the real crime regarding Platko’s remarks doesn’t dwell only in her initial action, but also in the attempt to downplay it and cover it up.
Democratic Party leaders made clear, finally, that they would not look past Platko’s wrongdoing. That clarity should have come much sooner — and probably would have had she not been one of their own.