Flint, MI– Two Black councilmembers were removed from a virtual committee meeting on May 19, after speaking about race, white privilege, and cultural differences.
Councilman Eric Mays and Council Vice President Maurice Davis were “removed,” or muted, from a virtual Governmental Operations committee meeting chaired by Councilwoman Eva Worthing.
It started with a special order made by Council President Kate Fields to discuss what the City Clerk needed to get all of the city ordinances up to date on the city’s website.
After Fields spoke, Mays requested the floor. Worthing granted it to him, but before he began speaking she reminded Janell Johnson to keep track of his time.
“You know, make sure that the time clock is runnin when Ms. Fields is speaking, because you’re really showing your bias towards me,” Mays said.
He went on to point out other examples he viewed as biased, like how Fields was able to speak on her special order without a motion first being on the floor, a rule that has been applied to Mays and others in past meetings.
As he began talking about this, Worthing asked him to be germane to the special order at hand regarding the city clerk.
Mays said what he was talking about was germane in his “Black mind,” although he said maybe it did not seem that way in her “white mind.”
Worthing asked Mays to refrain from using racial terms, a request that has been made by Fields and Worthing at many previous meetings, and said she would rule him out of order if he continued. Mays appealed this ruling.
Worthing said she ruled Mays out of order for not being germane, but Mays said he was “laying the foundation” for his points.
“If you don’t understand ‘cause you white, ‘cause there’s a cultural difference possibly,” Mays started to say.
Worthing then had Mays muted, before the council could vote on whether or not he was out of order, citing disorderly conduct.
Councilman Maurice Davis tried to speak on the appeal of her ruling, but she told him it was irrelevant now that she had Mays removed.
He said Worthing didn’t have the power to remove Mays without a vote of the body, and she tried to tell him he was out of order. When Davis kept talking, she had him muted too.
Fields referred to what Mays was saying as “inflammatory rhetoric.”
“Mr. Mays likes to do that because he thinks he gained some kind of political base by doing that, but I’m telling you, people of all races in this city don’t like it,” Fields said. “They do not like it because…it’s an effort to use this inflammatory rhetoric, however he tries to disguise it under cultural differences in order to create division among not only councilmembers but people in the city.”
In the next committee meeting, Mays and Davis were allowed back in. During public comment, multiple public speakers called in and accused of Fields and Worthing of displaying racist discrimination.
Worthing called one of those speakers, Robert Jones, “completely unhinged,” and criticized Davis, who was now the chair of this meeting, for allowing Jones to call her “worthless,” and a “white supremacist.”
Fields said, “talking about race is good,” but the way that public speakers and council members were doing so was “not appropriate.”
Mays said it was his right.
“I have the right to distinguish between Black, white, young, old, Democrat, and Republican,” Mays said. “I’m respected by Black folks, white folks, and…constantly, you hear Ms. Fields and them talk about me, then say, oh, people shouldn’t talk about people.”
At the meeting Monday night, Fields made multiple references to Mays’s history with the law, and paying bills. At the start of the committee meetings on Wednesday night, Fields apologized to the city for some of the things she said, and said she had matched “ugly with ugly.”
As Mays spoke, he also said he “had the right to say Ms. Fields seemed to be a dirty, nasty, polite-talking white folk.”
Fields asked Davis to rule Mays out of order for saying that. Davis said it was clear that there were “racist overtones” in the meeting, and that his white colleagues “degrade” the Black councilmembers in their “mannerisms and tone.”
When the vote came to decide whether Mays was out of order, Fields, Worthing, Councilman Santino Guerra, and Councilwoman Monica Galloway were not present.
The council voted to postpone the items on the Legislative Committee meeting agenda to the next committee meeting, so they would have their colleagues present to discuss them.