Controversy still rages in Buena Vista Township, Michigan, where the white town clerk is under fire for calling a black town supervisor the n-word in a conversation with the interim town manager. In an exclusive set of interviews made for the Project 21 black leadership network, targeted Buena Vista Township supervisor Dwayne Parker and interim township manager Dexter Mitchell talk with Project 21 member Stacy Swimp about how they are coping with the situation, how they think it can end and whether or not they can still work with offending Buena Vista Township clerk Gloria Platko.
In a January phone call between Platko and Mitchell that was taped by Mitchell (an action that is legal in Michigan), Platko expressed her utter contempt for Parker. Platko sought to dismiss Mitchell’s suggestion that she and Parker “sit down” and try to work out their problems.
That’s when Platko was recorded saying: “You know what I think of Mr. Parker right now, and I know you’re not going to like this, but he is just an arrogant nigger. And I’m sorry to say it that way, but that’s the way I feel.”
Mitchell made the contents of the call public at a township board meeting on April 22. Platko insists her problems with Parker are “not a race thing.” She said she’s “entirely sorry to this entire community,” but she also said “I will defend any black person in this township except Dwayne Parker. He’s a lowlife.”
At a April 30 special public meeting that addressed Platko’s comments, five of the six voting members of the township board voted in favor of a symbolic resolution calling upon Platko to resign from the clerk’s position. Platko was the sole voting member not in attendance. Parker voted for Platko’s resignation.
Groups such as the Saginaw chapter of the NAACP and the Michigan Democratic Party also want Platko to resign. Platko, Mitchell and Parker are all reportedly affiliated with the Democratic Party.
In the exclusive Project 21 interview, interim township manager Dexter Mitchell tells Project 21’s Swimp he recorded the phone call with Platko as a “defense mechanism” to show he was truly working for a peaceful resolution and not playing “gotcha” against Platko – a charge that Platko subsequently made against Mitchell.
Speaking on the veracity of Platko’s statement and the damage it caused, Mitchell said:
I immediately told her that the action that she did was wrong… My boss just told me that I’m just going to say something that I know you’re not going to like, and now my boss is telling me I don’t care if you don’t like it – I’m gonna say it anyway… If you know I’m not gonna like it, why do you say it?
Mitchell says he has spoken with his pastor about how to deal with the prospect of forgiving Platko and continuing to work with her. He hopes, as a result of his making Platko’s comments public and allowing people to discuss the issue, the township “gets to the root of its problems and starts to build itself.”
Despite voting in favor of Platko’s resignation, Parker – in his interview with Project 21’s Swimp – said:
[T]he business of the township and government is first and foremost in my life… So, therefore, as long as she’s on the board, I will continue to work with her.
With Parker’s hailing from the South, he told Swimp that he recognizes the use of the n-word as “brutal and dangerous now” just like it was in the past. Regarding Platko’s use of the n-word in particular and in her position of power, Parker added:
In this society,… these words are not tolerable – particularly when you are an elected governmental official. It’s just not appropriate behavior, and for an individual of senior age should know better.
Platko is 69. Parker is 52.
Asked for a reason behind Platko’s animosity toward him, Parker said “I really don’t know.” He nonetheless wants to focus on governing, saying, “I was taught to forgive.”