Michigan state Rep. Bettie Cook Scott is facing backlash from more than a dozen progressive groups after she allegedly used a racial slur against her Democratic opponent.
Ms. Scott, who is black, is accused of calling state Rep. Stephanie Chang, who is of Taiwanese descent, a “ching-chang” and “ching-chong,” according to several witnesses who spoke with the Detroit Metro Times.
Ms. Scott allegedly went on a tirade against Asian immigrants while speaking to voters outside polling precincts during last week’s Democratic primary, saying “these immigrants from China are coming over and taking our community from us,” Metro Times reported.
Ms. Chang went on to win the race for state Senate District 1 with 49 percent of the vote, compared to Ms. Cook’s 11 percent.
“These comments are offensive to all Asian-Americans,” Ms. Chang told Metro Times. “It isn’t about me. It’s about an elected official disrespecting entire populations, whether they be Asian-American, immigrant, or residents of Senate District 1 or [Ms. Cook’s] own current house district.”
Ms. Chang’s husband, who said he overheard Ms. Cook’s screed outside a precinct on the east side of Detroit, said the representative shamed him, a black man, for marrying Ms. Chang.
“I … asked her not to speak about my wife in that manner,” he told Metro Times. “At that time she said to the voter that ‘these immigrants from China are coming over and taking our community from us.’ Further, she said it ‘disgusts her seeing black people holding signs for these Asians and not supporting their own people.’”
Another witness at another precinct in Detroit’s East English Village said Ms. Scott was overheard telling one voter, “Thanks for voting for me, you don’t need to vote for that ching-chang,” Metro Times reported.
A coalition of 19 community groups condemned Ms. Scott’s comments.
“No elected official or candidate for office, regardless of political affiliation, should use stereotypical imagery or language,” they said in a statement. “The use of these stereotypes is counter to the progress our country has made over past decades to encourage respect for all communities.”
Ms. Scott’s office told the Free Press that no one would be available to comment until next week.
Ms. Scott on Thursday publicly apologized to Ms. Chang and said she planned to apologize in person during a meeting with her next week.
“Those are not the kinds of comments that should be made nor are they the kind of comments I would normally make,” Ms. Scott said in a statement issued through her lawyer Bill Noakes, The Detroit News reported. “I humbly apologize to Rep. Chang and to her husband, Mr. Gray, and to the broader Asian American community.
“We live in a time of increasing divisiveness,” she said. “As a state representative, I should never do anything to contribute to an atmosphere of divisiveness and for that, I am terribly sorry. I look forward to meeting with Rep. Chang to express my apologies directly to her as soon as she’s able to meet with me.”
Ms. Chang confirmed that she planned to meet with Ms. Scott early next week.
“It’s not about me,” Ms. Chang told The Detroit News. “It really is about the comments that she made to Asian-Americans and the community more broadly.”