Flint councilwoman under fire for use of word 'ghetto' at council meeting

Kalea Hall
The Detroit News

A Flint councilwoman said she "absolutely" wished she would have reacted differently after using the term "ghetto" in response to a councilwoman's comment during a six-hour long series of meetings on May 4, according to an interview with NBC 25 News.

Ninth Ward Councilwoman Eva Worthing, who is White, was called out by Councilwoman Tonya Burns, who is Black, for using the term "ghetto" after a disagreement with Councilwoman and Chairwoman Jerri Winfrey-Carter, who also is Black.

Eva Worthing

"I actually was just shocked it came out of my mouth in the first place because I don't normally talk that way," she told the TV station. "I think it was frustration. Pure frustration."

Worthing added that she has felt disparaged by some of her colleagues during meetings.

"The fact is I am constantly called a nasty White woman," she told the station. "My race has been mentioned almost every meeting."

Worthing could not be reached for comment by The Detroit News on Sunday. 

A City Council committee was discussing a motion presented by 7th Ward Councilwoman Allie Herkenroder to amend a resolution to include new rules when Worthing told Winfrey-Carter: "A motion is always an order and we're just amending the motion."

Jerri Winfrey-Carter

The 5th Ward's Winfrey-Carter asked why the motion was being amended. Worthing responded: "Because we can."

"You know, don't get funny-acting up in here because I'll turn this out," Winfrey-Carter shot back. 

It was after that comment that Worthing apparently referred to the actions by Winfrey-Carter as "ghetto." Her comment could not be heard on a video of the meeting, but Burns appears to have heard it and said something to Worthing. 

"That is a racist term," Burns who represents the 4th Ward said at the meeting. "Don't say 'ghetto.'"

Worthing received a warning from Winfrey-Carter; Worthing appealed the warning, which was seconded by Second Ward Councilwoman Ladel Lewis. 

The "ad libs" by Worthing while she was talking to Herkenroder about her motion were "unnecessary," Winfrey-Carter said.

"I'm not here to play. I'm here to be fair. I want to hear from all of my colleagues," Winfrey-Carter said. "And that's how I facilitate my meeting."

It was unclear at what meeting the discussion was taking place; the council had several committee meetings scheduled that day.

Worthing told Winfrey-Carter the council shouldn't even have had the discussion, and Herkenroder made a "valid motion" that should have been able to be seconded, discussed and then voted on in the meeting. Worthing then alludes to feeling threatened by the chair's warning.

"It is clear that you are not understanding what is going on," Worthing said. "When you're a chair, you should be professional and treat everyone the same."

Burns said she was "offended and appalled" by the term ghetto being used.

"To call someone ghetto, we don't do that," Burns said. 

Worthing then excused herself from the meeting.

In a Facebook post on May 6 she wrote: "I have never received an apology for the way that I have been treated over the last 4.5 years. And I never will. I will not receive an apology for being threatened on Wednesday."