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Tom Watkins
Tom Watkins

A Tale of Two Cities

February 10, 2017 

When is punishment justified?

Mayor Fouts, you’ve got some ‘splaining’ to do!

The juxtaposition of the two stories about offensive and racist comments and doling out punishment – or lack thereof – should not go unnoticed.

Why university students being held accountable for their fight against racism, even as an elected official bobs, weaves, and ducks allegations – after allegedly using disgusting terms to refer to persons with disabilities, women, and African Americans?

The Mayor of Warren, the 3rd largest city in Michigan who allegedly uttered vile, offensive, and de-humanizing things about persons with disabilities, women, and African American’s goes unpunished while students protesting racist comments are punished?

EMU ( Eastern Michigan University) students were being punished for protesting racist slurs spray painted on campus walls. The students occupied the student center and stayed protesting after the building closed. The students, in an act of civil disobedience, violated the EMU student code of conduct. They were facing punishment -up to expulsion for their act.

For details, read, EMU students step up protests against racism:

EMU officials, citing privacy rights, would not discuss the details of the punishments, but have said they had no choice but to take action.

The fact is they do have a choice. They have discretion on how they choose to implement their student code of conduct. As the story unfolds, you will see the leaders of the university used their discretion.

As I was putting the final touches on this article the university made the right decision and reversed their stance to “punish” the students. Eastern Michigan University has dropped all punishments issued against 16 students who were involved in anti-racism protests, according to a statement released by EMU administration officials. EMU’s president and its board are to be commended for reversing course in this case.

This was good to hear.

Who are you going to believe?

Yet across town in Warren where one needs to suspend belief (remember the Groucho Marx line, “Who are you going to believe –me or your lying eyes?”) not to conclude that Mayor Fouts’ remarks are in fact him, racist, and that civil laws make it near impossible to hold him accountable. The mayor has repeatedly denied the voice, while acknowledging it sounds like him –is him.

The words in the recording that reasonable persons conclude are the mayor’s (which he denies) are despicable and should not be uttered by anyone, let alone an elected official. The mayor could end the controversy and shame he is bringing upon his city and our state by undergoing voice analysis – clearing his name (if it is in fact not him) and deflecting the vile language to another to be held accountable. He has refused to do so.

In referring to persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities it is alleged the mayor said:

“What good are they? They’re dysfunctional human beings. They’re not even human beings … I don’t want any part of this. This is one of the worse things about being mayor. This is the bottom of the barrel. … I don’t want to be around them, and I wish them well in a cage.”

In reference to African Americans: “Blacks do look like chimpanzees. I was watching this black woman with her daughter and they looked like two chimps,” the male voice says in one of the tapes. In yet another, the N-word is used. And in referring to older women, the voice calls them “mean, hateful, dried up …” using vulgar and offensive terms for female genitalia to describe them.

Eric Lupher, President of the Citizens Research Council of Michigan is quoted as saying “the ability of the governor to remove someone from office is really extraordinary … You need to have some clear indication that the official has abused power in some way and it’s criminal in nature.”

So, is it okay in the 21st Century to dehumanize women, minorities, and people with disabilities in vile and disgusting ways and remain in office? While at the same time, expel students for protesting racism on campus? There clearly something very wrong with this picture.

Fouts needs to call for an investigation or resign.

The mayor claims that the tapes are “phony.” If so, he owes it not only to himself, but to the public, to report this to the State Police or a federal agency. Only he can file a formal complaint as the alleged “victim.” If he did, there would be an investigation.

There is speculation the mayor knows who recorded him but was unaware until tapes surfaced. It is believed the individual who recorded the mayor will produce all the tapes of the mayor if requested to do so by a law enforcement agency. It is alleged the reason the individual can not/will not do so without “protection” is because there is a court order suppressing the tapes due to a prior settlement the City of Warren paid out to avoid deposition on a whistle blower case. The individual turning over the alleged tapes of the mayor would be in violation of that prior settlement and court order.

It is speculated that by requesting the investigation the mayor knows he would be in violation of filing a false police report and legal cover would be given to the individual who has the tapes.

The question needs to be asked of the mayor, “Why won’t you file a police report with the State Police?” (Not his own local police department)

The State of Michigan should lead.

Michigan should lead the nation as being an accepting place where we do not tolerate hate or stigmatize and dehumanize our fellow human beings, whether for the color of their skin, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or disability.

If we don’t stand up for what is right, who will?

When we see wrong and evil in our state and nation, we have a moral and societal obligation to stand together to address it: hate, vile, dehumanizing language and stigma have no place in Michigan or America.

Here is how to remove Warren Mayor Jim Fouts from office:

There ought to be a law to make it easier.

Tom Watkins  is the President and CEO of the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority ( He can be emailed at:, or followed on twitter at:@tdwatkins88


February 9, 2017 · Filed under Tom Watkins

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Leroy Stephens // Feb 10, 2017 at 11:14 pm

    I agree that we should have no tolerance for racism or any injustice that comes our way. But it seems lately that people from all walks of life are showing disregard for doing what is right. We are one race the human race. I hope we change attitudes before it is too late. Keep hope alive.



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