Former Mayor Beth Bashert (left), Mayor Pro Tempore Lois Richardson Photos via Facebook
Former Mayor Beth Bashert (left), Mayor Pro Tempore Lois Richardson

Outrage and action from her own community prompted Beth Bashert’s resignation, just halfway through her first term.

YPSILANTI, MI — One Michigan mayor is out of a job after making racial comments during a June 16 city council meeting.

Beth Bashert resigned from her post as Ypsilanti’s mayor on Tuesday, a week after she said she supported the appointment of a human relations commissioner only because she would be “crucified” if she voted against a Black person.

“I am deeply sorry to have my service end on this note and in this way,” Bashert, who served just two years of her four-year term as mayor, said on Facebook.

The controversy began last week when the Ypsilanti City Council was voting on the reappointment of Ka’Ron Gaines to a commission that advises the council on eliminating prejudice and discrimination.

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Gaines’ inconsistent attendance record was flagged by some council members. Bashert, who is white, voted in favor of his appointment while three council members who are Black voted no. 

“Since I will be crucified if I vote against any Black person on any commission, I’m going to vote ‘yes,'” Bashert said at the time.

“Last night during our council meeting, it became very apparent that the Mayor refuses to acknowledge her problematic behavior,” Councilwoman Annie Somerville said on her Facebook page. “This is not okay. My black colleagues are not okay. I said this last night during our meeting, and I am repeating it here: my black colleagues should not have to keep defending their blackness.”

Somerville attended a June 22 protest calling for Bashert’s resignation along with fellow councilmembers Lois Richardson, Nicole Brown, Jennifer Symmans, Steve Wilcoxen, and Anthony Morgan, according to the Detroit Free Press. When the original protest concluded, another group of protesters walked to Bashert’s home to voice their concerns. 

Bashert immediately apologized, saying she was “deeply ashamed and saddened” by her remarks, but the wave of backlash that washed over the town that is home to Eastern Michigan University was relentless.

What’s Left Ypsilanti, a local online political publication, has already compiled a list of Bashert’s “pattern of anti-Blackness.”

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Gaines took to his own social media page to announce the end of his tenure as a commissioner at the conclusion of the meeting. 

“I am officially no longer a Commissioner for the City of Ypsilanti,” he wrote on his Facebook page, receiving encouragement from the commenters. “I had a great four year term.”

I am officially no longer a Commissioner for the City of Ypsilanti… I had a great four year term! I learned sooooo…

Posted by Ka'Ron Gaines on Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Bashert’s social media space was a different story, displaying outcry from residents calling for her resignation. Citizens got their wish early Tuesday morning.

“Sadly, as a result of my actions, there is healing to do to ensure that all residents, including Black, Indigenous, and people of color, enjoy full equity in Ypsilanti,” she said.

City of Ypsilanti:It has been an honor to serve Ypsilanti in the ways I have, including city council member and mayor….

Posted by Beth Bashert on Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Even the mayor’s resignation was met with vitriol. Some commenters took a compassionate tone with the disgraced mayor and her public lesson-learning. 

“This has been painful to watch, and never the conversation I wanted my beloved city of Ypsilanti to have,” Patricia Berry commented under Bashert’s resignation post. “To watch a friend learn in public, to not know how to help, to struggle with how to hold accountable, to stand both in compassion and truth.”

Berry told The ‘Gander that she and Bashert are not close friends, but that they are friends in the community.

“This was, at its heart, also a conversation about how the white community can call our family, our white friends to account for racist thinking that is unexamined,” she said. 

“Our racism and racist thinking has consequences, but if we hold each other in both truth and love, we may move through this toward learning.”

While she has not responded to comments on her resignation, Bashert chose to leave the comments on to allow the community to vent and process, according to Berry. 

She is replaced by Mayor Pro Tempore Lois Richardson until November. 

Richardson, who is Black, is a native of Ypsilanti and a product of the city’s public school system. She earned a BS in social work and education from Eastern Michigan University in 1965 and then was ordained as a Christian minister in 1977. She has served on the city council since 2000.

Richardson called Bashert’s comments out at the June 16 meeting. 

“I said at the beginning of the meeting that we have a responsibility to call out racism when we see it and all of that is a very explicit display of racism,” Richardson said. 

The rapport between Bashert and Gaines seemed very different less than a year ago when the two sat down for an interview on Gaines’ YouTube channel. Watch the interview below.

Bashert’s full statement is below. 

City of Ypsilanti:It has been an honor to serve Ypsilanti in the ways I have, including city council member and mayor….

Posted by Beth Bashert on Tuesday, June 23, 2020

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