Michigan legislator apologizes for calling Asian American opponent racial slurs

State Rep. Bettie Cook Scott referred to state Rep. Stephanie Chang as "ching-chong."

In Michigan, amid mounting backlash, a state legislator has apologized for "disparaging remarks" -- for the record, she means racial slurs -- that she made against an Asian American opponent for state Senate.

Detroit Rep. Bettie Cook Scott on Asian opponent: 'Don't vote for the ching-chong!'

During a recent Democratic primary, Michigan state Rep. Bettie Cook Scott reportedly referred to her opponent, state Rep. Stephanie Chang, as "ching chong," and called members of Chang's staff "ching chongs."

"Vote for me. Don't vote for the ching-chang!" witnesses overheard Scott telling voters during the August 7 primary election for District 1. She also reportedly called Chang's campaign volunteers "ching-chongs," saying "I called them ching-chongs. That's what they are!"

Well, that's just some good, old-fashioned racist schoolyard name-calling. But wait, there's more.

At an earlier campaign stop, Scott called one of Chang's campaign volunteers an "immigrant," saying "you don't belong here" and "I want you out of my country." Later, she was overheard telling a voter "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."

When all else fails, racism and xenophobia are a tried and true political strategy.

The incident prompted outcry from over a dozen organizations calling on Scott to apologize the immigrant community, the Asian American community, and the residents of Senate District 1.

"In these times of rampant xenophobia, racism and intolerance, it is extremely disappointing to hear of an elected official speak to voters in this way,
said Aamina Ahmed, Executive Director of APIAVote - Michigan. "We all need to work together to combat prejudice, bias and systems of discrimination, not fall prey to them."

Scott, who is serving her third term in the state House, issued an apology on Thursday.

"I deeply regret the comments I made that have proven hurtful to so many. Those are words I never should have said," Scott said in a statement. "I humbly apologize to Representative Chang, her husband, Mr. Gray, and to the broader Asian American community for those disparaging remarks. In the divisive age we find ourselves in, I should not contribute further to that divisiveness."

"I have reached out to Representative Chang to meet with her so that I may apologize to her in person. I pray she and the Asian American community can find it in their hearts to forgive me."

Chang, who is serving her second term in the state House, was the first Asian American woman to serve in the Michigan Legislature. She defeated Scott in the state Senate primary with 49.9 percent of the vote.

"Hate has no place in our state, and especially not from those elected to serve the public," Chang said in a statement posted to Facebook. "I understand Rep. Scott has recognized that her comments were uncalled for and inappropriate. This is not about me -- it is about the impact of xenophobia and bigotry on Asian American and immigrant communities."

Chang says she'll take up Rep. Scott's offer to apologize and discuss her problematic comments in person, and will meet with her next week along with representatives from the Asian American and immigrant community.

"I hope this meeting will be an educational opportunity that will help Rep. Scott better understand the values of tolerance and acceptance within our communities, the contributions made to the fabric of our nation and our state by immigrants and children of immigrants like me, and the impact that offensive comments like hers can have on community members."

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