A woman running for city council in Marysville, Michigan made national news after announcing at a city council candidates forum that she intended to keep her town as white as possible if elected. Following calls for her to drop out of the race Friday, she’s doubled down.

“I’ve been visiting city council meetings and I’m planning on staying a visitor for a while,” Jean Cramer told local news outlet The Times Herald.

Cramer follows in a long trend of overt racism among political aspirants in the age of Donald Trump. Even among Democrats, overt racism doesn’t seem to end careers.

Jean Cramer’s Racist Campaign

While at the forum Thursday she spoke about keeping Marysville white, she’s gone on to clarify her remarks as being against interracial marriage, rather than against racial minorities as a whole. She also briefly flirted with an argument against foreign-born residents, but quickly conceded that white immigrants from nearby Canada were acceptable to her. Though she hedged on whether or not Canada really counted as foreign, and said that at this moment a white immigrant from Germany wouldn’t be welcome in her ideal Marysville.

Candidate: Marysville should be as white 'as possible'

Kimberly Craig WXYZ spoke with a city council candidate in Marysville who said she wanted to keep the city "a white community as much as possible."Jean Cramer told Kim this afternoon that she has no problem with a black couple moving in, but it's wrong if it's a mixed-race couple.DETAILS:

Posted by WXYZ-TV Channel 7 on Friday, August 23, 2019

Her remarks have thrust the small border town into the national spotlight. She’s gotten coverage from CNN, USA Today, and Time, among others. Marysville’s mayor, Daniel Damman, wishes that national attention was for a better reason.

“To be thrust into the national spotlight for an issue that really isn’t representative of the city … that’s not why I’d want to be thrust into the national spotlight,” Damman told Grit Post. “If it were for one of our many accomplishments or a fair representation of who we are as a city, I’d have no issue with it.”

Damman was one of the voices calling for Cramer to drop out of the city council race following her remarks Thursday night, but thinks this was an example of candidate forums doing what they’re designed to do — educate voters.

Damman did not mince words about Cramer being a racist. In fact, one of the only people denying she’s a racist is Cramer herself, who insists that opposing interracial marriage — an issue settled more than a half-century ago in the Loving v. Virginia case — is not a racist position, but a Christian one.

“I’m a huge fan of the democratic process and I think its so important for voters to know who they’re voting for … One of the questions was on diversity and this answer — there was an audible gasp from everyone in the room simultaneously. Everyone in the room was just absolutely stunned,” said Damman. “Had we not had this forum there’s a possibility that this person may have been elected to city council, to represent people of every race and every national origin. That would not be a situation that anyone should be comfortable with, to have an open racist in any elected position, in Marysville or anywhere.”

He’s deeply disappointed that Cramer’s views have distracted from a weekend of municipal programming centered around the city’s Hot Wheel Weekend, a car show with bands, one of the actors from Starsky and Hutch, and as many as a thousand classic cars.

“The Marysville that one candidate believes to be appropriate is not the Marysville that exists,” said Damman, “This is one Marysville for everybody.”

Is Cramer’s Marysville the Real Marysville?

But Damman thinks that Cramer’s remarks beg a broader discussion, because the Marysville that Cramer wants is rooted in some reality. Kevin Watkins, president of the local NAACP, agrees a discussion should take place and Cramer should drop out of the race, but is confident in saying her voice is in the minority. Not all local activists agree with Damman and Watkins’ characterization of the town, though.

Marysville is very white. In 2017, there were 18 times more white people than all nonwhite or mixed populations combined. Fewer than 3.5% of Marysville citizens are foreign-born. As one of the few mixed-race people in the city, Mayor Pro-Tem Kathy Hayman — daughter of an immigrant small businessman and philanthropist — was deeply offended by Cramer’s remarks. But according to local activist Bridget Huff, few people even know Hayman’s respected father was an immigrant.

The town Huff described, a Marysville she grew up in, hasn’t changed much, according to her. And to say that Cramer doesn’t speak for Marysville ignores the large number of people she has worked with over the years who believe as Cramer does, but don’t say it at candidate forums.

“Let’s have the minority contingent weigh in with their experiences,” quipped Huff. “Good luck finding them.”

In fact, the number of people who are of mixed race in Marysville are so small the margin of error means there may be as few as nine people in a town of 9,760. The city has faced a decline in population, which anecdotes Huff provided to Grit Post attribute to black families who have moved away from the area because of the climate in the city.

“God damn, look at the comments section, people are backing her up left and right,” Huff said of an article about Cramer’s racist remarks.

She also pointed to the comments on the articles for other evidence; “Look at comments on any story in Michigan, any outlet, and you can find people saying ‘I lived there, this is true’ … We exist, we’re here, we’re ready to talk about it.”

Huff also mentioned the effort of a police officer who returned to Marysville after working elsewhere in an effort to improve the community’s department of public safety. Marysville resident Marcie Fryvie, who lives along a notorious “speed trap” in the heart of the city, said Marysville police are notorious for pulling people over for “driving while black.” Mayor Damman noted that their department is celebrating its centennial this weekend.

Huff was unimpressed with Damman’s response to this time in the spotlight, though.

“He’s the mayor of this city and he absolutely knows that there aren’t minority residents. It hasn’t occurred to him that its an explainable phenomenon? It hasn’t occurred to him that there might be a reason?” she challenged Damman. “What have you been doing to make a difference? What have you been doing to increase inclusion? Just being pissed someone said it out loud on camera is not sufficient.”

Huff hopes, though, alongside Damman and Watkins, that there needs to be a broader discussion instead of just hoping Cramer goes away. It isn’t enough to react with gasps and what Huff characterized as “pearl-clutching” about Cramer saying out loud what Huff has heard often in whispers in her community.

She has called on Damman to host public forums on the issues of diversity, inclusion and the kind of racism that Cramer espouses. If, as Damman says, Cramer’s Marysville is not the real Marysville, Huff challenges him to show it through more than words to the national press.

“If it isn’t true, if it’s just a false perception, have a town forum. Let’s get it out there, let’s be honest about what’s going on. Let’s ask people why they feel the way they do. You can’t just say it’s not true and hope it goes away,” she suggested. “I know I’d be happy to show up at those forums.”

(Featured Image: Times Herald/Fair Use)


Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.

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