Troy Mayor Janice Daniels is not having a very good start to 2012. According to a recent poll of voters in the city conducted by Lansing-based political consulting firm Main Street Strategies and commissioned by http://www.MichiganLiberal.com, 72 percent of voters surveyed support recalling Daniels from office. Since that poll, the tape recording that Troy Mayor Janice Daniels refused to release to the public following a meeting Jan. 9 with members of Troy High School’s gay-straight alliance, was made available to the media this week by way of the Freedom of Information Act.
The meeting took place during Mayor Daniels office hours at the Troy Community Center and was supposed to be an opportunity for the students to discuss plans for a suicide and bullying prevention event. The students wanted to give Mayor Daniels a chance to redeem herself after making use of the word “queer” in an anti-gay marriage Facebook post in June 2011 before taking office.
Instead, it turned into a heated debate when Amy Weber, a youth mentor supporting the students, told Mayor Daniels’ she would be asked at the event to “discuss the issue at hand that got us here in the first place.”
On the recording, Mayor Daniels’ defended her first anti-gay statement when she said, “I didn’t think that in the total context of all of the information that is disseminated on Facebook, all of the stuff that you see on television, the radio stations, all of the vitriol and the true hate that is expressed in our various forms of media, I thought my sentence was basically inconsequential until it was made into a huge deal.”
Then she made another anti-gay statement about what the students can expect from her while at the event. “I will bring in psychiatrists who will tell you that the homosexual lifestyle is dangerous,” said Mayor Daniels.
Weber made it clear to Mayor Daniels that it’s not her place to do that as a city leader and said, “I just don’t think you should be a part of the event at all.”
Since the meeting, the student alliance and representatives from the group C.A.R.E.: the Troy Diversity Coalition (Celebrate, Accept, Respect and Empathize), have been organizing a Peace Day. Just in the beginning stages, the March event is open to everyone, including Mayor Daniels, and will celebrate unity and diversity within the Troy community.
“This is not an event trying to change anybody’s point of view. We understand and are respectful of the fact that people see the world differently. The goal is to unify that belief and understanding, which will make us a stronger community, state, nation, and world,” said Weber, adding that a variety of public officials, local celebrities and religious leaders will be in attendance.
“I think all of us are kind of in a place of acceptance. We’re rejuvenated with the planning of this Peace Day event. A lot of times when things seem exhaustive and you have nothing left to give, if you can turn your perspective around, you will find something positive that comes out of it. I personally saw it like this from day one,” said Weber. “I can either harp on what she isn’t doing and what she’s never going to be or I can turn it around. What we’re doing will make more of an impact than the negativity. I would rather just wish her well and let the people of Troy decide if they want her as their leader.”
Dr. Ellen Fedon-Keyt, a licensed psychologist, who married her partner of nine years in Buffalo, New York on Christmas Eve last year offers some insight on Daniels recent hate speech.”Skye Curtis and other young people from Troy High School’s GSA eloquently modeled for all of us what a truly inclusive and respectful community can look like, where hateful speech is a problem for everyone and it is everyone’s duty to confront and educate people about it.
“I have been addressing this as hateful speech because that is what it is. I have never said that Janice Daniels is a hateful person. I believe that she is a person of privilege who, like many other people, never had to think twice about using this kind of language because no one ever confronted her about it. Using this type of speech maintains a system of oppression in our culture by reinforcing negative stereotypes and inequalities. This type of derisive speech and the dismissive attitudes that it’s somehow not a big deal to use them are what we call “microaggressions” – their use creates an “us” and a “them” – there is a majority group of privilege and a minority group that is constantly on the outside,” said Fedon-Keyt.
Looking ahead she added, “She (Daniels) has a real opportunity here to own up to her own unthinking prejudices, seek out the cultural awareness and sensitivity training that she so obviously lacks, and become a model for tolerance and change. If she can’t step up and do that then she’s not only missed an opportunity to heal the community she supposedly serves, but she is actively contributing to an oppressive, bigoted and separated environment that is toxic to everyone, not just those in the LGBT community.”