It has been four months since 19th District Court Judge Richard Wygonik came under fire for making disparaging comments about Arab Americans during a conversation with Dearborn Heights Councilman Tom Berry on July 10. There is no question about Berry’s credibility. And the conversation was witnessed by another high-level official.
Despite several meetings with representatives of the Congress of Arab American Organizations, Judge Wygonik has failed to make a statement regarding the conversation which is acceptable to the community. The community has always supported Judge Wygonik and there has always been a sense that he is a fair and decent judge. A simple but heartfelt apology is all that is needed for everyone to put this issue behind them and move on cooperatively. But for some reason, Judge Wygonick has refused even to apologize for a “misunderstanding.”
Even U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel, recently appointed by president-elect Barack Obama as White House chief of staff, had the good sense to apologize for disparaging remarks about Arabs made, not by himself, but by his father, when interviewed in Israel about his son’s appointment. Emanuel called the national office of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in Washington this week and apologized for the statements his father made.
The judge should do the same. If Judge Wygonik thinks this issue will go away, or that community opinion regarding it will be diluted by other disagreements, he is sadly mistaken. This community is watching and waiting. Continued inaction benefits no one.