Things That Matter

White Parent Shouts ‘Why Didn’t You Stay In Mexico?” At Father During School Meeting To Address Racist Incidents

Far too often we talk of stories about racist White people caught on video berating people of color or calling police on them for mundane, everyday tasks. Unfortunately, this is another one of those stories but one with a level of irony that seems like it was completely lost on the man who hurled the racist insult.

Racism in the United States continues to tear apart communities – and, as this story shows, even in communities that are working to try and address the concerns of people most affected.

A viral video shows a Michigan dad asking a Latino man why he didn’t ‘stay in Mexico’ during a school meeting about racism.

A community meeting meant to address concerns over racism in a Michigan school district appeared to become proof of the problem after a white parent suggested to a Latino father that he shouldn’t have immigrated to the United States.

Adrian Iraola, who came to the U.S. from Mexico and whose now-grown children went through the schools in Saline, recalled his son’s experience of racism in the district.

“I went to his bedroom to say good night, and he was crying because of the abuse that he was enduring in this school system,” Iraola said at the school board meeting Monday in the largely-white district south of Ann Arbor.

Iraola was interrupted by a white parent, Tom Burtell, who said, “So why didn’t you stay in Mexico?”

Reactions from other parents in the room were mostly of shock and disgust.

The comment drew loud gasps and threw the February 3 meeting into pandemonium, with multiple parents yelling at the father to leave the meeting, some standing up, and one shouting, “That is disgusting.”

“That’s indicative of what our kids are experiencing: comments like that,” another father said.

However, at least one person seemed to come to Burtell’s defense saying that the meeting was a “platform for discussion,” to which Burtell responses, “That’s right.”

“Then explain yourself,” an audience member said to Burtell. “You interrupted [Iraola]. Take the mic.”

Iraola, still with mic in hand, then said, “He asked me a question, ‘Why didn’t I stay in Mexico?’ Because this is the greatest country in the world.”

But Burrell wasn’t done yet.

Credit: MLive.com / YouTube

During the meeting, Burtell also complained about discrimination being faced by white people.

“You think that … whites are the oppressors,” he said. “Here’s the evidence. You’ve got black racism all the time… try to be white and walk in a black neighborhood and see what happens.”

Even Burtell’s own son took to Facebook to call his father out for his racist comment.

https://www.facebook.com/matt.burtell/posts/1813729068759081

His comments were so provocative that Burtell’s son, Matt, condemned him in a Facebook post.

“Today my father asked a deliberately racist question at the Saline Area Schools diversity and inclusion meeting. His views of hate in no way represent my own,” Matt Burtell wrote. “I stand in solidarity with the refugees and immigrants of the world.”

The meeting was originally called to address racist bullying and taunts experienced by children at the school.

Credit: Nicole Hester / AP

The meeting had originally been organized to address instances of racism at high schools in the town of Saline, and a Latino father had taken the microphone to discuss how his son suffered from racist taunts in school.

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