Just as father and Mexican immigrant Adrian Iraola was sharing how racism has affected his son at a Michigan school board meeting intended to prompt such discussion Monday, a white parent shown in a now viral video interrupted his story with—get this—a racist remark. "Then, why didn't you stay in Mexico," the parent NBC News identified as Tom Burtell asked.
At the time, Iraola was telling members of the Saline Area Schools district—an area about 10 miles south of Ann Arbor—about his son’s experience attending school in the mostly white city. "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 meeting.
Video of the exchange showed other meeting attendees visibly floored by Burtell’s question. They gasped in horror. “You need to leave,” one woman demanded. “That’s disgusting,” another said. Meanwhile, Burtell sat with his hands open as if the problem with his toxic question was completely lost on him.
“That’s indicative of what our kids are experiencing, comments like that,” a black meeting attendee said. It was, however, the reminder that the meeting was “a platform for discussion” that inspired further comment from Burtell. "That's right," he said. “You know what? I've got respect for you, buddy, whoever you are."
But when Iraola offered to turn the mic over to Burtell, he declined. “He asked me a question ‘why didn’t I stay in Mexico,’” Iraola said. “Because this is the greatest country in the world.” Burtell interrupted again, interruptions apparently being his preferred manner of speaking. “But you’re complaining about being here...” Burtell said.
I forgot, to some who are privileged enough to live in such blissful ignorance, the only appropriate sentiment regarding life in America is overflowing joy despite the discrimination and brutality some face because of the way we look. It was just last July that President Donald Trump told progressive Democratic congresswomen from other countries to "go back" to the "broken and crime-infested places from which they came," in a thinly veiled attack on Somalian immigrant Rep. Ilhan Omar. From the president’s Twitter account straight to the mouths of the liberated bigots who worship the ground he walks on, racism has a tendency to spread when unchecked by the leaders among us.