Saline High School, a majority white school in Michigan, recently launched an investigation after white football players were caught making racist comments to black teammates over Snapchat.
To combat racism within the school district, the Saline Area Schools held a parent's meeting to discuss discrimination. One of the speakers at the meeting was Adrian Iraola. He immigrated to the United States from Mexico City in 1980 and sent all three of his children to Saline Area Schools.
Iraola and his wife own two Chela's restaurant locations in Ann Arbor and Dexter. They say that for years their children have faced discrimination because of their Mexican heritage. They attended the parents meeting to help inspire change in the community.
"He was crying because of the abuse that he was enduring in this school system," the father said about his son.
Iraola was interrupted by Tom Burtell, a father who has sent six kids to school in the district, who blurted out, "So why didn't you stay in Mexico?" prompting a dramatic gasp from the crowd.
"That's indicative of what our kids are experiencing," a parent retorted.
Iraola appeared to be taken aback by the comment and reacted calmly by cracking a huge smile. He responded to Burtell's question by saying, "Because this is the greatest country in the world."
"But you're complaining about being here," Burtell responded as if someone couldn't love their country and deal with racism simultaneously.
Later in the meeting, Burtell would cay the meeting is "ludicrous," but his comments proved the fact that the meeting needed to happen in the first place.
"You're complaining about situations and this incident where somebody made a little tweet. Nobody got hurt in that, and that was done off campus," Burtell reportedly said. "That doesn't concern the school system. Everybody has a right to free speech."
Burtell is right on one point, everybody has the right to free speech. But everyone also has the right to speak freely about racism and call out those who are its propagators. We also have the responsibility as adults to each children — like the football players who sent racist SnapChat messages — that being a racist is wrong.
Iraola saw the exchange as further proof that bigotry is alive in the community and needs to be addressed.
"We wanted to tell the audience that this [kind of discrimination] was alive and well," Iraola told The Washington Post. "We were very surprised to see that, right then and there, is the ignorance manifested by those comments."
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