Ignorance is NOT Bliss


Joaquin Bravo

Alejandro Ramirez loves representing America, as he bleeds patriotism.

Josie Wenzell, Staff Writer


On February 3, a meeting was held for Saline Area Schools of Saline, MI, to promote acceptance and diversity. This was done in response to racism against the school’s African-American community, specifically the football team.

Adrian Iraola, a retired architectural engineer and Mexican immigrant, felt it would be beneficial to share his expereince with racial discrimination. As shown in a video taken of the incident, Iraola stood up to share his experiences and his children’s experiences in the school system, pointing out key issues like inappropriate name calling.

As the man was explaining his and his son’s hardships, a white man, (and parent of a student in the district) Tom Burtell, blurted out, “Then why didn’t you stay in Mexico?” 

Everyone in attendance gasped and was clearly appalled by this irony and blatant racism. The meeting was held to address racism, and this man was vocalizing racist viewpoints. 

What is very alarming is how confused Burtell was after everyone in the audience was shocked. He used hand gestures and a questioning tone as if he possibly thought the crowd would agree with what he had to say. When he realized they did not, he backed down and did not take his opportunity to speak with the mic that Iraola presented to him. Burtell was initially very open to sharing his ideas in a public forum format, so who knows what kind of ideals are being promoted behind closed doors? This statement proved how racism is something that is taught. Parents need to understand the importance of diversity and accept other races and cultures just as much as students. This flagrant disregard of the Hispanic community is beyond disrespectful. 

Burrell’s son came forward by posting on Facebook, stating he completely disagrees with what his dad promoted at the meeting. Matt Burtell stated, “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,” said Matt Burtell. Matt felt the need to clear his tarnished reputation after the embarrassing stunt his dad pulled. He claims to have different views, so fortunately this ignorance is not being passed on. However, the chance still remains that this occurs in other racist homes in Saline or other school communities.

In our own school community Latina student Fernanda Camacho shares her experience with discrimination.

“Discrimination and isolation comes in very different faces. In my experience, it is often not even recognized as other deem it a ‘joke’ or simple way to express ‘dark humor.’ It becomes a never ending battle between staying quiet for the sake of peace of going with my gut, and speaking up for others like me,” said Camacho.

Camacho feels pressured to stay quiet to avoid confrontation. Senior Alejandro Ramiraz raises a different point. He thinks Latinos do not receive enough support, when speaking against racial discrimination,

Josie Wenzell
Fer Camacho has a supportive group of friends going all out in pink wear in the Adams student section of a football game.

“Racism is everywhere. You hear it in halls, ‘the side comments’ the jokes mumbled behind backs. It is part of growing up as a Latin American. It’s a shame we can’t get the help or recognition we need when we do have the courage to speak up. In turn more and more of us stay quiet,” said Ramirez.

Similarly to Camacho, Ramirez brings to light the issue of the silence that is assumed by minority groups–not by choice–but due to feeling a sense of isolation from the majority. Burtell propagated racism the night of that conference with an ignorant comment. Minority students at Adams may fall victim to such comments too, as demonstrated by Camacho and Ramirez. 

Racism is taught: The solution starts with the next generation of parents. Alongside new parents, anyone can be vocal and support minorities and educate others on the subject. Everyone has the potential to accept others and their cultures; it is really about knowledge and understanding the importance of other’s beliefs and respecting other human beings. As a community, state, and nation, it is time to put the embarrassment of racism in the past and never let it see the light of day again.