Near Where I Live

If you not seen it in the news at night, online, or in a physical newspaper; there was an incident which occurred not far from my home which I believe is important. Washtenaw County is south of where I live (Livingston County) and is a blend of ethnicity, different cultures, citified spots, and rural areas. In it is Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan. Ann Arbor is a hotspot for liberal attitudes and consequently  .   .   .  Democrats. The whole area from Detroit westward to Ann Arbor and north into Livingston County is changing.  While this is not a story about Livingston County, the county residents there are afraid of the change which a proposed light rail service going into Ann Arbor from Livingston and then Detroit which could carry people to work   .   .    .    would bring. The train would go both ways.

Michigan coming into the 21st Century (finally) is scary for people accustom to driving as lone passengers in  too big, too fast, too often pickup-trucks and “suvs” everywhere including work.  The growing population is changing  both counties from rural farming to suburban/urban. It screams for other modes of transportation and living.

This is a long introduction  to the ” rest of the story.”

I live in Livingston County which is situated north of Washtenaw County. Besides Ann Arbor there are a number of small communities surrounding Ann Arbor, which are growing, and slowly crowding out the rural farm areas. There is an influx of Black and Hispanic citizens moving into these areas which has newer and less costly homes which would not be found in the wealthy belt surrounding Detroit. The schools are having to make room for other cultures and races. Saline is one of the growing communities with a population of ~10,000.

The Saline School Board decided to hold a public meeting to discuss race relationships within the schools. A number of parents came to the one meeting. One immigrant to the US from Mexico living in the area also came. Adrian Iraola’s children have been in Saline schools and he spoke about his son who endured racist name – calling by students in the district and described the impact it had on him.

“I remember when 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 and telling him: ‘Embrace who you are because the bumps and bruises can make you a better person if you have the strength and the faith that can take you where you want to go.’”

It was during Adrian’s commentary on the issues his son faced when Tom Burtell spoke out.

“Then why didn’t you stay in Mexico?”

The crowd quickly reacted to the obvious racist comment reprimanding Burtell. Later his 24 year old son spoke out about his father’s “racist and xenophobic behavior.”

“It’s of vital importance to call out racism wherever you see it. We can not stand idly by — as children, as brothers and sisters, as friends and as people interacting with each other in daily life — when someone says or does anything racist. It’s all of our responsibilities and it shouldn’t have to get to this.”

If any one thing made the issue more prominent, it was this one comment by an adult expressing his racial beliefs of not accepting others different than himself. There is an underlying issue residing here. We have gone backwards to a time when America was not so great and perhaps these thoughts still lie dormant within many of us? I do get the feeling Trump’s behavior has made it far too easy for us to go backwards in time in relationship to other cultures and races.

“Parent responds with racist retort at school meeting,” ABC News, Enjoli Francis and Michael Mendelsohn, February 4, 2020

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