Tom Burtell: ‘Why didn’t you stay in Mexico?’

Tom Burtell
After shouting out, ‘Why didn’t you stay in Mexico?’, Tom Burtell refuses the mic when offered.

Tom Burtell is a symptom of something that makes me mad. And sad.

Last night, there was a community meeting in nearby Saline, MI to address a recent rash of racists messages circulating among area students. But it didn’t take long before Tom Burtell, demonstrated that ignorance and bigotry are alive and well in America.

One of the meeting participants, Adrian Iraola is one of the nicest, and hardest-working, entrepreneurs I know. (And his Chelas restaurants are great additions to the area!) He was sharing a story about finding his son crying in his room at night as a result of bigotry directed at him at school, when Tom Burtell shouted out, “Why didn’t you stay in Mexico?”

As I have often said, Ann Arbor is an island in a sea of backwardness. Adrian drifted just offshore last night, speaking in neighboring Saline, MI.

Sadly, there are many simpleminded “Tom Burtells” in the world, including Saline resident, Tom Burtell, who feels brave and comfortable in his own bigoted skin when shouting from a crowd, but whose courage shrivels away to nothing when offered the mic.

Bigotry like Mr. Burtell’s is rooted, I suspect, more in ignorance than in meanness, but it is nevertheless a serious national problem. And our current president fans the flames of that sort of ignorance every single day.

Unfortunately, ignorance appears to be winning. Our democracy is failing, literally, as a result.

[05 Feb, Update: Tom Burtell’s bigoted outburst made the CBS national news.]

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