'Imagine how it feels:' Saline racism erupts for a third time this year

August 29, 2020, 12:46 PM by  Alan Stamm

Saline's public school district confronts its third racial flareup this year.

The new embarrassment involves a tennis player accused of cursing at Ann Arbor Skyline High opponent Avinash Nathan with the n-word and an f-bomb. The nastiness erupted during a doubles match between the neighboring districts. 

"He looked like he'd just gotten off of a roller coaster. He was definitely in shock," Courtney Nathan tells MLive, recalling her son's emotions when she picked him up after Thursday's match. 

The Ann Arbor teen's father, a cancer surgeon and assistant professor at Michigan Medicine, spoke out that afternoon on Twitter:

The racist slur, acknowledged by Superintendent Scot Graden of Saline Area Schools, comes a half-year after an anti-immigrant swipe at a school forum. "Why didn't you stay in Mexico?" a resident told Mexican-American restaurant owner Adrian Iraola, who had described ethnic taunting of his son. The videotaped drama got national news covereage. 

The February meeting topic was a January incident involving white Saline High football players who sent racist messages to black teammates on Snapchat, a social media app. Two were suspended and expulsion was recommended for two others.

Superintendent Scot Graden
(Photo: Saline Area Schools)

This week's hate speech complaint brings a statement from the districts' superintendents. "We will not allow unfortunate acts of racism such as this to define our schools and our community," says Friday's response from Graden and Jeanice Swift of Ann Arbor Public Schools.

"Immediate and decisive action" was taken, the pair say, noting that they "cannot share specific student information." 

A reaction also comes from Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, whose district includes Ann Arbor. "As community, we have to step up to incidents like this," she posts on Facebook. "I salute the parents, who said the family will be able to move past this incident and hopes that by speaking out, there can be sustained change."

Courtney and Hari Nathan want the offending high school player to apologize directly to their son. "Punitive action alone doesn’t really fix the fundamental problem," the father tells Greg Wickliffe of MLive.

In the same way that the slur was delivered face-to-face, the apology should be delivered face-to-face. If any good is to come of this situation, that's what's required.

"Simply slapping the kid on the wrist and saying: 'You shouldn't play tennis' [isn't enough]. He's going to find a way to play tennis. That's not going to fix the problem.

"He needs to sit down and understand the impact of those words. I want to give him the benefit of the doubt. I want to believe that he doesn't understand how hurtful those words are, and I hope I'm not wrong about that."

The news site quotes the Ann Arbor teen's mother as saying: "I'm hopeful that ... parents and community members become engaged. I hope that they get upset, I hope that they have hard conversations with their kids."


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