A North Scott Community School District school board candidate says a slip-up in a campaign speech has cost him his job. But Nick Hansel says the controversy has proven to be a learning experience.
“I’m running because I don’t want your children to be labeled a Hitler supporter,” Hansel said in a speech Sept. 20. “Mine were because they supported Trump.
“Whatever you want to support, support it, but when you walk into North Scott, I want it to be white — maybe white’s not the best word,” Hansel told an audience. “I don’t want it to be political. You’re left. You’re right. It doesn’t matter. I want you to be about academics.”
Hansel tried to clarify the statement in a question-and-answer after the speech. He said he used the word "white" to mean politically neutral.
Since the speech was posted on Twitter, Hansel says he's lost his job and taken a beating on social media. He says it's all just a misunderstanding.
“If (they) would have just put my whole speech out there and kept it in context, I was never talking about race,” Hansel said.
The entire speech can be viewed on YouTube.
After the experience, Hansel said he's realized how little diversity is reflected at North Scott school board meetings.
“I don’t see a lot of minorities presenting,” Hansel said.
Should he win, Hansel says his first step would be to invite minorities to board meetings to hear their concerns.
He also said he has been reaching out to people of color about the speech.
“I explain to them that I was on Twitter if they hadn’t already known, and most folks do, and I just want to just say, ‘Hey, how did that make you feel?’ because I’m sorry that I stirred the pot and I got any type of feelings or emotions stirred up,” Hansel said.
What he’s learned from those conversations is that he has a blind spot when it comes to race, diversity, and neighborliness — something he thinks everyone has.
“I think I’m doing a good job with friends and acquaintances, but, you know what, sometimes if I speak with a microaggression and I don’t even know I did it, I could be making someone feel uncomfortable and not even know it,” he said.
That’s what he’s learning — that you can’t assume that your words are always accurate and useful.
“Your words can be hurtful even when you don’t even think that they are,” he said.
It may have been how you were raised, but you need to still learn and get better so you don’t pass on an implicit bias or prejudice that would be hurtful, he said.
“That’s that everyday learning that we need to have,” he said. “It takes humility to say, ‘Yeah, I can do better with that and I need to do better with that.”