The column’s headline doesn’t describe how aggressively I play bid whist. The subject is much more serious.
Indianapolis’ African-American community and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway really haven’t had a relationship. Instead, both institutions have barely tolerated each other.
Very few Blacks have attended the Indianapolis 500. Blacks have worked at the Speedway and in recent years some have been executives and held key management positions at the Brickyard.
It wasn’t until 1991 that an African-American, Willy T. Ribbs, first attempted to qualify, did and race in two 500’s.
Eight years ago, Academy Award winning actor Morgan Freeman was the first African-American to drive the Pace Car on race day. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell (2005) and ABC’s Robin Roberts followed (2010).
Today, the Speedway adjoins a Black community on its eastern border and a Black and Hispanic community on its northern border. Like the State Fairgrounds, the Speedway has become an institution located in a minority community.
This is the 100th Centennial 500 celebrating what the Speedway has meant to this city, state, nation and world.
There’s always been controversy and politics at the Speedway. But it’s been about auto racing, not partisan politics.
The only controversy surrounding Pace Car drivers has been could they pace the race at 125 miles an hour and not crash like the late Eldon Palmer did in 1971.
That’s why the Speedway’s decision to let Donald Trump drive the Chevrolet Camaro Pace Car this year disturbs me.
I’m not concerned about Trump’s business braggadocio, it’s his foray into politics and his increasingly bigoted and near-racist remarks about President Barack Obama that has me and many African-Americans deeply concerned.
In recent weeks, Trump has become an avowed “birther,” flatly declaring that President Obama wasn’t born here. Trump, like other bigoted haters of the president, has taken to using the president’s middle name, which Obama haters throw out as a vile epithet declaring their bigoted presidential hatred.
You know about the confrontation between Trump and Whoopi Goldberg on the “View.” Even Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly had concerns about Trump’s new birther bigotry.
Last week, in a letter to The New York Times, Trump’s bigotry spewed forth.
“There is a very large segment of our society who believe that Barack Obama, indeed, was not born in the United States,” Trump wrote.
“He (Obama) has not been able to produce a ‘birth certificate,'” Trump continued, “There are no records in Hawaii that a Barack Hussein Obama was born there. No bills, no doctors names, no nurses names, no registrations, no payments, etc.”
When Times columnist Gail Collins called Trump a ‘birther,” he lashed out saying, “‘Birther” is very derogatory and is meant in a derogatory way.”
Trump’s bigotry, dare I say racism, towards the president continued in a conversation with MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough. Trump charged that the president didn’t write one of his bestselling books.
Scarborough told Politico.com that Trump told him, “Bill Ayers wrote Dreams From My Father. That first book was total genius and helped get him elected. But you can tell Obama did the second book himself because it read like it was written by somebody of average intelligence with a high school education.”
And more Trump bigotry told to Bill O’Reilly, “Our weak president, that kisses everybody’s a–, is in more wars than I have ever seen. Now he’s in Libya, he’s in Afghanistan, he’s in Iraq. Nobody respects us.”
It’s time this faux billionaire’s racial hatred towards the president ends. Worse, it’s time that institutions stop providing a platform for his bigotry.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has never openly provided a platform for someone’s bigotry and racism. The 500 is an event where drivers from many nationalities compete and where, again someday that will include an African-American man or woman.
Yet, why is the Speedway giving such exposure to a man striving to be a 21st century birther and Bircher?
The Speedway has never allowed a political candidate to dominate the month of May. They should continue that tradition and rescind their invitation to Trump.
And if he comes here, and rides in the 500 Festival Parade, Blacks who attend the parade should turn their backs when Trump rides down the street.
What I’m hearing in the streets
Karega Rausch, who’s done a stellar job running the Mayor’s Charter School Office, is leaving the Ballard Administration to be the Indianapolis head of Stand for Children – an education advocacy group.
That places in peril the operation of the Charter School office which under the mayoral administrations of Bart Peterson and Ballard has been an office run by quality people.
While I’m happy for Rausch, I shudder at who the mayor will bring in to continue the quality job monitoring the mayor’s charter schools.
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The biggest surprise in the announcement of the teams in the 2011 Circle City Classic wasn’t the teams. Yes, to many used to attending the Classic, seeing the teams and bands of the big name Black colleges, this year’s teams from Albany (Georgia) State University and Kentucky State University will be a disappointment.
Some may think those two schools aren’t HBCUs, but in reality they are considered by the federal government and others as much HBCUs as Grambling and Tennessee State.
But the shocker in the announcement was the game’s revised start time of 2 p.m. That’s right 2 p.m.
Just 90 minutes after the Classic Parade clears downtown streets, the Classic Game will begin at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Indiana Black Expo communications director Elizabeth Hart told me the change was done because “We discovered we were losing people between the parade and the game. We hope this will keep everyone downtown for the entire day of activities and events.”
I’m not so sure. The parade attracts as many as twice the number who attend the game. And for many, the parade is their Classic event. Also, the 90 minutes between parade’s end and game’s start is cutting it very close for IMPD to clear streets redeploy officers from parade control to game traffic control.
The change to a 2 p.m. Classic start time wasn’t carefully thought out. It needs to be.
See ‘ya next week.
You can e-mail comments to Amos Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.