Grading racism on a curve

November 11, 2008
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An Indiana University committee made the right call yesterday when it recommended leaving the name of a segregationist on an athletics facility, says a Ball State University historian.

John Mathew Glen says the committee appropriately recognized contributions of former judge and trustee Ora L. Wildermuth, while making amends by also suggesting adding the name of IUâ??s first black basketball player, standout William L. Garrett, who died in 1974.

Garrettâ??s name would be placed ahead of Wildermuthâ??s, an idea that President Michael McRobbie plans to forward to a trustee committee later this month.

Wildermuth was a trustee from 1925 to 1952. A 2006 book about Garrett contains a letter from Wildermuth to former IU President Herman Wells in which Wildermuth wrote that blacks had inferior intelligence and had a bleak future.

Wells, however, added Wildermuthâ??s name to the intramural fieldhouse, and the committee this week ultimately deferred to Wellsâ?? judgment.

â??Weâ??re still trusting Herman,â?? committee head Terry Clapacs told The Herald-Times.

Thatâ??s not such a bad standard, says Ball Stateâ??s Glen.

Wildermuth was a creature of his times, and the university shouldnâ??t paper it over, Glen says.

But Glen adds that the line between acknowledging history and commemorating ugly chapters of history is gray.

No credible person celebrates Hitler. But monuments built by Mussolini in the â??30s still stand in Italy. And the portrait of another tyrant, Chairman Mao, continues to hang over Tiananmen Square.

Where do you draw the line?
  • We need to stop revising history and let the choices stand as a reminder of what mistakes we made in the past and how we should treat each other in the future. One example is the Rebel Flag. Some see it as racist, while others see it as a symbol of Southern strength and unity.

    There are simply too many people looking for reasons to be offended. If one doesn't like the Rebel Flag or the Ten Commandments being posted, then let it go and get over it. Political correctness has gotten out of control.

    Another example is how we refer to ethnic groups in America with hyphenated references, ie: African-Americans, Asian-Americans, etc. If Ernie Els, moved to the United States and became a citizen, would he be an African-American? If an Egyptian citizen moved to the United States and became a citizen, would he be an African-American? Is Tiger Woods an African-American or an Asian-American or a Thai-American?

    Why can't we all be proud to be Americans.....PERIOD?
  • Great points berwickguy.

    And along those lines, why is it that Obama is constantly referred to as 'African-American'? I think it's great that we elected someone who isn't just another 'old white guy', but are we really so enamored with the idea that we ignore the fact that he's more Caucasian and Arab than he is African?
  • Agree with both of you guys.

    When I was at IU there was a big controversy about portions of a mural being displayed in some classrooms that had some depictions of KKK cross burnings. The mural was a product of time and was simply depicting many different aspects of hoosier life at that time (both the positive and negative). I believe it was ultimately left up on the wall in the hope that it might inspire discussions.
  • I applaud the IU decision. While the scars of racism run deep in this state, it is important to remember that context, while not excusing the harmful of actions of the past does help us to understand. Where we have been has brought us to what we are today. To simply dismiss our former leaders because of their shortcomings is to dismiss the vast good that was done by them from which we now benefit.

    Indeed, despite Judge Wildermuth's stance on the place of race in our society, some of the moves set into motion by he and the rest of the board of trustees no doubt were meant to benefit the university as a whole.

    This marks a departure from the knee-jerk reaction of the old style politically correct movement that I saw in college in the late 1980's and early 1990's. In those days, the judge would have been decried as a racist and therefore a personification of evil. Instead, IU's actions recognize that he was a man who contributed to the fabric and history of IU. But they also recognize that he was a flawed man. As are we all.
  • When one refers to someone as African-American or Mexican-American, they are referring to the fact that they are of African or Mexican parentage but born in the United States. If Ernie Els moved to the U.S., he would still be a South African citizen unless he applied for U.S. citizenship and he would still be caucasian.
  • Fishers Mom:

    NO, NO, NO. All kinds of people are referred to with hyphens that weren't born in the US. Nice try. But even still, let's try again. Ernie was born in the US but his parents were from South Africa. Is he then an African-American?
  • Racism
    What you do not realize about the IUPUI is that it does cordon racism in a passive manner, case to this point, the Arab students and IUPUI have stuck with themselves and what they do is to discriminate anyone else around them and there is nothing any student can do about their intransigency and arrogance. The school cordons in a divide and conquer way of controlling minority students. So if any of you is coming to IUPUI and you do happen to minority be cautious about the school you join.
    I am most flabbergasted by the situation at IUPUI
  • Racism in American Senior Communities
    I would like to report that there are 54 American Senior Communities in Indianapolis and all practice one or another form of racism, this is a fact that cannot be denied. This racism is manifested in job pay, schedule assignments, hiring and most terrible at times, the treatment of senior of color and other racial minorities

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