The Racism Scandal That Really Was

Listen to this “man in the street” at today’s Glenn Beck rally in Seattle:

“The race card being played by the left side of the aisle is wrong.”

OK. I suppose to be fair, then, I ought to lead with an ace. The following was sparked by the 9-09-09 edition of this blog:

FRONT PAGE HEADLINE  9-27

Front page news today in Bloomington, Indiana

Boston Herald editor and angry blogger Jules Crittendon didn’t think much of my September 9 cross-posting of “Health Ins. VP sends Obama Hate-mail on Company Account ” at The Democratic Daily:

Math And Protocol

Or rules, points and yardage if you like. GOP rep gives the other team more ammunition with an outburst. There’s shock, scandal and snark. What’s this nation coming to? Hey, once upon a time they used to fight duels and cane each other. It isn’t like the other side is exactly a picture of decorum. Turns out what goes around, comes around. That said, cork it, Rep….

OK: To be fair, Jules Crittendon doesn’t think much, period.

And, to be fairer, Kiwanis International wasn’t much impressed, either, seemingly sweeping under the rug the racist email that their Vice President  insurance agent sent to Kiwanis officers under his corporate aegis, the Hylant Group of Bloomington, Indiana.

But the city of Bloomington, Indiana is taking it seriously. And the Hylant Group took it seriously, as well:

City cutting ties with Hylant Group

Executive who sent anti-Obama e-mails has resigned

By Michael Malik
The Bloomington (Indiana) Herald-Times
September 27, 2009

Bloomington will suspend its work with Hylant Group of Bloomington after a vice president sent an insensitive and racially charged e-mail on his company account, Mayor Mark Kruzan said Saturday.

Also, a Hylant Group executive said Saturday that he had accepted the resignation of Denton “Denny” Flahualt, the Hylant vice president who sent the racially charged e-mail.

Indianopolis Monthly, April 1995, p. 21

HVS illustration: Indianapolis Monthly, April 1995, p. 21

Hylant does not have a contract with the city, but acts as a middleman between the city and insurance carriers. Hylant reviews and analyzes insurances plans from carriers and then provides the city with input as to which plan the city should choose. The insurance carriers, and not the city, pay Hylant.

LINK: See the Obama images and
e-mails at the blog “His Vorpal Sword.”

Warning
: Some of the content may be offensive

Kruzan said it was a combination of the inappropriateness of the e-mail and the company’s response to it that led to his decision.

“It’s not even a close call that there has to be a response from the city of Bloomington as a Hylant customer,” Kruzan said. “That response is not to do business with the company in 2010.”

“The company’s lack of direct ownership of the issue requires that the city act in a way that makes it clear that we expect more from companies with whom we’re doing business,” Kruzan said.

The e-mail, sent by Flahault, the former vice president of Hylant Group of Bloomington, includes various images of President Barack Obama: as a communist, as Adolf Hitler and more. One image depicts Obama, surrounded by communist and Muslim symbols, urinating on a map of the United States.

Richard Hylant, regional vice president of Hylant Group of Toledo, said the images in the e-mail portray bigotry and are political hate messages, which serve no purpose in this world.

“I hope people don’t have the impression that we haven’t reacted strongly, because the organization condemns this kind of behavior,” Hylant said.

Hylant said he’s not worried about losing other business and will explain the situation to any customer who asks.

Reached Saturday afternoon, Flahault declined to comment for this article.

Flahault’s e-mail was posted earlier this month on a blog and was forwarded to The Herald-Times Wednesday. On Thursday, Flahault confirmed he sent the e-mail.

The Herald-Times’ report about the e-mail was published two days after Hylant Group of Bloomington was honored as the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce’s Large Business of the Year.

A Toledo-based corporate officer acknowledged Thursday it was a mistake for Flahault to send the e-mail saying, there is a policy that Hylant Group employees not use a company e-mail to “send personal things of that nature (and) we will deal with that internally.”

Hylant Group, founded in 1935, is a full service insurance brokerage with 12 offices in five states and employing about 650 people.

Kruzan said he saw the e-mails sent by Flahault and waited for another day after the company’s initial response to them before making his decision to suspend the city’s work with Hylant.

“I don’t agree with calls that there be a firing,” Kruzan said. “The goal is to have some indication that it’s not just against company policy to use e-mail for personal purposes, but a clear public statement that the content of the message is not acceptable.”

Kruzan said the city would consider working with Hylant Group after 2010.

I reprint the complete article because The Bloomington Herald-Times is a subscription-only site. Otherwise, this article will vanish down the well of history. Clearly the mayor and citizens of Bloomington found this to be an important story — important enough to take a clear and unambiguous moral stand. And it’s still important to talk about it.

most popular 9-27

today’s most popular topics in Bloomington, IN

I spoke to a reporter in Bloomington on Friday, and he said  “It’s gotten a lot of attention” in smallish Bloomington, Indiana.*

[* 2007 US Census estimated pop. 72,254 Bloomington is also the home of Indiana University, which probably makes it -- as is said of Lawrence, Kansas, home of KU -- an island of ponytails in a sea of tractors, and is noted as the fictitious birth place of Star Trek's Kathryn Janeway .]

If the story drew such a strong and definite response from the citizens of Bloomington, Indiana, one wonders what sort of reaction it might have drawn, had the membership of Kiwanis International been informed of the matter. Which they weren’t.

kiwanis 90th anniversary

But the officers of Kiwanis instead tried to soft-pedal the matter, and now can end up looking like relieved mid-level bureaucrats: the tactic of Sergeant Schultz has produced the hoped-for result of, “It’s not my responsibility.”

Others have taken care of the “scandal,” and it’s now just yesterday’s news, and would not be seen outside of Bloomington, did not blogs like this one reprint the stories from the site. And yet, it was a Kiwanis Club scandal, and, while Hylant and the city of Bloomington took decisive steps when confronted with the evidence, Kiwanis has seemingly declared, “I know nothing–NOTHING!”

You know, Jimmy Carter may well have been right about the racist undertone of the national debate, but we’ll never know that either.

Because he was swept under the carpet, too.

Speaking up takes moral courage. And speaking up FOR speaking up takes moral courage, too. We ought to take a moment to thank Mayor Mark Kruzan for taking a clear, morally unambiguous stand. (This isn’t the first time he’s done so recently.)

mayor mark kruzan

Moral courage is the most difficult kind of courage and the rarest, and is the kind most desperately needed in the darkest times. A comment was left on the prior blog entry in this series that bears quoting in its entirety (but made Family Values Friendly, and with a h/t to):

Two points:

  1. I’m a good ole boy born and raised in Aiken, South Carolina (look up the sheriff’s name for a laugh) and I know how racism works. It’s displayed openly when around those of like mind, at home or at work. You got a small whiff of it in the forwarded email. Introduce a black person though, or put a camera in the room and suddenly everyone is a bastion of tolerance. Flahault, Hylant and Kiwanis are full of bullsh**  and,
  2. If Flahault were a “liberal” Insurance Exec, and Kiwanis a “liberal” service group, and they offended Limbaughian sensibilities, you can guarantee there would be a sh**storm of national proportions until Flahault was fired. But good people don’t get outraged, not even when they should.

Not enough of us, anyway.

To which I have only a little to add, which is that the following is the TYPICAL way that these ugly incidents are being treated [emphasis added]:

h/t mimicus
Fri Sep 25, 2009 7:05 am
from the  MoBTalk board

Monroe Co. and Bloomington, Indiana

Sen Diane Black’s (R-Gallatin) legislative aid circulates racist email
by Christian Grantham – 12:32 pm – June 15th, 2009

Newscoma posted details of a racist email sent from Sherri Goforth, legislative aid for Sen. Diane Black (R-Gallatin). The email depicts the Presidents of the United States with President Barack Obama as a pair of eyes in a black background.

I spoke with Sherri Goforth minutes ago to confirm she sent this email. She confirmed she had sent it and also said she had received a letter of reprimand from her superiors but said she will stay on the job.

When I asked her if she understood the controversial nature of the photo, Goforth would only say she felt very bad about accidentally sending it to the wrong list. When I gave her a second chance to address the controversial nature of the email, she again repeated that she only felt bad about sending it to the wrong list of people.

“I went on the wrong email and I inadvertently hit the wrong button,” Goforth told NIT. “I’m very sick about it, and it’s one of those things I can’t change or take back.”

from the 1950s, USA

Not so very long ago …

Courage.

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “The Racism Scandal That Really Was

  1. Not all Republicans are racist, but most racists seem to be Republicans.

  2. majii

    I stumbled upon your blog through a link at DailyKos. As an African American who has had to live with covert and overt racism for over 50 years, I really don’t understand fully the racist attacks on the president mainly because he is African American. I taught high school social studies for 33 years until I retired at the end of the 2008-09 school year, and I have never seen so much ginned up opposition to a president’s speech to school children in my life. I taught under presidents from Reagan to Obama and never looked at a president as an indoctrinator of kids, even when I didn’t agree with their political views. I felt the same way about songs kids sang to past presidents. That the Republican Party and leaders will not denounce this type of behavior shows their endorsement of it. I am adding your site to my favorites. You are a true American hero because of your principles and you willingness to rebut the lies, foolishness, and madness. I can’t really give you the credit that you are due, but I can be eternally grateful for your work.
    Thanks for your invaluable services and contributions. If each one of us puts another chink in the wall of racism, America could have a brighter future.

  3. Mac McFadden

    “…she only felt bad about sending it to the wrong list of people.”

    In other words, she’s not sorry for being a racist, she’s just sorry for being found out.

  4. james

    I too, stumbled upon your blog through a link at crooksandliars. It is refreshing to see two replies that say it all, from bughunter and majii.

    Thanks for the excellent report.

  5. bughunter

    Thank you, Hart.

    Since you are publishing my comment, please note that item 2 should read “… and Kiwanis a ‘liberal’ service group…” My error of haste.

    Also, three decades ago I proudly played little league for several years on a Kiwanis-sponsored team, and have to acknowledge that they do many noble things, so I am even more ashamed that they displayed such banality in this instance.

  6. Thank you, bughunter (if that IS your real name.)

    Fixed.

    Yes, it’s sad about Kiwanis’ leadership, but I used to be angry that people around me weren’t displaying any moral courage, until I realized that virtually no one ever does. It is an extremely rare quality, more to be praised for its (rare) presence than screamed about for its (all too common) absence. Sgt. Schultz is the poster child for those who go along to get along … a vast and overwhelming majority too much of the time.

    That said, I certainly hope to not cross Sheriff Hunt. :-)

  7. Pingback: Mike’s Blog Roundup | NUZE.ME

  8. JDKINPA

    I got here via a link to The Daily Democrat on Facebook, and wish to add my thanks for this enlightening story.

    I used to get these type of racist e-mails from my racist relatives until I informed them that I supported and voted for President Obama. Needless to say my e-mails from them have ended. LOL

    To find out that so called educated businessmen are just as comfortable forwarding them is really a window on just how much this nation still needs to have an honest discussion about race and race relations.

    As our Attorney General said:

    “Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot in things racial, we have always been, and we, I believe, continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards,”

    Under cover racist such as Mr. Flahault need to be exposed. Keep up the good work.

  9. Awesome blog!

    I thought about starting my own blog too but I’m just too lazy so, I guess Ill just have to keep checking yours out.
    LOL,