Two months after news reports about a swastika and racist slur that were carved into the eighth green at Smock Golf Course, Charles Blackwell went with some of his friends to play a round in January and was shocked to see the same carvings still there.
Blackwell, 70, said he didn’t know about the carvings — the words “f--- n------,” along with the swastika — before going and wouldn’t have gone if he did. A friend later told him they had been there for at least a couple of months. Blackwell filed a complaint in July with the Indianapolis Office of Equal Opportunity, which referred the case to the Indiana Civil Rights Commission.
“I can’t explain to you the feelings that you have when you see this and you’re a person of color,” he said in an interview. “And then when you find out it’s been there for two months, come on, man. Are you serious? They couldn’t do anything?”
Reached by phone, an employee said they didn’t “have anything to say about that” and directed the Recorder to contact the course’s director, Ken Washam, who directed the Recorder to Indy Parks, which operates the public course.
In a statement, Indy Parks spokesperson Ronnetta Spalding said Washam was notified in “late October” about the racist carvings. Washam put sand over the area, but it eventually settled into the ground or washed away by January. The grounds crew removed pieces of the green during the first week of January, according to the statement. Blackwell was at the golf course Jan. 6, which was a Sunday.
“Indy Parks will not accept any action or activity that goes against welcoming people into our parks and will continue working closely with our park rangers and partners at [Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department] to ensure the safety and security of all of our guests,” the statement read.
Anyone with information about the incident should call 311 or 317-327-3811.
In the complaint, Blackwell says employees at Smock didn’t warn them that the racist symbol and words were carved into the green. He said that’s the least they could have done, and he likely would have just not played there that day.
“We have a right to enjoy golf courses,” the complaint reads, “free of racial bigotry in Indianapolis.”
Blackwell said there were some simple solutions, aside from fixing the green, that could have helped. Those included closing the green and setting up a temporary one so nobody would have to see the carvings. Blackwell and his friends were at Smock because they bought discount cards to get a couple of rounds of golf at different courses, so they just had to pay $18 to rent golf carts. He said he didn’t ask for his money back when they went to the clubhouse to complain.
“That’s what upset me more than anything,” Blackwell said. “They took my money. They gave me no indication that there was anything like this on the course. They made no mention of it at all.”
Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.