Anti-Sikh Letter Prompts Bluffton Mayor to Join National "Inclusive Community" Campaign

August 4, 2006

Source: USA Today

On August 4, 2006 USA Today reported, "Local folklore has it that the small town of Bluffton, Ind., once had an ordinance to keep blacks out, Mayor Ted Ellis says. He never found proof but says he wondered why Bluffton remained 96% white while many other cities became more diverse. 'I always thought that Bluffton was no more hostile than other communities around,' Ellis says. Then came an anonymous letter about 18 months ago. It was a photocopy of a newspaper clipping about the opening of a restaurant in this town of 10,000 people about 25 minutes south of Fort Wayne. A hand-printed message above the photo of the restaurant owner, a college professor who is a Sikh, read, 'We don't wear turbans in Bluffton ... we speak English.' Ellis was appalled. 'I just felt I had been hit in the gut when I got that,' he says. He invited the businessman to his state of the city address, seated him at his table and got his first standing ovation in 10 years as mayor. 'The leadership of the community has its heart in the right place,' he says. 'But it certainly illustrated that no matter how nice we are to one another, there still is an underlying current.' That's why Bluffton was among the first to join the National League of Cities' Partnership for Working Toward Inclusive Communities. The initiative encourages cities to start a dialogue about diversity and acceptance and to put up signs promoting their efforts: 'Welcome. We are building an inclusive community.' Sixty-eight cities have joined."