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Racially-charged Obama float defended as free speech

SHERIDAN, Ind (WISH) – A Sheridan man is defending a controversial float that pokes fun of President Barack Obama, calling him African.

It was part of the Sheridan Independence Day parade. The float featured President Obama on a toilet, with the words, “lying-African,” underneath.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Sheridan resident Deborah Crist said. “That’s ridiculous. It’s mind boggling that somebody would do something like that.”

“I looked at it, and read it,” Sheridan resident Brian Dellinger said. “I kind of chuckled, and thought it was kind of a funny joke. I didn’t see anything really wrong with it.”

It was created by Donald Christy, 73 of Sheridan. “I believe in live and let live,” Christy said. “I guess, my intent was to satisfy myself. See laughs over here, and see people frown over here. See people cheering over here. It’s a diverse country.”

Christy said he created the float to show his political displeasure. “I didn’t put American on it. My bumper isn’t long enough,” Christy said. “I’m not politically correct, here. He’s an African, and he’s also told several lies to the people of it.”

This isn’t the first time Christy marched down Main Street. The Sheridan man said he’s created floats featuring the confederate flag, and he’s dressed in drag.

“If you want to call me silly, stupid, or whatever, that’s your problem,” Christy said. “That’s your prerogative. But I have a right, and a freedom to do what I do.”

But after what happened this year, some neighbors we spoke with hope the city makes changes.

“They should’ve checked it to make sure it was OK to be in the parade because that is something that is teaching our children the wrong views of life,” Crist said.

“Just make sure everything is in good taste,” Dellinger said. “That way nobody gets upset or takes things the wrong way.”

“You can tell those people who are worried about me getting in the parade, rest assured, I’m already working on next year’s float,” Christy said.

The Sheridan Town Council President released the following statement in response to the controversial float.

On behalf of the town of Sheridan, I am deeply appalled by the blatantly disrespectful and racist display that took place during the Lion’s Club Fourth of July parade in Sheridan yesterday. Such an act is not representative of the town of Sheridan, the town’s elected officials, or the residents of our community. Our town, community, and county have always striven to be open and inclusive to all regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, or political affiliation.

For decades, the Lions Club has coordinated this parade on behalf of the Sheridan merchants, who fund the parade. Historically, anyone has been allowed to participate in their parade as long as the safety of the public was not put at risk. Registration for the parade was not required, however, entrants had the option to register if they wanted to be considered for one of the many prizes that are part of the event. We have been told that the person who decided to promote his own political agenda by way of his display did not register.

As a community, we are profoundly saddened by the discomfort, anger and humiliation this individual has caused for so many. It is unfortunate that an event that has always provided so much joy for the community may have to be regulated in the future to require advance registration of participants. The town is willing to work with the Lions Club to ensure that one individual’s actions will not overshadow the true, inclusive nature of our community.

Most sincerely,

David W. Kinkead, Sheridan Town Council President