WARSAW — For 30 years the Committee to Commemorate Martin Luther King has held an annual event celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. This year, Indiana Attorney General Curtis T. Hill, Jr., served as the keynote speaker for the Jan. 15 event at the Manahan Orthopaedic Capital Center
Hill, who says he dislikes the usage of “African American,” is the first black male to be elected into the position and is the top vote-getter of any elected official in Indiana history.
Hill spoke on racial injustice in the country, touching on the emotional difficulty of growing up black. Hill told the story of how his family came to settle in Elkhart, speaking of how his father, a postman, moved to Elkhart from Oklahoma. He bought a small piece of property and planned on building a house. The community made it known that they disapproved, as Hill’s parents were the first black people to settle in that specific area. Hill’s mother still lives on the property.
Hill also spoke about the time his father purchased a shot gun, because their home had been subject to an attempted bombing the night before. “The device malfunctioned and we were all fine,” explained Hill, “but the message was clear.”
Calling his father the most courageous and intelligent man he knew, Hill said, “My father was my hero, and this world would be a much, much different world if every little boy could say, ‘My father is my hero.'”
Hill’s stories of his father lead into a discussion of race and racial injustice in America, saying, “Race injustice in America is an interesting topic to say the least.”
Hill went on to give four numbers: 13, 35, 50, 90. He then elaborated: 13 percent of the United States of America is black; 35 percent of the prison population in the United States is black; 50 percent of homicide victims are black; 90 percent of black people killed are killed by another black person. The first two numbers, Hill said, could be taken and used to say that black people are targeted. The second two indicate that the problem lies deeper.
Not ignoring the friction often seen between the black community and law enforcement, Hill called to officers to build awareness and sensitivity towards where anti-law enforcement feelings come from. Hill recalled his mother, who, at 90 years old, grew up witnessing lynchings. For many, it is easy to pass down that anger and fear.
After his keynote speech, Hill sat down with CCMLK board member David Hoffert and answered questions provided by the CCMLK board. In one response Hill spoke of how the American justice system is not broken because of the disproportionate number of blacks in prison, stating they are a disproportionate number of blacks in prison because there is a disproportionate number of blacks who commit crime. He continued with explaining there’s a disproportionate number of blacks who commit crime because there’s a disproportionate number of blacks who are socio-economically disadvantaged in the country, and they are disadvantaged because they are undereducated or under skilled.
Hill related this all to what comes out of the home, with 75 percent of black children being raised in a fatherless home compared to 30 percent of white children. “The odds are against you,” Hill said about raising kids in a single parent household.
“Those are the things we have to address and take seriously as we move forward and create additional opportunities,” concluded Hill.