Race relations in the United States today is worse in several decades and suffered incredibly during the administration of the first African-American president Barack Obama, according to the Attorney General of Indiana, which is home to a large number of Sikhs.
Curtis Hill, in a recent interview to PTI, said he believes Obama’s successor in the White House, the Republican Donald Trump, is providing a fresh approach on race-related issues amid a surge in violence against Indian-Americans.
Among only a few African-American Attorney Generals in the US, Hill was elected to the position in November and sworn in on January 9. He has been leading efforts to address the issues surrounding race and hate in his state.
When an Indian-American Sikh doctor received death threats a few weeks ago in his state, he worked through the night to address the matter. And since, Hill has been working with the Indianapolis-based Sikhs Political Action Committee to address harassment and violence against Sikhs in Indiana.
Indiana is home to nearly 10,000 Sikhs, who own more than 3,000 businesses in the State.
He said he understands the issue as his family faced race-related issues. “My father built a house some 60 years ago and our home was bombed. We would get pamphlets: ‘go back to Africa’, and things of that nature that were very hurtful and would make one nervous or afraid,” he said.
“My father’s a prime example, he certainly didn’t pack up and go back to know his place. He continued moving forward and that’s the message that we have to have,” Hill said.
Asked about a surge in hate crimes against religious and ethnic minorities, including Indian-Americans, the 56-year-old attorney general laid the responsibility at Obama’s doors, saying race issues widened under the previous administration.
“If you look at the level of race relations in this country under the Obama administration, I think race relations have suffered incredibly in the last eight years,” Hill says.
But what about President Trump?
The billionaire-tycoon-turned-politician has often been criticised for his inflammatory rhetoric during his divisive presidential campaign.
“I don’t think (race problems and hate crimes) were caused by President Trump,” Hill said.
“I think he is blunt, he speaks his mind and sometimes what he says has a tendency to be interpreted by some as being over the top. Whether he is over the top or not, I wish he would use different language to help clarify that, but I don’t think he is doing anything any worse now.”
Hill, who has focused his agenda on rolling back federal overreach and protecting families from drugs and violent crime, said Trump is “speaking his mind” and does things that a typical politician won’t do.
“Some people appreciate it and some people don’t,” he said, adding that “that’s refreshing.”
“Even if you disagree with him… He is at least refreshing that here is a guy who’s not just a cookie cutter of another politician,” he said.
Hill said the US currently needed somebody who’s “going to look at” federal government and “punch it in the gut, stir things up.”
“Well, Donald Trump will punch it in the gut. He doesn’t mind mixing it up, making some changes. We may say, ‘Oh gee, we don’t want to do those changes’. But that’s what the people wanted, the people wanted somebody that is going to look at government and say this isn’t working, and it’s not,” he said.
“Whether he’s going to get it right or not, it needs to be seen. But that’s what is necessary right now,” Hill said.
Hill said he believes that hate crime legislations were of not much help in addressing the issue.
“From my background as a former prosecutor, I look at bad conduct as simply bad conduct regardless of why it’s the bad conduct. And yet recognise so many people suffer bad conduct as a result of how people feel about them,” he said.
“Having said that outside the issue of the so-called hate crimes legislation, I think its imperative to resolve the matters of how people treat each other based on external standards. This idea that people are different, therefore, we are going to disregard or disrupt the lives of different people. That really has no place in our American charter although, unfortunately been a part of our American history since the beginning of our country,” Hill said.