Look at all the hate crime statistics from around the country and none would evoke the anger one feels when something bad happens to a person they actually know and like.
And, it seems all of that anxiety and infuriation only grows worse when such an act is committed against a mild-mannered person who’s been pushed around a good portion of his life.
Such was the case with Milton Knight, a once highly in-demand artist and illustrator who in recent years had fallen on hard financial times and moved from Altadena to Indiana. It was while riding on a municipal bus in the city of Bloomington on Feb. 25 that Milton, who is African American, was attacked and his face beaten into a bloody mess by an epithet-spewing punk, who was later arrested by police and charged with battery.
“The event was one big shock that continues to shock me,” Milton told PW Deputy Editor André Coleman this week. In the attack, Milton, who already suffers with PTSD stemming from abuse suffered as a child at the hands of his parents, sustained numerous brusies, cuts and abrasions.
“Never have I encountered such pure hate,” he recalled. “It doesn’t feel like America now.” (Please see related story on page 7)
According to police data from around the country compiled by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino, hate crimes are on the rise in eight of 10 major cities. In 2018, hate crimes committed in New York were up by 6 percent from the previous year. In the city of LA, it was a 13 percent increase, and Chicago saw a 26 percent hike. Happily, San Diego showed no change from last year, and San Jose actually saw a 24 percent decrease, according to the center.
But in places like Chicago, this marks the fifth year such crimes have increased, according to the study, as reported by Voice of America.
Although hate crimes in California decreased by 21.8 percent from 2008 to 2017, those types of crimes went from 931 in 2016 to 1,093 in 2017, an increase of 17.4 percent in one year, according to the latest figures kept by the state Department of Justice. State investigators found that hate crimes with a racial bias are the most common, accounting for 55.7 percent of all hate crimes since 2008. Those shocking figures of crimes committed against people of color were followed closely by hate crimes committed against persons due to their sexual orientation, which from 2008 to 2017 accounted for nearly a quarter (23.2 percent). Crimes based on religious bias registered at 18.6 percent through that period.
In 2017, the state DOJ reported, 65.6 percent of hate crimes were violent. The remainder involved property crime offenses.
In LA County, the Commission on Human Relations reported in October that nearly half of the 508 reported hate crimes in 2017 were race-based, a 9 percent increase from 2016. The report also found that “crimes targeting black people rose 15 percent last year, going from 112 to 129,” according to NBC News in Los Angeles.
“Although black residents make up only 9 percent of the county’s population, they represented 50 percent of the racial hate crimes committed in 2017,” the report states
While states, counties and even many cities around the country have enacted hate crime laws, which would carry heavier penalties upon conviction, Indiana has not.
Unfortunately, “While Indiana does not have a hate crime law, it certainly does have hate crimes,” reporter Stephanie Wang of the Indianapolis Star newspaper wrote in 2017.
“Indiana is one of five states without a law addressing penalties for hate crimes that target people because of certain characteristics, such as their race, religion or sexual orientation. But it does require law enforcement agencies to record such crimes and report them to the Indiana State Police,” Wang reported.
This month, the Indiana Legislature is finally considering enacting such a law. As reported by WTHR TV in Indianapolis, the state capital, “Three in four Hoosiers support a bias crimes law, including a majority of Republicans, according to a statewide January poll conducted by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.”
While leaving Altadena may have seemed like a good idea, maybe it might be best for Milton to leave Indiana, a place where someone can beat you up or even kill you because of your race without fear of increased penalties for their racist behavior.