“It was racially motivated,” Tommy Williams, whose home was set on fire, and his patio was spray sprayed with the N-word.
Williams, 59, is the lone Black member of the Connersville, Indiana City Council. The city, which is roughly 65 miles east of Indianapolis, has a population of 12,796 people, 94 percent of whom are white and 3.9 percent are black.
On his cell phone, Williams caught video of the aftermath of the fire that started early Friday morning on Oct. 29. The majority of his home is engulfed in smoke and soot in the footage, with his bedroom suffering the most significant damage.
“Both top and bottom bedroom windows were shattered, and they [firefighters] suspect someone threw something in there,” Williams said. The fire killed the family’s dog and cat. Williams, his wife, and their sons were not at home when the fire started. Someone spray-painted the N-word on the rear patio, according to Williams.
The council member was born and raised in Selma, Alabama, and has lived in Connersville for the past two decades. He claims that, despite the fact that the city is largely white, racial issues are not a huge issue. “Ninety-nine percent of this community is not racist,” he continued, “but you have that one percent that wants to tear this community down.”
As the investigation into the cause of the fire and who may have sparked it continues, Williams recounts a bizarre episode that occurred two weeks prior to the fire: Outside his bedroom window, a pedestrian hurled a racial slur.
“Black n—-r, they hollered from the car.” He remarked, “I looked out the window and saw the car and thought, man, I’ve seen that car somewhere before.”
Williams claims that, while he does not consider the city’s white population to be racist, he has observed white teenagers using the N-word casually. He claims that at their high school, both of his boys were called the N-word.
“That disturbed me because my kids don’t use the n-word, I don’t use the n-word, my wife doesn’t use the n-word,” Williams said, blaming rap and hip-hop music for children’s use of the N-word.
“Because they’re continuously listening to rap music, these youngsters do use the N-word. Is it true that I believe they are racists? I don’t want to come across as naive, but it’s difficult to say because I’ve coached a lot of these kids in basketball, soccer, and football,” he explained.
No arrests have been made in the case as of this report, but the FBI, along with state and local officials, is investigating the cause of the fire.
“The citizen of Connersville cannot and will not allow this terrible attack on our town,” the city of Connersville said in a statement, calling the fire a “disgustingly horrific racially motivated crime.”
Williams said that he and his family have received a lot of support from the community. The city is seeking donations to assist the Williams family with the costs of rebuilding following the fire.