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Monday, February 25, 2013

Ku Klux Klan to visit my home city, Memphis, Tennessee


Universally feared, hated, condemned, ostracized, and often outlawed, these so-called Christian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, risk beatings, immolation, death, and dismemberment wherever they rear their ugly pointy-heads. What kind of person joins the Ku Klux Klan? I can't think of an organization more universally vilified. You could dress up in a Gestapo uniform complete with red Swastika armband and knee-high black leather boots and you wouldn't get that big a reaction. At most you'd get confused stares, questioning looks, perhaps an angry scowl, but if you dared to dress up in a white hood and robe, you would risk being beaten, stomped, and then most likely set on fire. If I ran the company manufacturing these Ku Klux Klan outfits, I'd make them out of Kevlar—bulletproof—and Nomex—fireproof. On second thought, if I was making KKK outfits they'd be designed like SWAT raid armor.

Because there's so much hoopla and hysteria surrounding the threatened Klan visit to Memphis, I thought it might be worthwhile for me to explore not just why they're coming to Memphis, but who they are, what they stand for, what they want, and what they've done. At the outset I want to make a few points crystal clear: I started writing this post in relative ignorance and somewhat innocently wondering who these hated boogie-men really are. At this point I consider myself much like an uninformed jurist who's sitting in the jury box and I'm waiting to hear the evidence that will shortly be presented with—I hope—an open mind. The only thing I know about the Klan at this point in my writing is probably the same thing that you know. The KKK is a racist organization famous for lynching black people and erecting burning crosses in the yards of people they disagree with.

There are a couple of points I wish to make clear before I start: While I might be wrong, I seriously doubt that there is a living member of the Ku Klux Klan today, who has ever participated in a real lynching of a black American. Furthermore, I don't hold the brainwashed knee-jerk mentality that most people have, that these KKK members are ignorant, or inbred, or for that matter more racist than their black counterparts in the Black Panthers, for instance. People automatically assign to the Klan the worst possible motivations in a way that I consider hysterical and frankly not only ignorant but incapable of being enlightened. The word is close-minded. I'd bet almost everyone is close-minded when it comes to the Klan. This kind of systematic brainwashing is the way television, radio, and Hollywood has operated for half-a-century. You are shocked! You can't believe I'm defending the Klan since you believe they are indefensible. You believe this because you lack the quality that I have nourished and developed for a lifetime. That quality is called cynicism. If someone is telling me something, I'm listening for the lies, the half-truths, and the hopes and dreams told as though they were a fait accompli.

The KKK is coming to Memphis because they're protesting the renaming of three city parks which were probably originally named by people who were possibly proud of their Confederate heritage. At this point I don't know who named these three parks or why they chose those names. Like I said at the outset, I wanted to come at this topic with the same level of understanding of everyone else—many of whom are planning not only protests but have already promised premeditated violence of the most horrific kind, and this even though they know as little about the Ku Klux Klan as do I.

Let's start with why the Ku Klux Klan is planning to rally here in Memphis, Tennessee. The reason appears to be because of the recent Memphis City Council decision to rename three city parks:
Fearful that legislators in Nashville might intervene in the controversy surrounding Memphis park names, the City Council hurriedly voted Tuesday night to rename three Confederate-themed parks in the Downtown area.

By a 9-0 vote with three abstentions, the council approved changing Forrest Park's name to "Health Sciences Park," because of its proximity to the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. Confederate Park will become "Memphis Park," and Jefferson Davis Park will be "Mississippi River Park."

Council members Jim Strickland, Kemp Conrad and Bill Morrison abstained from voting while Reid Hedgepeth did not attend the meeting.

The council also approved creating a committee to further study the naming issue. That committee will include two council members, two university professors, a representative from the NAACP, a member of the Shelby County Historical Commission and the city parks director.

All three parks have stirred repeated controversy because of their Confederate themes, particularly the one at Union and Manassas that contains the grave of Nathan Bedford Forrest. In addition to being a Confederate cavalry leader, Forrest was a slave trader before the Civil War and the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan after it.

"The parks are changed. It's done," said Councilman Lee Harris, who initially proposed renaming the parks after nearby streets. "We removed controversial names and named them something that is less controversial."
A southerner listening to this guy making fun of the accents of people from the south might become understandably irritated. Pay special attention to the segment from 6:03 to 6:24, where he calls FOX news the "Murder" channel, calls right-wing people "Swine," and ends by "encouraging" his listeners to go and "Kill" them. As a person who is still admittedly somewhat uninformed about the KKK I just have to say that what stands out the most for me so far, is the incredible irony of a seemingly completely intolerant and racist organization wanting to peaceably assemble and the mindless intolerance and calls for violence of those who're against that peaceable assembly.

This next YouTube video segment perfectly illustrates this mindless intolerance. It's a white guy with what appears to be an assault rifle of some kind although it might also be a bb gun. Warning there might be some light profanity in it and there is certainly a lot of rambling incoherent ranting in it, before he calls on his followers to throw stones and then blatantly finishes with "Death to the Klan."

Okay, so it's quite obvious from these videos—and from many more just like them—that nobody wants the Klan to protest or peaceably assemble in their neighborhoods. Almost every counter-Klan argument calls for not just protest but violent protest. Hate them or not, the Klan is coming to town because of the renaming decision of Memphis City Council. The history of why these parks were named as they were is interesting. I found this interesting article at "Civil War Memory:
... The Forrest memorial in Memphis can be traced to a number of factors, most importantly, the economic downturn that the city faced in the period immediately following the war and especially the yellow fever epidemic of 1878. The epidemic hit the white community especially hard and by the end of the century African Americans had risen to constitute half of the city’s population. The elite white population that was lost during the epidemic was replaced, according to Carney, by an influx of rural whites, who were much “less racially tolerant than their urban contemporaries.”
It's worth reading the entire article. I think Kevin Levin has a valid point. These parks weren't named what they were because of some nostalgic reminiscence of Civil war heroes and days of yore, but because of racial intolerance and conflict between blacks and whites in this area in the early twentieth-century. Therefore it seems clear that because the naming of these parks was probably meant as an insult, renaming them is probably a step in the right direction.

What is the history of the Ku Klux Klan? I was unhappy with the Wikipedia article which describes them as a "far right" organization in the very first sentence. This is just another example of the conspicuous left-wing bias of yet another water carrier for the Democratic party. I found the KKK article from History.com to be well-written and helpful. Here's a short quote: Ku Klux Klan Violence in the South
From 1867 onward, African-American participation in public life in the South became one of the most radical aspects of Reconstruction, as blacks won election to southern state governments and even to the U.S. Congress. For its part, the Ku Klux Klan dedicated itself to an underground campaign of violence against Republican leaders and voters (both black and white) in an effort to reverse the policies of Radical Reconstruction and restore white supremacy in the South. They were joined in this struggle by similar organizations such as the Knights of the White Camelia (launched in Louisiana in 1867) and the White Brotherhood. At least 10 percent of the black legislators elected during the 1867-1868 constitutional conventions became victims of violence during Reconstruction, including seven who were killed. White Republicans (derided as "carpetbaggers" and "scalawags") and black institutions such as schools and churches—symbols of black autonomy—were also targets for Klan attacks.
This early Klan activity was—just as was the naming of Memphis' confederate parks—a backlash against the new status quo. It was defiance and violent protests at the intolerable fact that black Americans were suddenly entitled to every right that had historically belonged only to whites. From blacks holding elected office to integrated buses, schools, and restaurants there has been struggle and discord at every turn, and the KKK has been there fanning those flames from the end of the Civil War on. So, far from being a peaceful Christian organization, they have been agitators attempting to overturn—if not by legislation then by hook or by crook—the 13th and the 14th amendments of the Constitution.

What does the Klan say about itself? The FAQ section of the KKK website is as good a place to start as any.
Q. Why do you kill black people?

A. This is almost too stupid of a question to answer, but since some misled person is probably going to ask – even though it isn’t frequently asked – we’ll answer it in this section. We don’t kill black people. This is another misconception about the Klan. What is true is that there have been men in the past who joined the Klan in order to benefit from the wearing of the robe and hood – to be able to commit a crime against someone they did not like. This was not the objective of the Klan, but only the prerogative of some misfits in the 60′s.

It is unfair to say the Klan kills black people. If this was true we would read about Klansmen being arrested all the time. Some small Klan groups who have a macho self image and think of themselves as “tough guys” like to give the impression that they are always on the lookout for a black man to hurt. This is ridiculous. We often wonder if these people aren’t in fact working for anti-Klan groups to give the real Klan a bad name. Some of these small groups are talk-show addicts. It makes them feel cool to get on the Jerry Springer show or some other similar show and rant and rave about how they are going to do this and that. Come on, these people would be in jail if they were really doing these things, but they won’t get on TV if they don’t act the part of the villain – it makes for good TV ratings.
I read quite a bit on the KKK website and I can distill it down to the simplest idea of all: Tribalism. Members of the KKK believe that there are various separate and distinct races. The "white" race is one of Anglo-Saxon heritage comprised mainly of British, French, and German ancestry. The KKK is afraid that first, whites are becoming a minority in this country, and in fact globally as well. Second, they are afraid that once whites are a minority we will be treated in the same horrific fashion that majority black countries like Zimbabwe and South Africa have been treating whites for the past decade or so.

As for the fear that whites will be outnumbered, that fear is almost certainly fact. Whites in the USA will become a minority within the next decade or two. The second fear that whites will be mistreated in turn, just as they mistreated minorities in their day, is at this time uncertain. I don't expect slavery or 2nd class white-person lunch counters, but there is certainly already massive evidence of institutional racial favoritism in education and in government. Affirmative action policies as well as our punishing progressive taxation system already favor blacks and other minorities in hundreds of ways, from the Earned Income Credit—claimed by illegal immigrants for children not even living in the United States, to food-stamps, welfare checks, rental assistance, etc., the programs redistribute wealth held predominately by white Americans to minority non-white Americans. While this isn't technically slavery per se, it is evidence that far from being a handicap, being born black in America offers an undeniable head start in the attainment of a variety of racial set-asides as well as in the pursuit of many career paths—especially in education and government where blacks participate in far greater numbers than their overall proportion in the general population can account for.

Regardless of whether you believe the Ku Klux Klan has a valid point or not, one thing seems certain: they are a dying beast. They're hamstrung by a notorious infamy that precludes any possibility of attaining whatever goals they claim they're pursuing. In point of fact, the only way that can advance any political agenda at all is to actively oppose any law or policy that they secretly favor. Yes, the only possibility for Klan success must include begging us not to throw them into the briar-patch. (Therefore they do want the Memphis Parks renamed?)

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