Or so I’ve been told.
I have no proof, unfortunately. I’ve never met a “good, down-to-earth” Klansman. Still searching. In truth, this is a he said-she said situation that’s arisen because I had the audacity recently to write a not-so-friendly column about the KKK. In it, I called the Klan “scum.”
An emailer kindly took exception, which is perfectly acceptable. It takes all kinds. It’s America. Opinions are welcome here, even if they’re asinine and deplorable.
Our friendly email exchange went back-and-forth over two days, during which I was enlightened about the Klan’s social and cultural worthiness and my own ignorance on the subject, which apparently is great.
According to my emailer:
I know nothing about “the k k k.”
It’s “hard to believe” what people say about the Klan.
And, in a fit of Klan-protecting, I was advised to quickly depart for Hades, where, if I correctly understand things, I won’t find those “good, down-to-earth” Klansmen and Klanswomen.
It’s a journalistic rite of passage, being told to hold hands with Lucifer in the depths of Purgatory by a polite soul who, if they’re not supportive of Klan policies, at the least thinks Klanspeople get a raw deal in the politically correct, racially diverse nation the United States has become.
Yet, there are learned types — not me, in other words, since I know nothing “about the k k k” — who make strong cases for describing the Klan as anything but “good” and “down to earth.” I trust their judgment.
Author Taylor Branch, perhaps the authoritative source on Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement, peppered his transcendental writings with example after example of the Klan’s hate-filled, lurid activities. In At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years 1965-68, Branch detailed the trial that followed the murder of civil rights worker Viola Liuzzo in Mississippi.
Klan attorney Matt Murphy, a cousin of Mississippi novelist Walker Percy, called the murdered Liuzzo a series of racial epithets and said she turned over her car to a black man “for the purpose of hauling (blacks) and communists back and forth,” Branch wrote.
In The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle and the Awakening of a Nation, authors Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff told innumerable stories of reporters’ coverage of the Klan during its heyday.
In one such example, former Montgomery Advertiser editor Grover Cleveland Hall Sr., who led the newspaper to a Pulitzer Prize for its Klan coverage, called the KKK the “drill sergeants of hatred, the go-getters of intolerance, the high-powered salesmen of bigotry, aided and abetted by the Machiavellis of politics,” Roberts and Klibanoff wrote.
Author Frye Gaillard, in Cradle of Freedom: Alabama and the Movement that Changed America, wrote of one particularly egregious example of a white store clerk physically abusing a black woman in the 1930s because she asked for a better cut of meat. The man hit the woman with a can of produce.
Stone Johnson, a black man and supporter of legendary civil rights activist the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, was there that day, Gaillard wrote. Johnson told him, “Everybody was afraid in those days. Even whites with a good heart was afraid of the Ku Klux. So nobody did anything that day (to help the woman).”
And author Kevin Boyle, who wrote of the struggles of black Americans who fled north to Detroit in Arc of Justice, described how “devoted Klansmen” wondered what had become “of the brave-hearted men who had promised to purify America.”
Those are but four examples. They’re enough.
The Klan is neither misunderstood nor mischaracterized. Though largely irrelevant today, it is a historic group of white supremacy and racial violence. It is America at its worst. It is white-sheeted visual proof that men God makes sometimes veer off on a path closer to the aforementioned Lucifer than the racial purity they seek.
To believe there are Klansmen and Klanswomen who are “good” and “down-to-earth” is to believe that that same earth is flat.
Disagree with me. Despise me. But don’t play me for a fool.
Phillip Tutor — firstname.lastname@example.org — is The Star’s commentary editor. Follow him at Twitter.com/PTutor_Star.