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Category: American History

Autor: reviewessays 23 February 2011

Words: 2411 | Pages: 10

The infamous white supremacist organization, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) Knights of the White Kamelia (KWK), held a rally at Bee Creek Park in College Station on the afternoon of Saturday, May 9. Seventeen Klan members participated, including two women and one female child around ten years of age. Members traveled from as far away as Florida to take part in the meeting.

The KKK held the rally in hopes of recruiting members from the Bryan-College Station area. They claimed to have received numerous letters from B-CS residents who were anxious to establish a local chapter. This assertion seemed dubious, though, based upon the exceedingly small number of supporters who attended the rally. Out of the 50 or so spectators, only about 10 showed interest or support in the Klan; the majority was adamantly opposed. Furthermore, at least three of the KKK sympathizers were not from the Brazos Valley, but Palestine, Texas.

The Scene

The park was surrounded by representatives of the College Station Police Department and the State Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. Agents from the latter perched themselves on the top of a jungle gym and stood in the shade of neighboring trees with their weapons ready. Police officers surrounded the entire area and physically separated the Klan members and the crowd with police tape.

The KKK drove into the park caravan-style with a large Confederate flag flying in the back of one of their pickup trucks. After they donned their white robes and head-coverings, they proceeded to set up for the rally. The American, Texas, and Confederate flags were prominently displayed along with KWK and KKK banners that proclaimed Anglo-Saxon superiority.

The Rally

The meeting opened with the song "Koonstown," in which the Klan stereotyped Euro-Americans as hard-working providers and African-Americans as lazy parasites with lyrics such as, "Every Nigger earns his living off the welfare." Rev. Darell Flinn, imperial wizard of the Knights of the White Kamelia, followed up the Klan "anthem" with a short talk about freedom of speech and assembly, and presented a sanitized version of Knights' ethics, "We don't hate. We love the white race . . . in [a] legal, non-violent manner." His comments were consistent with the new "look" that the KKK has recently adopted to improve its image and boost membership. This includes a more positive, psychologically-pleasing emphasis on their freedom of speech and assembly, white pride, southern pride, Roman Catholic inclusion, and the use of legal, non-violent means to achieve their desired ends. The Klan could not hide for very long under their new rhetoric, though, before the real KKK came to the surface.

The next to speak was Michael Lowe, the grand wizard of the KWK, who began with what sounded like a talk by Rush Limbaugh, "White Americans are being discriminated against." A tirade against affirmative action and "stories" of white discrimination at the hands of "niggers," liberals, homosexuals, and Jews followed. Lowe, then, brought up the recent controversy surrounding a TAMU Cadet who was ordered to remove a Confederate flag sticker from his locker. According to Lowe, the Corps' ban on this divisive symbol is just one example of the widespread discrimination that exists against those with southern pride. Southern secession under a Confederate flag was his proposed solution. Lowe continued his diatribe with a southern interpretation of American history since the Civil War, and concluded his speech calling TAMU "a mecca of liberality and misinformation in the hands of Jewish professors."

Flinn and Lowe controlled center stage the remainder of the rally, and their scapegoating and name-calling continued. They referred to homosexuals as perverts, called AIDS "God's just punishment for gays," and asserted that persons with AIDS should be quarantined. Latinos were labeled "wetbacks," and African-Americans, "savages who think they own the city bus." Euro-Americans were praised for their "superior intellect and culture," and the ignorant notion that people of color had not made any significant intellectual or cultural contributions to the world was voiced. Finally, nearly every problem that plagues modern society from crime to poverty was blamed on those of non-heterosexual, non-European, and non-Christian descent.

Most of the spectators were TAMU students in their late teens to early thirties. Euro-Americans represented the largest ethnic group, followed by Latinos, African-Americans, and Asian-Americans. As to be expected, Knight sympathizers appeared to be Euro-American, though, one had to wonder how they could be without any African American or Native American blood if their ancestry had roots in the south, or any part of the United States for that matter. The most outspoken pro-KWK spectator was a young man with connections to the Aryan Nation. At one point, he approached a young female protester and a heated discussion ensued about what the Bible said about the status of those that are of non-Anglo-Saxon origin. The police had to step in when the white supremacist lunged toward the protester as if to hit her. He was asked by the police to leave the area and he complied. The other spectators, intimidated by the large number of protesters, privately admitted their support or interest in the KKK-KWK. Otherwise, they remained subdued and only occasionally voiced their approval. Catherine, of Palestine, TX, who was in favor of the Klan thought the rally, "would be better than Jerry Springer." While a group of blond-haired, preppy, grunge-wanna-be, TAMU freshmen agreed with the KKK because "if whites don't stand up for themselves, blacks are gonna take over and rule." About interracial dating, these same students seemed to agree that they were personally opposed, but they would not persecute someone else if they decided to date outside of their ethnicity.

The Protest

Although relatively unorganized, the protest sent a clear message to the Klan that they were not welcome in the community. It started at the beginning of the rally with the arrival of five TAMU students, Kaleta Krull, Mary Elizabeth Fenille, Heather Madigan, Tiffany Tobaben, and Katherine Junkins who held signs with the following messages, "Truth in Diversity," "The Klan - N.I.M.B.Y.," "Stop the Hate," and "Don't Spread Fear and Hate." The students said they did not represent any particular organization, but considered it their moral obligation to protest the KKK. Other students and B-CS residents soon joined in the protest and more signs were distributed to the crowd. Andrew Wallin, a resident of College Station, showed up with his video camera and wore one of the more creative protest signs, "Kluck the Fan." Another group of TAMU students showed up dressed in multi-colored, tie-dyed togas (a mockery of the Klan's robes with the many colors representing diversity) and challenged the KKK's message periodically with their own retorts. One of the students, Scott Kana, seemed to speak for the entire group when he said, "I think they're a bunch of racist assholes."

When two African-American males showed up at the rally, the protest took on more momentum. D.B. and T.T., both residents of College Station, decided to visit the Klan meeting because they could not believe, "that people could be that ignorant." For being targets of the KKK, both men were surprisingly charitable. D.B. likened the Klan to a gang, explaining that those involved were probably "raised wrong," and were searching for acceptance and love. Besides (he was starting to sound like a Klan-apologist), "they're not all racist. They can't fool me." D.B. then made a statement that both shocked and saddened me, "We're all needed for our different roles -- Blacks for sports and entertainment, Mexicans for building things, and Whites for education." Without even realizing it, this young man of African descent had bought into the lies of the KKK. Before leaving, D.B. approached the Klan, spit on the grass at their feet, and made faces at them. The crowd went wild with their support, yelling, "We love you, brother!" The KKK members said nothing, but were obviously not pleased.

As the afternoon wore on, the protesters became more aggressive about asking questions of the Klan and demanding answers. One question that kept popping up because the KKK's answer did not satisfy protesters was, "Do you cover your faces because you're ashamed?" Klan members asserted that they were not ashamed, but wore hoods because if discovered they could lose their jobs. One protester seemed to represent the sentiment of the protesters when she retorted, "If you believe that you are telling the truth, then regardless of the consequences, you should not be afraid to say it out in the open."

Protesters also asked KKK members how they were sure they were solely of Euro-American descent; after all, as one protester pointed out, some of them looked like they could have some Native, or even, African blood. Klan members assured the audience they had researched their family roots and were confident of their pure Euro-American origin. Of course, they had no way of proving the accuracy of their records, especially when one takes into account that it was not uncommon for Whites to cover up the existence of people of color in their family tree.

The Klan was also asked by the protesters to explicate their views on women. KKK members responded that women were welcome in the Klan, but they were to hold distinct roles from the men in the community. Along the lines of traditional gender roles, the KKK asserted that the woman's place was in the home as a nurturer, and as such, was responsible for the proper upbringing of her children in the ways of the Klan. Also, women were not allowed to assume leadership in the KKK because this would compromise their servile position in the domestic sphere (men being the "heads of the household"), and besides, "men are God-ordained to be leaders."

With ten minutes remaining in the rally, protesters decided to make it clear to the Klan that they were not welcome in B-CS. Several of the protesters began chanting "Go home!," making it impossible for anyone to hear what KKK leaders were saying. The yelling went on until the end of the rally, with protesters, not the Klan, having the final say.

The KKK-KWK and Vidor, Texas

The Ku Klux Klan Knights of the White Kamelia call Vidor, Texas home. Located near the Louisiana border in Jasper County, Vidor has earned a national reputation for its hostility towards those of African descent. Its racist history goes back to 1920 when the city was founded and named after C.S. Vidor, the local lumber industrialist and director of the Black-bashing films, "Birth of a Nation" and "Fountainhead." Discrimination against people of color has persisted in Vidor up to the present day. In 1994, federal marshals, FBI agents, and police were recruited by Henry Cisneros, then US Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), to aid in the integration of Vidor public housing. Up to this point, HUD housing in Vidor had been closed to African-Americans because of Klan intimidation, the inaction of the local public housing authority, and the community's history of violence against Blacks. With the intervention of the federal government, some families of African descent were successfully introduced into Vidor's public housing, but their inclusion did not come without the cost of a human life. Soon after integration, an African-American male was harassed out of his HUD apartment, and one month later, was found murdered in the neighboring city of Beaumont, TX. No one was ever charged in the crime, but those who knew the circumstances surrounding his death believed that the Klan, or at least Klan sympathizers, were involved.

Unfortunately, Vidor's record and reputation for race relations has hardly improved. The Vidor Independent School District (VISD) lists only 25 of its 5,709 students as being of African descent. Another telling sign of the discrimination that persists is the fact that the VISD does not call January 19, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, but Weather Makeup Day. Among both Whites and people of color, Vidor remains a well-known bastion of bigots. C.R., an Euro-American who grew up in Beaumont, but now resides in College Station, says that she was not surprised when on a business trip to Louisiana, her African-American and Latino colleagues did not want to stop in Vidor for gas. R.H., an African-American, delivered the mail in Vidor for a short time. He was continually taunted by Vidor residents, threatened with physical violence, and refused service in a local convenience store because of his ethnicity. Even more shocking, the presence of the KWK-KKK is so accepted in Vidor that Klan members periodically sell peanut brittle at the local Wal-Mart in hopes of recruiting children and their parents into the organization.

A Brutal Murder in Jasper, TX

The recent, brutal murder of James Byrd, Jr. in Jasper, TX (just a few miles away from Vidor) has put the KKK back in the spotlight. While the three suspects charged with Byrd's death may not currently be members of any white supremacist organizations, there are reports they had "Klan" tattoos, and the crime itself seems to have been racially motivated. Of course, the KKK is denying any participation, directly or indirectly, in this tragic incident, and plans to hold a rally in Jasper on June 27 in an effort to improve its public image.

But no amount of rhetoric, including the Klan's statement that, "it does not hate people of color, but loves the white race," cannot make me believe anything other than the fact that the KKK is all about hate. Don't get me wrong, having pride in one's heritage is a good thing, but it should never be at the expense of someone else. It should also be tempered by the realization that one's ancestors probably did a lot wrong in the name of one's culture(s), and we all need to repent for our sins against one another. Finally, one's ethnic pride should include an equal amount of admiration and respect for other cultures. White Pride to the exclusion of Black, Brown, and Yellow Pride is racist.

The Muslim Nation has responded to the violence in Jasper by offering local African-American residents free weapons. Folks, this is not the answer. The answer is a change of heart. This will only occur with personal and community introspection and repentance. And, Euro-Americans must be the first ones to begin this process. Yes, all people, regardless of their ethnicity, can be and are prejudiced, but only white people can be racist because they have traditionally held the power to systematically carry out discrimination against people of color.