Racism And The Ku Klux Klan Essay

Since the early development of society in the United States,
racism has always been a divisive issue faced by communities on a
political level. Our country was built from the immigration of people
from an international array of backgrounds. However, multitudes of
white supremacists blame their personal as well as economic
misfortunes on an abundance of ethnic groups. African-Americans, Jews
and Catholics are only some of the of groups tormented by these white
supremacists. As the amount of ethnic diversity gradually increased in
the political systems of Louisiana and the United States,
organizations rapidly formed to challenge the new ethnic variation in
government. The Ku Klux Klan is one of these groups that were formed
by people who were angered by the increase of diversity in political
office and in the workplace. Local and state officials that were
members of the Klan aided in providing influence, money, and
information to the racist organization. As the civil rights movement
became accepted, it seemed as if the power of racist organizations
deteriorated. However, with the Klan demanding freedom of speech, with
political figures related to the Ku Klux Klan still bringing prejudice
to politics throughout the country, and with multitudes of
African-American churches being burned to the ground, it seems as if
the Ku Klux Klan is still a threat to the citizens of this country.

The Ku Klux Klan has played a major role in United States
history. As the south was undergoing the era of Reconstruction after
the Civil War, the votes of newly emancipated black Southerners put
the Republicans in power throughout the state. White Southerners
resorted to brute force to preserve the white supremacy they once had.
The Klan was originally arranged into secret societies that terrorized
local white and black Republican leaders. They also threatened all
African Americans who violated the old ideas of black inferiority.
Sworn to secrecy, its members wore white robes and masks and adopted
the burning cross as their symbol. The Klan members seemed to be most
active during election campaigns, when they would either scare people
into voting for their candidate or get rid their opponents entirely.
They were noticed for their horrible acts of violence that they called
nighttime rides. These attacks included murder, rape, beatings, and
warnings and were designed to overcome Republican majorities in the
south. Due to the fear of a race war, state officials were unable to
suppress the violence. Law enforcement officials were Klan members
themselves and even when the law officers were legitimate, Klan
members also sat on juries where criminally accused members were often
The Klan was popularized through literature and film in the
early nineteenth century. Its influence spread with help from Thomas
B. Dixon’s The Clansman (1905) and D.W. Griffith’s movie The Birth of
a Nation (1915). (Harrel, 85) Harrel felt that this eventually “led to
the establishment of a new Ku Klux Klan, which spread throughout the
nation and preached anti-Catholic, anti-Jewish, anti-black,
antisocialist, and anti-labor-union Americanism” (87). Harrel stated
that the Klan’s two million adherents exercised great political power,
“often taking the law into their own hands, mobs of white-robed,
white-hooded men punished immorality and terrorized un-American
elements” (88).

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The Klan erupted as a secret organization employing its
secrecy to mislead the public and inquiring newspapers. Therefore,
they were labeled the invisible empire. Harrel urges the idea that in
certain regions the Klan did not have enough influence to become
politically triumphant (307).
“But where it was strong the Invisible Empire elected scores
of local officials, state legislators, a few governors, several
national representatives, including Earle B. Mayfield of
Texas, William J. Harris of Georgia, and Hugo Black of
Alabama, to the United States Senate.” (Harrel, 307)
The Klan was extremely hungry for political gain. The best way
to promote the growth of an organization of this sort would be the
expansion of a network with prominent political and investment

“The limitation of immigration, maintenance of national
prohibition, restriction of the political influence of the
Catholic Church and minority groups, clean government,
and maintenance of community morals, were goals
which violence and intimidation alone could not achieve.”
(Harrel, 305)
It is seemed necessary that in order to have a prosperous
organization, the Klan would have to infiltrate the political offices
held by the liberals. This is a task easier said than done.

“The Invisible Empire excluded from membership, and
thus insulted, Catholics, Jews, Negroes, and the
foreign born, groups which totaled forty per cent of
America’s population during the twenties…

Despite the fact that Klansmen looked upon the
groups they excluded from membership as ‘second
class citizens,’ America’s minority groups together
constituted a potentially powerful voting bloc which
could grind the Klan under if sufficiently aroused.”
(Harrel, 305)
An effort to enlist officials with both local and state
authority was adopted in this state of Louisiana from successful
attempts in Atlanta. “They first enrolled the Adjutant General of the
State of Louisiana, L.A. Toombs, and then inducted several members
of the state legislature, a number of local and district judges,
sheriffs, district attorneys, and police officers.” (Harrel, 309)
The idea of public officials having involvement in the Ku Klux
Klan is frightening, and still today it is present. In the early
decades of the nineteenth century people were not sensible in their
views of society as they are now. In present time people are more open
minded, racism does exist, but it is totally unacceptable for society
to tolerate bigotry from a political figure. A native of Louisiana,
David Duke has been a considerably active politician. As Duke
introduces a broad political campaign he does not leave behind his
ties to bigotry. Still affiliated with white supremacist groups Duke
has been “convicted of inciting to riot..” (“Lousisiana’s… 27). His
history has linked him to a variety of neo-nazi organizations. “As a
member of the KKK at Louisiana State University, where he received his
BA in history in 1974, he became an enthusiastic admirer of Adolph
Hitler, and by 1975, he had risen to grand wizard of the Louisiana Ku
Klux Klan” (Mackenzie, 40). Duke was always searching for a different
approach to express his ideas. Methods of the Klan were no longer
effective in stopping civil rights as they were in the sixties
(Mackenzie,40). “Duke quit the Klan in 1980, and founded the National
Association for the Advancement of White People” (Mackenzie,40). Duke
broke into the national spotlight in 1987, when he was elected to the
Louisiana House of Representatives, from the district of Jefferson
Parish. While serving his term as a state legislator, “he was caught
selling Nazi books from his legislative office. One of them, “Did Six
Million Really Die?” attempts to discredit the Holocaust” (Turque 53).

Duke then made an attempt to unseat J. Bennett Johnston from his
position in the United States Senate in 1990. He gave Johnston quite a
scare, forcing a run off election and receiving almost forty percent
of the vote in that election. Encouraged by that performance, Duke
gave up his House seat to run for governor. Even though his strategy
was hardly original, he managed to rally an entire campaign around the
folklore that welfare spending was responsible for high taxes and
blacks were taking away jobs from whites. Yet, in reality, the total
outlay on aid to families with dependent children amounted to less
than two percent of the entire state budget. He received thirty-two
percent of the primary vote, which was enough to knock-off incumbent
Buddy Roemer, who received twenty-nine percent, and get in a run-off
with Edwin Edwards, who led with thirty-five percent. During this
runoff, Duke received most of his media attention as he appeared
numerous times on CNN and other political shows. Duke still lost the
runoff to Edwards in 1991, yet he decided he would shoot for the White
House the following year. But when Pat Buchannan entered the election,
Duke lost the ultra-conservative, angry white male vote he was to
capitalize on. Racism in the United States is outlined in elections of
characters like David Duke. “The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson recently
condemned former Ku Klux Klan Wizard David Duke’s election to the
Louisiana House of Representatives, calling it the result of a
national problem of racism and one “the entire nation has to deal
with” (“Duke election…” 7). It is the cooperation of leaders nation
wide that use basis of moral underezding in striving to erase bias
especially in politics.
Today, the Ku Klux Klan does not just threaten minority groups
on the political level. Nearly 100 African-American churches have been
burned to the ground in the past year in a half. While some arrests
made have not linked the Klan with the fires, many have. Two South
Carolina Klan members have been arrested for burglarizing and setting
ablaze two churches, the Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal of
Greeleyville and the Macedonia Baptist church of Bloomville. The two
men, Timothy Welch and Gary Cox, had attended a Klan meeting only
weeks before the fires. Welch was arrested with his Ku Klux Klan
identification card in his wallet. The other, Gary Cox, lived with
another Klan member in a trailer. When a local newspaper asked Welch’s
mother to comment on what her son did, she replied, “Those boys felt
the blessing of the Klan…They take these young country boys who
don’t really know a lot and have never been out in the world, and they
corrupt them” (Fields, 30 June 1996). The two men were not only
charged with theft and arson, but were also charged with the beating
and stabbing of a mentally handicapped black man who was waiting for a
bus outside of a Wal-Mart.

There is also Ernest Pierce and Brian Tackett. Pierce, an
Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and farmer, was convicted and
sentenced to 51 months in a federal prison for ordering Tackett to
incinerate the Barren River Baptist Church in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
Tackett, a younger member of the Klan, was sentenced to 115 months for
conspiracy, arson, as well as auto theft, for stealing the car he used
for his night’s act. The African-American church arsons is the largest
investigation the Bureau of Alcohol, Tabacco, and Firearms is
conducting; even larger than that of the TWA Flight 800 investigation.
President Clinton signed a bill giving 12 million dollars to the ATF
to investigate the fires. It also happens to be the FBI’s largest
civil rights investigation under way. (Fields, 7 Aug. 1996)
The Ku Klux Klan is not only a threat politically and
physically, but they also incite riots. In June of last year in
Greenville, Texas, the Klan held a rally in which they “waived
Confederate flags and complained about the U.S. government” (Taylor).

Michael Lowe a leader in the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan was stated in
saying, “It ain’t about hate, it’s about white pride” (Taylor).
Another member was quoted in saying, “It ain’t the white people, it’s
the damned government, the Jews, whose bringing this country down. It
ain’t the white people” (Taylor). Over 150 state and local policemen
were present to control the crowd of anti-KKK as well as different KKK
factions. Some policemen were dressed in riot gear, some were on
horseback as they tried to control the mobs behind the barricades set
up along the small town’s street.

The United States is known as the melting pot. Since its
beginnings as small settlements, this country has always been a haven
to those who need it. When many think of America they think of the
land of opportunity, the land of the American dream. Where one can, no
matter who they are or where they are from can make it rich. The Ku
Klux Klan is everything the American dream is not. They are a sign of
bigotry and hatred. They have strived for over a hundred years to
shatter the dreams of so many people. Many believe that since the
civil rights movement the KKK is no longer a danger. But, we must not
forget racism and bigotry does not die with an amendment to the
Constitution. There are still people like David Duke in office. There
are still people like Gary Cox setting fires to churches. And there
are still people like Michael Lowe who believe it is the Jews who
bring this country down. We must not forget that the KKK is still
alive, and we, as Americans, should do everything in our power to
protect the American dream.


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