Our Own Backyard

Why This Matters | Nelia Ekeji | March 10, 2016

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Yes, the Ku Klux Klan still exists.

No, this is not a drill.

 

On February 27, the KKK held a rally in Anaheim, California. Members occupied the predominantly Hispanic area toting Confederate flag patches and “White Lives Matter” signs before clashing with protesters, leaving three counterprotestors wounded and thirteen others arrested (KKK members and protesters alike). These attacks occurred shortly after former KKK grandmaster David Duke informally endorsed Trump on his radio show. In Duke’s contradictory statement, he says that while he doesn’t “endorse everything about Trump,” he stills supports his candidacy, and even goes as far as saying that “voting against Trump at this point is really treason to [one’s] heritage.”

 

Trump’s disavowal of Duke’s endorsement was reluctant to say the least. In an interview where Trump was asked if he would make an attempt to distance himself from the KKK, he refused to acknowledge them in any of his responses. Attributing his vague responses to a “bad earpiece,” Trump confirmed his disavowal of Duke in a video uploaded to his Twitter account.

 

It is unfortunate that we have a presidential candidate whose views on immigration and addressing terrorism are so skewed that a former KKK grandmaster can proudly endorse him. More unfortunate, however, is the fact that the KKK still has a presence in this country. The Ku Klux Klan, founded in 1866, is the United States’ oldest and most infamous hate group (according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s official definition of terrorism, the KKK is recognized by the U.S. government as a hate group rather than a terrorist group). Through horrendous acts of violence, the group’s primary goal is to enforce white supremacy in our cultural landscape. At its peak in the 1920s, the KKK had nearly four million members. After a period of stagnation, their 1960s revival had enough force to last until today. It is estimated that the Klan currently has between 5,000 to 8,000 active members in up to 41 states. It is especially terrifying that KKK members don’t simply lurk in the backwoods of the Deep South: their occupations range from policemen to politicians, positions of power that allow them to enforce their agenda of exclusion and hatred with ease.

 

David Duke’s endorsement of Donald Trump before the Anaheim rally is an infamous example, and unfortunately, it is not an isolated event. In an interview with CNN, Duke insinuated that through the Klan he has connections with members of Congress. This isn’t to suggest that the group has fully embedded itself amongst the nation’s top politicos, but it goes to show that America’s long history of racism permeates through some of the country’s top leaders. This then begs the question of what the KKK does look like today. The answer is that it actually doesn’t have a distinct look. Because it is no longer a single unit organization, Klans across the country mirror each other only in their hatred of marginalized groups. Whether it is fighting to bring forced prayer back into public schools or refuse rights to immigrants and minorities, thousands of its members hope that through governmental change these things become a reality.
What, then, can we do as students who want to fight for justice and equality? It would be ludicrous of me to say that something as simple as taking a course on ethics or intersectionality would immediately dissolve hate from our cultural landscape. With that being said, educating ourselves is the first step in stopping poisonous, exclusive thinking from spreading. After that? Take action in any way that you can, whether it’s by attending protests or writing thought pieces on current events to share with others. No action taken towards creating creating a safer and more inclusive country is too small. Case in point: this year, we will have a new President in office. For those eligible, I implore you to exercise your rights. Don’t want to see Donald Trump take that position? Go vote, and allow your voice to be heard.