No matter how hateful it often appears, one has to admit that there are many things to be thankful for as an American. The population is not yet being controlled by religious fanatics, some Americans can access medical care, three-quarters of the nation’s children do not go to bed hungry every night, and racist law enforcement officers are only shooting at unarmed African Americans. Maybe African Americans, and groups such as Black Lives Matter, should be especially grateful this Thanksgiving that even though they are inordinately targeted by racially-motivated law enforcement, their Constitution still allows them to peaceably protest the rash of police shootings.
After the events in Ferguson Missouri, it became evident that people of color exercising that basic 1st Amendment “right” to protest is no guarantee they will not get shot. If they protest in Minneapolis Minnesota over another officer-involved shooting, it is not just racists cops to fear, but armed white supremacists likely manifesting the effects of generational indoctrination of racial animus.
On Monday in Minneapolis, a group of white supremacists opened fire on Black Lives Matter protesters assembled in protest of another officer-involved shooting of an African American witnesses say was handcuffed. Five of the protesters were shot and sustained injuries; injuries that law enforcement curiously stressed were “not life-threatening.” Reports in local media announced that the three white male suspects were reported to be “wearing masks and bulletproof vests;” likely an updated version of the KKK’s historic bed-sheet-and-hood uniform.
There is a misconception that it is only the South that supports blatant racism, and although it has been the case since the Civil Rights movement and desegregation, a joint project involving a Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) professor and VCU Libraries shows how the Ku Klux Klan successfully spread its special brand of racial animus towards African Americans nationwide. The result of the project, besides demonstrating the breadth and scope of the Klan’s influence in creating a nation of hateful racists, is a clever little map showing that the “second Klan” spread across all fifty states as opposed to “Reconstruction and Civil Rights Klan” mostly concentrated in the Deep South. The “second Klan” thrived between 1915 and 1940 and African Americans today are feeling the effects in every state in the Union, not just the former Confederacy.
The project shows that unlike the first KKK of Reconstruction and the third Klan of the civil rights era, the second Klan was far more widespread and infected roughly 8 million avidly racist Americans. A digital technologies web applications analyst, Shariq Torres, oversaw creation of the map revealed why no American should be surprised that racial animus toward African Americans is still thriving in all fifty states and spreading into the next generation; regardless of the nation electing Barack Obama twice as President. Torres said,
“A lot of times today, talk of racism says this region is bad or that region is bad. No, all of it is bad. And this map shows that. Even after the KKK “disbanded” all those people were still in the community. They became cops, they became judges, they became lawyers, they became teachers. They were all throughout the community. I see it as a very striking example of the sort of institutionalized racism that remains in the country today. This organization’s ideas were so mainstream that people were fine with it. That trickles down to everything else – housing inspectors, cops, policymakers, everything.”
Torres is absolutely right according to sociologists who have noted that since racial animus is a learned trait, it is nearly certain that a majority of those 8 million Americans who became judges, lawyers, politicians and cops produced offspring they programmed to hate of people of color. It is that inculcated racial hatred that Republicans have used to great advantage to keep their base in line and themselves in control.
President Lyndon Johnson once told his press secretary, Bill Moyers, that he understood exactly why inciting racial animus was a successful tool his opponents used to fleece Americans; a tool 21st Century Republicans are using successfully because they are reaping the benefits of over a hundred years of the Klan’s racist conditioning. Johnson said,
”I’ll tell you what’s at the bottom of it. If you can convince the lowest white man that he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll even empty his pockets for you.” The next time someone wonders why Republican voters reliably vote against their best self-interests, Lyndon Johnson knew the answer 50 years ago because he lived through the Klan’s infectious spread across America.
After white supremacists were finished shooting Black Lives Matter protesters, the president of the Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP Nekima Levy-Pounds said, “I am obviously appalled that white supremacists would open fire on nonviolent, peaceful protesters.” It is telling that Levy-Pounds did not say surprised, just appalled. Another Black Lives Matter protester, Jie Wronski-Riley said he heard what sounded like firecrackers and thought, “surely they’re not shooting human beings.” When the two young black men standing on either side of him were hit and he heard the cries of more wounded people on the ground, “I really understood the danger we were in and what had happened.” Wronski-Riley likely understood in real terms why he was there protesting in the first place; white racists with guns, cops or otherwise, lust to shoot human beings who are African American and peaceably protesting.
Despite all of this country’s problems, no one should be as extraordinarily grateful on Thanksgiving than white folks. Because although they may earn poverty wages, lack access to healthcare and education, risk losing their Social Security pensions, and probably go to bed hungry a few nights a week, at least their race prevents them from being gunned down discriminately. It is something that very few, if any African Americans can say and they can thank the Klan for that unenviable distinction.