Cultural appropriation in America can be audacious. Just look at the Ku Klux Klan
Michael W Twitty
Why do the Ku Klux Klan wear white robes that look like bedsheets? We have been told that this silly uniform used to represent ghosts of the Confederate dead, but that’s not the whole story. The Klan’s hooded masks are one of the most warped cases of cultural appropriation in American history.
Across the Southern Black Belt - named for the extent of cotton cultivation and a black majority - different masking traditions survived the suppression of African cultures and spiritual traditions. From John Canoe in Virginia and North Carolina to Christmas masquerades and Mardi Gras celebrations along the Gulf of Mexico and lower Mississippi Valley, African Americans preserved hooded colorful costumes in imitation of those found along the coasts of West Africa.
Many early Klan members learned these traditions as children growing up among African-Americans. Many original Klansmen were raised by black elders who famously told their charges folktales and stories centered in the early African-American culture. They, as much as their black playmates, feared the revenge of “Raw Head and Bloody Bones”, witches and “the Hairy Man” for disobeying the authority of their caretakers. White children often dressed up along with black children and participated in masquerades - where they saw men dress like women and hide their identities under Spanish moss or animal skins. White children even joined in the revelry by darkening their skin to appear “colored”. All of these traditions would be later used by the early Klan as a way to intimidate African-Americans.
The thought occurred to one man, and others, the possibility of utilizing the new and mysterious organization, to restrain young Negroes who were beginning to run amuck at social conditions, by taking advantages of the Negroes’ superstitious fear of ghosts. It was agreed to give this man’s theory a trial.
Each member was required to provide himself with a mask for the face, with orifices for the eyes and nose; a tall fantastic cardboard head so constructed as to increase the wearer’s apparent height; a gown, or robe, of sufficient length to cover the entire person. No particular color or material were prescribed … each selected what in his judgment would be most hideous and fantastic … these robes added vastly to the grotesque appearance of the assembled Klan.
In the masquerade tradition in West and Central Africa, masqueraders represent ancestral moral authority: they are the dead taking part in the deliberations of the living, going so far as to disguise their voices to represent the return from the spirit world. Masqueraders in this tradition were members of secret societies charged with keeping social order and reminding people of the authority of times past. Crossing or disrespecting the rules was met with intimidation and punishment - usually under double cover of mask and darkness. Violators of the ancestral customs might be whipped or exiled.
The Klan thus incorporated a spectrum of occult language from African traditions to scare, intimidate and harass the formerly enslaved by using a spiritual horror they felt more acutely than others. Their uniforms were colorful, menacing and full of mystical symbols like stars and crosses that were appliquéd onto the fabric. African-Americans were surrounded by war and violence: to them, an inexhaustible amount of negative spiritual energy - embodied by ghosts and other angry dead - surrounded them. The Klansman did their best to exploit their knowledge of those beliefs.
Of all the “mysterious signals” meant to terrorize the black community, none was more salient than the insignia of the encircled cross and the burning cross used to warn and intimidate. The encircled cross, a universal symbol, was embodied in the cultures of the African Atlantic as a cosmogram - the symbol of spiritual power, and the the movement of soul from the land of the living to the dead and back. Archaeologists and anthropologists have found the use of the crossroads symbol across the South and across the African diaspora in the Americas. The Klan’s layering of Christian symbolism onto ancient African religious culture was a horrific omen. To this day, the Klan’s symbol is the encircled cross; their name derives from the Greek word “kuklos”, which means circle, or ring.
As thousands marched across Selma’s Edmund Pettus bridge this weekend, a small band of white people were less than a mile away, mourning the loss of the Confederacy and guarding a memorial to a white supremacist.
Live Oak cemetery is a burial site for Confederate soldiers in the civil war and contains the grave of Edmund Winston Pettus, the general - and member of the Ku Klux Klan - after whom the town’s bridge was named.
There has been a growing campaign to rename Selma’s bridge given its association with the Confederate south, and dozens of students had planned a peaceful march to the cemetery. They quickly changed plans after discovering the neo-Confederates were waiting for them.
“‘March’ is a military term,” explained Todd Kiscaden, 64, who had traveled to Selma from his home in Tennessee to defend the memorial site. “In any military context, if you’re going to march on my castle, I’m going to man my barricades.”
Selma is most famous for the violent assault on peaceful civil rights marchers on the town’s bridge in 1965. But the Alabama town was also the site of another clash: a notorious civil war battle in which Union forces defeated the pro-slavery Confederate army.
The cemetery where Pettus is buried also contains a memorial to the fallen soldiers, and a controversial monument to Nathan Bedford Forrest, the lieutenant general in the Confederate army and first Grand Wizard of the Klan.
The graveyard has long been a flashpoint between African Americans and pro-Confederate historians in the town. The graveyard has been the focus of protests before; the memorial has been vandalised and, three years ago, a bronze bust of Forrest was stolen. Kiscaden, from the group Friends of Forrest, which tends the memorial site, said they were in the process of replacing the stolen bust.
Sunday’s aborted march to the cemetery was organised by Students Unite, the Selma-based youth group behind a viral online campaign to rename the Edmund Pettus bridge. They planned to march peacefully and respectfully to the graveyard, to draw protest against the Pettus bridge name and the existence of a monument to a white supremacist.
“We’re a non-violent group,” explained John Gainey, 25, executive director of Students Unite. “We didn’t want a confrontation.”
“The people in the south - the white people, who were being abused - organised a neighbourhood watch to try to re-establish some order,” he said of the nascent Klan. Slavery in the south was “a bad institution”, he said, but possibly “the mildest, most humane form of slavery ever practiced”.
“If you look at the wealth created by the slaves, in food, clothing, shelter, medical care, care before you’re old enough to work, care until you died, they got 90% of the wealth that they generated,” he said. “I don’t get that. The damn government takes my money to the tune of 50%.”
Kiscaden and Godwin insisted they were not racist. But they made plain that they hankered for a revival of some of the ideals most Americans believe were defeated in 1865.
A man just arrested in Virginia on murder-for-hire charges has ties to racist Christian Identity and KKK groups that hosted a “whites only” gathering and cross burning in 2012 in Alabama, a television station reports.
Dallas W. Brumback Jr., 35, of Sterling, Va., was arrested on Jan. 22 by Loudoun County sheriff’s detectives on a charge of attempted capital murder. The suspect is accused of making a $2,500 down-payment last November to have his ex-wife murdered in a $5,000 deal with a hit-man, charging documents allege.
Brumback is scheduled to appear in court on Thursday for a bond hearing. The suspect’s attorney, Caleb A. Kershner, of Leesburg, Va., did not return telephone calls from Hatewatch seeking comment.
Julie Carey, the Northern Virginia bureau chief for NBC4 Washington who broke the story on Monday, reported that court documents and interviews with Brumback’s neighbors revealed his ties to a “whites-only Christian organization.”
Buried in the headlines about the new Congress, and among the furious efforts of the Republican leadership’s attempt to change the subject, was the reprehensible case of Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.). As you might have heard, Scalise has now admitted to giving a speech earlier in his political career to a white supremacist group founded by former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke. Trolling for votes in Louisiana, Scalise thought it was a good idea to speak to one of the most vile hate groups in America.
Duke ran for several elections, and the wise people of Louisiana largely rejected this neo-Nazi, and he only won a seat to the state legislature in 1989 by fewer than 300 votes. But it seems that the radical right vote was potent enough that Scalise sought it out as part of his electoral coalition, which would eventually elevate him to a senior leadership post in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
I am trying to imagine a scenario in which a Democrat admits to having sought votes among violent communists at their get-together, an admission that would consequently provoke the full-throated support of the Democratic leadership. It just would not would happen. The radical left was exiled from the Democratic Party decades ago.
And that is one of the most striking differences between the parties. While radicals with Democratic leanings still inhabit the fringes of politics, none are elected to Congress or would remotely be considered for a party leadership post.
But I know what conspiracies look like, because, more often than not, they’re easy to spot. In this case, the conspiracy has nothing to do with me or any other member of the “liberal media.”
It’s about a congressman who appeared at an international hate group conference, told them what they wanted to hear about so-called Christian values and ending a “slush fund” that paid for the services and the salaries of inner-city African-American-led charities. It’s about a congressman who, then, more than a decade later, has attempted to equivocate and rationalize his mistake by conflating events he held months later with this white nationalist rally, as if they were part of the same tour.
It’s about a campaign supporter with a long track record of associating with, working for and promoting neo-Nazis, white supremacists and klansmen. It’s about a man who found himself, 12 years later, at the center of a major national story for which he was totally unprepared, a guy who threatened to beat up a reporter at the Washington Post.
Sweet! Kyle Kulinski reports.
I’m guessing this is another reason why people in the Klan hate integration!
Heimbach Flusters Movement Elite With Calls for ‘Death to America’
The recent strategy of downplaying anti semitism doesn’t seem to sit well with the Young Turks of the white supremacist movement.
The lightning rod was a presentation by Matthew Heimbach, co-founder of the Traditionalist Youth Network, who addressed attendees with calls for “#DeathToAmerica.” But his presentation, his second in recent years, caused a stir, particularly among the old guard.
Rehashing many familiar white nationalist talking points including a Jewish controlled U.S. federal government and a strident critique of affirmative action, Heimbach’s speech also visited less familiar ground, depicting an America that was born out of a secret partnership between the Free Masons and the Jews—one that has come to be a collection of individuals bound together only by money-worship and meaningless, government documentation.
“You are the wrong color, ladies and gentlemen. You are the wrong color to be an American and enjoy the American Dream. I’m sorry,” Heimbach told the crowd. “The meritocracy of America is skin color.”
While his presentation earned praise from the likes of Don Black, the founder of Stormfront, who personally invited Heimbach to the conference, others were not as pleased and voiced such displeasure that Black had to cancel a scheduled question-and-answer session at the conclusion of Heimbach’s presentation. Others took to the Internet with their gripes.
Pastor Thom Robb, former leader of the Knights Party and a well-known Christian Identity preacher and founder of the Soldiers of the Cross Training Institute, a summer camp for children to foster the tools for them to “fight for our racial redemption,” was insulted by Heimbach’s presentation.
This is disgusting. The people in charge of “The Lancet” ought to be ashamed of themselves for even considering allowing this to be published in their journal. Evelyn Schlatter reports on this shocking development.
For nearly 200 years, the British medical journal The Lancet has been internationally well respected in the medical profession. But lately, the journal has come under fire for allegedly being “hijacked” by an “anti-Israel campaign.”
In July, according to The Telegraph, the journal published a controversial “open letter to the people of Gaza” that strongly condemned Israel without mention of Hamas actions. The letter’s five primary authors claimed they had “no competing interests,” but The Telegraph notes that all five have campaigned vigorously in pro-Palestinian causes over the years, something the journal failed to make clear.
Particularly controversial was the fact that two of the letter’s authors, Dr. Paola Manduca and Dr. Swee Ang, also promoted a video by David Duke, a former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. That information was revealed in a cache of emails openly available in Google groups, according to The Telegraph. Ang is an orthopedic surgeon in the UK while Manduca is a professor of genetics at the University of Genoa in Italy.
Little Green Footballs has already extensively covered the shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, but here’s something new, although it shouldn’t really surprise anyone. Off course as far as the Klan is concerned the cop “must” be innocent because it sounds like he was white, and the person he shot and killed was black. Don Terry has more on this disgusting, but completely unsurprising story.
The one thing the racially charged and besieged city of Ferguson, Mo. does not need or want to add to the combustible mix of rubber bullets, snarling police dogs and clouds of tear gas that have filled its streets for three days is the Ku Klux Klan.
But the Klan — desperate for publicity and any opportunity to spread hate and terror — is climbing atop the powder keg that Ferguson has become following the police killing of an unarmed college-bound black teenager last Saturday.Protesters confront police during an impromptu rally on Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014, following the shooting of Michael Brown, 18, by police in Ferguson, Mo.(Photo: Sid Hastings, AP)
The South Carolina-based New Empire Knights of the Ku Klux Klan says its Missouri chapter is raising money for the still unidentified white police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, 18, who was scheduled to begin college classes this week.
“We are setting up a reward/fund for the police officer who shot this thug,” the Klan group said in an email. “He is a hero! We need more white cops who are anti-Zog and willing to put Jewish controlled black thugs in their place. Most cops are cowards and do nothing while 90% of interracial crime is black (and non-white) on white.”
Last July I reported on a story from Springfield, Missouri where apparently the Ku Klux Klan had decided to start up their own neighborhood watch program. You know, because nothing says “safe neighborhood” like a white supremacist hate group patrolling the streets, right?
It was a story so ridiculous that when I first heard about it I had to make sure it wasn’t satire.
Well, apparently a chapter of the KKK in the Fairview Township in Pennsylvania is following the example set in Springfield, Missouri by starting up their own neighborhood watch to combat a recent rise in break-ins.