Ku Klux Klan Today

On 28 August 2010 a fire of suspicious origin damaged construction equipment at the site of a planned mosque near Murfreesboro, TN. Investigators have not ruled out arson in the blaze in the city of Murfreesboro. The proposed Islamic Center near the site of the 2001 terror attacks in New York has offended many Americans. Opinion polls by CNN/Opinion Research indicate that 68 percent of Americans oppose building the mosque. The Muslim American Society Freedom, cites a "growing pattern" of opposition to mosque construction across the country. Plans to build mosques have been opposed or denied in New York City, as well as in the states of Alabama, California, Florida, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.

The Ku Klux Klan is an organization formed to intimidate blacks and other ethnic and religious minorities. The traditionalist and racist American Ku Klux Klans have atrophied drastically, and racism and terrorism from the extreme right in America have never been limited to the Ku Klux Klan network. Successive US presidents, the Justice Department, and other organs of federal power used law, administration, rhetoric, and, occasionally, the deployment of soldiers to check violence and dampen the resistance of white citizens and institutions opposed to racial equality. But Federal power has not ended the Klan. Once a mass movement, now but numerous cells; they have never disappeared in 150 years of influence.

White Supremacy Ideology ideology emphasizes theories of white superiority and the duty of Caucasians to survive and defend the US. The Klan is tied to white supremacy and to "racial purity," the safeguarding of the existence and reproduction of the Caucasian race. This theme can also be applied to ethnicity and religious groups. Some groups and organizations, such as the Klan, proclaim violence as a means to achieve their goals. The Klan has developed an ideology to justify, legitimize, and rationalize their particular version of reality.

Modern extremist groups run the gamut from the politically astute and subtle to the openly violent. Instead of standing in streets dressed in sheets and shouting hate messages, extremists may sit in bars and break areaswearing street clothes. The standard hateful message has not been replaced, just packaged differently. Recognizable hate symbols and paraphernalia are usually hidden until a recruit is hooked on the validity of the ideology. In some cases, individuals who subscribe to extremist ideology are not necessarily members of any group.

Extremist groups follow ideologies, which are considered extreme by societal norms. An ideology is a systemicbody of concepts about human life or culture; a way of thinking used by a group or an individual to express beliefs andsocial values. Ideology provides social order and control within any organization. Major issues are reduced to basic ideological concepts, which, in turn, influence the behavior and attitudes of group members and individuals. This can give rise to views that are extreme based on the prevailing societal norms which may or may not be punished by institutions. Ideologies justify, legitimatize, and rationalize one particular version of reality despite other explanations and ideas. A supremacist is any person maintaining the ideology, quality, state of being, or position of being superior to all others in something. An extremist is any person who advocates racial, gender, or ethnic hatred or intolerance; advocates, creates, or engages in illegal discrimination based on race, color, gender, religion, or national origin; advocates the use of or uses force, violence, or unlawful means to deprive individuals of their rights under the U.S. Constitution.

The original Ku Klux Klan splintered into subgroups, to include other Klan organizations (such as the United Klans of America, the Alabama Knights, and California Knights), and David Duke's National Association for the Advancement of White People (NAAWP). The White Aryan Resistance (WAR) has links to both the Klan and neo-Nazi skinheads. Its founder, Tom Metzger, was a member of the California Knights, though most of the members of WAR are more affiliated with skinheads.

During the late 1980s, white supremacists suffered serious blows. A conspiracy trial in 1988 against fourteen prominent white supremacists brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center effectively curtailed the leadership of the movement. Consequently, many white supremacist groups learned to avoid the trappings of a structured organization, such as membership lists and group property.

The Klan enjoyed a brief resurgence in 1980s due to the popularity of David Duke, who presented a less extreme form of the Klan's philosophy and aligned himself with some traditional conservatives. This proved to be short-lived. But during the Clinton Administration the Klan, after several years of decline, started to resurge. Two Klan groups experienced significant increases in 1996-97: the Indiana based American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan grew from one chapter to twelve in 1996, and Thom Robb's Knights of the Ku Klux Klan grew from two chapters to 17 in fifteen states. Today the Klan is estimated to have about 5,000 professing members.

The Department of Defense has a long-standing policy of intolerance for organizations, practices, or activities that are discriminatory in nature. DOD Directive 1325.6, "Guidelines for Handling Dissent and Protest Activities Among Members of the Armed Forces," was issued in 1969 as one of many measures taken to renew, clarify, and emphasize that policy. Despite the specific language of this directive, reports in 1986 of Army and Marine Corps members participating in Ku Klux Klan (KKK) activities forced Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger to reaffirm the Defense Department's position. Yet new cases of service member involvement with extremist organizations continue to make the headlines. In February 1990, five Air Force security policemen were discharged for active participation in theKu Klux Klan. One of the five was a chief recruiter who took part in cross-burnings and planned a KKK chapter in Denton, Texas. The following year, an Army sergeant pleaded guilty along with three others to weapon charges in an apparent conspiracy to stockpile military hardware for use by white supremacist groups.

Since the September 11 attacks, there has been a shameful increase in the number of hate crimes committed against Muslims, Sikhs, and Americans of Middle Eastern descent. Hate crimes are a form of domestic terrorism. They send the poisonous message that some Americans deserve to be victimized solely because of who they are. Like other acts of terrorism, hate crimes have an impact far greater than the impact on the individual victims. They are crimes against entire communities, against the whole Nation, and against the fundamental ideals on which America was founded. Attorney General Ashcroft put it well when he said: "Just as the United States will pursue, prosecute, and punish terrorists who attack America out of hatred for what we believe, we will pursue, prosecute and punish those who attack law-abiding Americans out of hatred for who they are. Hatred is the enemy of justice, regardless of its source."

The FBI is the only federal entity with responsibility for investigating allegations of federal civil rights violations and abuses. In pursuit of this mission, the FBI investigates violence and hate crimes by individuals and/or members of racist groups, such as the Ku Klux Klan. A total of 8,759 hate crimes or incidents were reported to the FBI during 1996. Theseincidents were reported by 11,354 law enforcement agencies in 49 States and the District of Columbia. Approximately 61 percent of the incidents were motivated by racial bias, 16 percent by religious bias, 12 percent by sexual orientation bias, and 11 percent by ethnicity/national origin bias. Crimes against persons accounted for 69 percent of the offenses reported. Intimidation was the single most frequently reported hate crime.

According to FBI statistics, nearly 25 people are victimized each and every day because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnic background, or disability. Some argue that hate crimes are actually decreasing because the total number of hate crimes in 2005 was slightly lower than in 2004. But the FBI data reflects only a fraction of hate crimes, because so many of these crimes routinely go unreported. The Southern Poverty Law Center estimates the total number of hate crimes per year is close to 50,000.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list