When you think of the Ku Klux Klan, you probably imagine a group of men wearing cone-shaped hoods who espouse some pretty racist beliefs. But the reality of this massive terrorist organization is that they go so much more beyond just your basic white privilege ideologies and racist beliefs. They are a hate group that has been operating secretly for over a hundred years, and they don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.
We really don’t know a lot about the KKK, mainly because they do their best work hiding from the public and maintaining their privacy. I mean, if you operate like a terrorist group that runs on hatred and violence, you don’t exactly go around announcing your plans to the world. We don’t hear about them that often in the news or media either, unless there is a big story or controversy that flares up in a certain segment of the group. And we don’t seem to learn about them in schools as much either, which is definitely a good thing- we hope. But recently, it seems we’ve been hearing about that disgusting group more and more, in a context closely related to our next president, Donald Trump.
The Klan appeared in the late 1800s, so we don’t have that much photographic evidence of their early years. But luckily (or perhaps unluckily), we do have a collection here of terrifying images of the Ku Klux Klan. Hopefully, we can learn from horrific images like these in order to build a better, less hateful, future. Hopefully.
15. Kids Don’t Have A Choice
Unfortunately, even members of the KKK are allowed to give birth to and raise their own children. This means that many children are subjected to their hateful and ignorant beliefs throughout most of their childhood. They are taught that what the parents believe is absolutely right, and outsiders just don’t understand their message. By the time they are even capable of making their own informed decisions, the hateful ideologies that were pounded into their brains at a young age are so deeply ingrained into their psyche that they’ll never fully be able to rid their minds of the ignorant rhetoric. Brainwashing kids this young is never acceptable. No extreme thoughts or ideologies should be taught to children who aren’t capable of thinking, whether it’s extreme religion, education, or in the KKK’s situation, hate. Children should be taught to think objectively in situations and should be given the opportunity to make their own educated decisions.
14. They Are A Violent Group
Many groups have their own ways of protesting peacefully and getting their message across in nonviolent ways. The KKK has proven to not be capable of doing this- from their violent past all the way up to their horrific present. It’s pretty despicable to think of such a group that has so little actual basis and reason for existing that they feel the need to resort to violence in order to get their point across. That is what is so disturbing about how people compare them to groups such as The Black Panthers and Black Lives Matter. Maybe you don’t agree with the message of these two groups, but you have to at least recognize that they in no way have operated as violently as the KKK does nor held hateful doctrines. They are not responsible, as the KKK most assuredly is, of a gross number of lynchings, mobbings, and murders of innocent black Americans.
13. The Burning Cross Is A Threat
The KKK goes so far as to use the image of a burning cross as their symbol of intimidation. The cross was actually inspired by a poem, and the image inspired many when they saw it on screen in The Birth of a Nation. The symbol is used for its shock value, but also as a reminder of just how far this group is willing to go. The disturbing part is how many religious leaders and figures are involved in the group, but they are still comfortable with using the image of a burning cross as their main symbol. What would their God think if they saw what exactly they were doing to get their message across? The even more despicable part is that there have even been murders rumored to involve the burning of innocent people on the cross. How could anyone follow the message of those who lead with such violent imagery?
12. Lynchings And Hangings Are Common
One way that the KKK was able to prove to their country just how evil and full of hate they were was to participate in frequent hangings and lynchings of innocent black Americans. Oftentimes, you’ll hear of these innocent people doing nothing more than looking at a Klansman in the wrong way and quickly becoming the victim of a brutal hate crime. Black Americans had to walk home alone at night in the 1920’s and fear they would be the next victim of a beating or potentially even lynching by a crazed Klan member and his friends. You could compare it to our current climate in how many Muslim Americans fear walking home alone out of worry that they may become the next victim of a brutal hate crime by one of Donald Trump’s “supporters.” How can we look at past behavior of a group like this and not be immediately dismissive of anything they have to offer?
11. The Masks Are Meant For Disguise
The biggest reality of this group is that they are all cowards. The mask is meant to protect their identity and hide them from the public eye, for they fear the backlash from their community if they reveal their identity as one of the members of the Klan. If you believed in something strongly and knew it to be the ultimate truth, would you hide behind a mask? The reality is that these people are our teachers, police officers, government officials, and even federal judges. Hiding their identity allows them to continue to have normal lives that aren’t associated with their extra-curricular activity of aiding in hate crimes and overall bigotry. But when you have such hateful ideologies ingrained into your brain, how are we to assume that you can really leave that hate behind the white mask? These two lives are not separate, and they should not be cowards hiding behind white sheets.
10. At Their Peak They Had Over 4,000,000 Members
The height of the membership numbers of the Ku Klux Klan came in the 1920s. The beginning of the group came as a reaction to the Civil War. Many people in the South were obviously still upset about the outcome, and it sort of became a reaction to Black Americans being given the right to vote. This maintained the Klan’s agenda for years, but the early 1920s really saw the rise in popularity. There were estimated to be over 4,000,000 members between 1920-1930. This is absolutely terrifying! At one point, a huge percentage of our population was made up of racist and violent bigots determined to maintain white supremacy in our country. As the group became larger, there had to be more government intervention. This resulted in fewer people joining, because once your hobby becomes a threat to your freedom, people don’t take it so seriously anymore.
9. Children Are Subjected To Violence
As we’ve already seen from one of the first entries, children are unfortunately subjected to the hateful ideologies and ignorant rhetoric that comes from the vile mouths of the Ku Klux Klan members. Children should not be forced to believe any ideology, whether it be extreme left or right wing. But even more importantly than that, children should never be subjected to violent, dangerous, and potentially harmful situations if they don’t even have to be. We can assume from this picture that the police were there to protect the Klan’s members during a protest or demonstration of some sort. Even though the police are there for the child’s protection, we can’t be certain that a cop would have the ability to stop any potential danger that a child was in! If you’re in the KKK, at least leave your child at home during one of your pointless demonstrations.
8. They Have Their Own Weird Language
When you have an operation that needs to maintain a level of secrecy, oftentime a new language comes into play in order to protect the members, privacy, and overall operations of the internals of the organization. The KKK has been proven to have its own codes, languages, and words for various levels of hierarchy as well as codes for recruiting and overall communicating. The most comical part of the entire operation is the names that they have for their titles. The biggest leader is referred to as the Grand Wizard. Other levels of hierarchy also include the title of being the dragon. I mean, you have to admit, on some level, it sounds like they’re playing a game of Dungeons & Dragons. The element of supernaturalism is frightening in itself. But in reality, when you remember their violent past and racist ideologies, you quickly realize just how awful these guys really are.
7. There Are Many Different Groups
The KKK isn’t just one, large, massive group. There isn’t just an easy system of who’s in charge that starts from the bottom and leads to the top, like most normal organizations and institutions. Instead, it is a complicated cluster of many different groups that share some basic ideologies. Many groups vary on what levels of hatred they have. For example, some focus on their hate for black people, while others are mainly concerned with their opposition to Judaism and their anti-Semitic views. Having small groups that link each other together, rather than one big organization that people can join, helps maintain anonymity and a level of secrecy during operations. They all share one basic idea, however, and that is that they are superior simply based on the race to which they were born. They all have a level of hatred, but where they decide to focus that varies depending on the group.
6. They Are Responsible For So Much Violence
The above photograph is the image of Emmitt Till. The first is before he ran into several members of the KKK. The second, unfortunately, is him lying in his casket after being subjected to their violence. The reason that the terrorist group targeted Emmitt is the most disturbing part. The criminals in this case were caught and admitted that they kidnapped, lynched, and shot Emmitt after he supposedly whistled at one of their wives. The reasonable thing would have been to let the woman respond to the alleged harassment herself, but instead, they chose to take matters into their own hands and impose brutal violence to get their point across. The reality is, is that no one exactly knows what Emmitt had done the fateful afternoon that he had supposedly harassed the woman. He was only 14 at the time, but what the white woman said was the only “truth” Emmitt’s murderers needed.
5. It’s Not Just Men Behind The Masks
One of the saddest truths about the KKK is that it isn’t all just men. As we saw this year with the 2016 presidential election, the majority of white women voted against their own interests and elected a sexist man with numerous open sexual assault cases against him. But women being brainwashed into participating in men’s hatred isn’t exclusive to this year’s election. As this photograph proves, even white women were participants in this horrible hate group. The KKK is actually known for possessing their own sexist and oppressive values, believing that a woman is meant to only carry out wifely duties, and that basic gender normatives are a way of life, not just how our society operates. These women are unfortunately nothing more than blind, brainwashed participants who are too oppressed to realize that these men don’t have their own interests in mind either, and only see them as numbers in their group full of hate.
4. They Are A Homophobic Group
At this point, the KKK has to pretty much give up on any hope of repealing any amendments and they have to face the reality that every citizen has the right to vote regardless of their race or gender, and it’s going to stay that way for a long time. But recently, the KKK has been latching onto oppressing the rights of LGBTQ people as well, proving that they aren’t really about anything other than preserving hatred and finding a group to pretty much take their anger out on. As we just discussed in the entry on women in the KKK, the members of the Ku Klux Klan hold some pretty ancient and outdated sexist beliefs. So we can only assume that they would share those same bigoted, tired beliefs when it comes to people’s sexuality and the right to same sex marriage. What is even the point of their fighting anymore? We’ve obviously proven that basic human rights will always prevail over the white man’s feelings.
3. They Originally Helped Democrats
In the beginning of the KKK, the group was originally formed with the interest of democrats in mind! The democratic party was originally made up of working class people, members of the middle and lower class, and regular people who had incomes and families they needed to protect and maintain. The members of the Ku Klux Klan feared that once Black Americans were finally granted the right to vote, that they would vote republican since the republican party, led by President Lincoln, had “started” the Civil War. The Klan also feared immigrants moving into cities and taking their jobs, so in retaliation, they formed the KKK. But these white men were as clueless then as they are now. Everyone always believes that it’s those who are less well off than they that are taking their money, jobs, and rights. All of this is a distraction so that we have our heads turned as the big man- our bosses, superiors, and government officials- steal from our pockets.
2. They Still Operate Today
Looking at pictures like this, any sane person would react with horror and disbelief. But once we realize most of the most violent photographs on this list were taken decades ago, it becomes easier to stomach. When we see ignorance in the past, we can chalk it up to our ancestors not knowing any better. Even though that’s not an excuse for maintaining a level of hatred within an institution, it makes it easier to understand why a group like the KKK might have started and maintained an operation for so long. But in our current time, when it is a fact that immigrants actually help the economy, there is no biological difference between white people and any person of color, and even being gay has been scientifically proven to not be a choice, we still have hate groups like the KKK operating. How have we let this happen for so long?
1. They Are Dying Out
Remember how at the peak of the popularity of the KKK, there were an estimated 4,000,000 members? It’s hard to track the groups, as many people do fairly well at retaining their anonymity and maintain secrecy within their personal lives. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t able to have at least an estimate as to how many people still identify with the group to this date. Right now, it is estimated that there are around 150 different groups with between 5,000 and 8,000 active members! That is one enlightening and hopeful truth on the list! Even though we did just elect a supposed fear- mongering, bigot as our president, this small membership number for the KKK proves that we have actually come a little bit further in our fight for human rights, and that there is still a gleam of hope at the end of the long tunnel of endless hatred within our society.