The Klan and Neo-Nazis are American terrorists

By Dorothy Inman-Johnson
Special to the Outlook

The resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazi organizations, and other White supremacy groups is no surprise in light of the hateful, divisive rhetoric of our U.S. President. Since the Klan was founded in 1866 as an unofficial arm of White segregationist government officials, their role has been to suppress political participation by Black Americans and oppose racial integration in the South. Cross burnings, hangings, and bombings were their preferred methods of enforcement, though shootings and mob beatings were done with impunity, as well.

An excerpt from my book, Poverty, Politics, and Race in America, describes the prominent role they played during my childhood in Birmingham during the 1950s and 60s.

“It was an ever present concern that you never knew who the Klan was. It was as likely that White law enforcement officers, White elected officials, and even the White pastor who preached the gospel of Christ on Sunday donned the white robe and hood to terrorize the Black community on Saturday night…As the Democratic Party became more activist on issues of voting and civil rights in the mid to late 60s, southern White supremacists fled the Democratic Party and became Republicans.”

The 1960s marked a period of unprecedented violence by the Klan with the murders of civil rights workers Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner, and Medgar Evers in Mississippi, the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham killing four little Black girls in Sunday school, and the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee. Though infiltrated by the FBI for the murders in Mississippi, the Klan was never formally labeled a terrorist organization. Neither were Neo-Nazi organizations. The American Nazi Party was founded in 1959 by George Lincoln Rockwell as a result of his strong anti-Jewish sentiments and opposition to racial integration. The solution for both the Klan and Nazi organizations was intimidation and violence against Black Americans, Jews, and their supporters in their fight for civil and voting rights.

Yet, when the Black Panther organization was founded in Oakland, California in 1966 to respond to the violence against Black people, after discarding the non-violent strategies of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as ineffective against the growing violence of White hate groups, they were quickly labeled a terrorist organization by the FBI. No such label was given to the White nationalist/ supremacy groups, even though the Southern Poverty Law Center has documented more acts of domestic terrorism by these groups than by any international terrorist organization. And they have been given permission by the hateful, divisive rhetoric and actions of President Trump to openly declare their racial hatred today, without hiding behind the robes and hoods. Their demonstration in Charlottesville that exploded in violence with the murder of Heather Heyer, and injury to 19 others who were there to protest these racist organizations, is evidence that America is not the post racial or color blind country many White Americans declared after the election of President Obama in 2008. The eight years of Obama’s presidency should have been adequate proof. No President in our history was the target of as much White hatred as Obama, though totally unwarranted.

The pretense of a post-racial America simply provided a justification to roll back hard won protections under the civil rights and voting rights laws. Many of us who lived through the oppression of the 50s and 60s knew the Klan and other hate groups of our youth never went away. They were just waiting for the right time and right leader they could count on to support White dominance in America. They got their wish in 2016 when Republicans won both houses of Congress and Donald Trump was elected President. David Duke, former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, said it best in his statement explaining his support for Trump’s refusal to denounce the Klan as a hate group and their violent demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia. Duke stated, “It’s the fulfillment of President Trump’s vision for America”. Anyone who openly supports racial hatred and violence is a racist. That includes the current occupant of the White House. Proof that if it quacks and walks like a duck, it’s a duck. And groups formed for the sole purpose of intimidation and violence against others are terrorists.
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