From the Founding of the Ku Klux Klan to the Present Day: What Has Changed?
Do these scenes shock you? You do not like them? Good! Yet, there was a time, not so long ago, when they seemed normal. We would like to believe that racism, hatred of the other, and the North’s patronizing attitude towards the South are things of the past, but they are not.
The far-right still flourishes today, nationalist parties are gaining ground across the globe, religious fanatism is becoming the norm, as evidenced by the appearance of the Civitas posters on the campuses (“against the democratic dictature”). These ideologies become “normal” once again. It is no longer surprising to see members of the Lepen family in the second round of the French presidential elections, millions of Americans vote for Trump, Hungary and Poland slip in autocracy, Flanders wonder if one can govern with the far right… We end up not daring to talk about religions out of fear. Are those facts more or less shocking than these old pictures?
We would like to believe it is preferable to remain blind to these despotic abuses and to turn them into mere anecdotes, but this would amount to making this type of destructive and libellous acts trite.
In the Service Volontaire International, a youth organisation, we consider it is essential to look critically at both our present and our past, because, as Churchill affirmed, “a nation which has forgotten its past can have no future”. We do not forget.
Racism, fascism, obscurantism must not become trivial!
The Ku Klux Klan was born in the (kind of disturbed) minds of six southern American ex-officers, after the end of the Civil War. On Christmas Eve 1865, these now unemployed officers decided to gather in their small town in Tennessee and set up a club made up of former soldiers, without having any specific activity idea in their minds. They started thinking for a name and agreed on “Kuklux” which derives from Greek term “Kuklos”, meaning circle, to which they affixed the word “Clan” (very present in their common Scottish culture background). That was the first day of the Ku Klux Klan in this world.
Shortly after its birth, the baby grows fast and reaches 400 members in barely a few weeks. The members take the habit of parading in the streets, wearing white long robes and hoods, in order to impress the population, especially those whom they refer to as “Niggers”. They were very proud of their success, as they felt they had finally found an efficient pressure tactic on the Black community who was being granted more and more rights since the North’s victory, which the KKK couldn’t bear. And that is how the Klan’s true orientation unveiled itself. Quickly, the members stopped restricting themselves to mere unjustified intimidations, and started using verbal and physical threats, violence, mutilation, and, finally, murder.
Over the 1920’s, they reached 3 million members.
Over the 1920’s, they slaughtered thousands of innocent people.
So, you might say: “Of course, we know all that. Nobody is questioning all those atrocities. But what is the point in posting these pictures? What does it have to do with today’s world?” What it has to do is that, in the past, the Ku Klux Klan emerged from the fertile ground of nationalism, supremacism, hatred and fear of the other. And it is not hard to notice that this same fertile ground is once again present nowadays (rise of certain political movements, atrocities committed by different radical groups, etc.).
Let us make this clear: we are not implying that History is repeating itself, or that the crisis we are currently facing is in all points comparable to those of the past. We simply want to incite you to examine today’s society with the same hindsight as the one we have when we observe an era that we consider as bygone. And yes, we said “considered as bygone”, because the Ku Klux Klan remains and still consists of about ten thousand members today. We couldn’t recommend you more to watch the movie BlacKkKlansman, which traces the true history of Ron Stallworth, an American black policeman who infiltrated the KKK network in the 1970s by becoming a full member. Moreover, even though the KKK is not present in Europe, we have political parties who get more and more popularity by supporting similar ideas under the guise of seemingly defending the lower classes.
How do you think the ghost of the Ku Klux Klan is still haunting today’s society? Do you think its ideology has been irredeemably buried? Do you consider that similar organisations should become illegal? Do you think that all civil or political movements that support related ideas should also be forbidden?
We are Service Volontaire International. Through volunteering, we aim at encouraging people to adopt a new critical outlook on the world around them, on the things that scandalise them, and on those that do not event surprise them anymore. As a Youth Organisation recognised by the Belgian Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles, our mission is to help the younger generation to become responsible, active, critical and united citizens.
Join the club!
- Youtube.com. 2020. Alain Decaux Raconte Le Ku Klux Klan | Archive INA. (en ligne) Disponible sur : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5DJtjFNzb_Q (Consulté le 12 octobre 2020).
- Youtube.com. 2020. Brut – C’est Quoi Le Ku Klux Klan ?. (en ligne) Disponible sur : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_rc-beGA1k (Consulté le 12 octobre 2020).
- Youtube.com. 2020. How The Real-Life Detective From ‘Blackkklansman’ Infiltrated The KKK. (en ligne) Disponible sur : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWd3PXaR3GY (Consulté le 13 octobre 2020).
- ARTE. 2020. Ku Klux Klan, Une Histoire Américaine (1/2) – Regarder Le Documentaire Complet | ARTE. (en ligne) Disponible sur : https://www.arte.tv/fr/videos/092135-001-A/ku-klux-klan-une-histoire-americaine-1-2/ (Consulté le 12 octobre 2020).
- Fr.wikipedia.org. 2020. Ku Klux Klan. (en ligne) Disponible sur : https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ku_Klux_Klan (Consulté le 12 octobre 2020).
- Fr.wikipedia.org. 2020. Ron Stallworth. (en ligne) Disponible sur : https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ron_Stallworth (Consulté le 13 octobre 2020).
- L’Obs. 2020. Ku Klux Klan, Alt-Knight… Que Pèse Vraiment L’extrême Droite Américaine ?. (en ligne) Disponible sur : https://www.nouvelobs.com/monde/l-amerique-selon-trump/20170816.OBS3427/ku-klux-klan-alt-knight-que-pese-vraiment-l-extreme-droite-americaine.html (Consulté le 30 octobre 2020).
- Atavist. 2020. Que Pèse Réellement L’Extrême Droite En Europe ?. (en ligne) Disponible sur : http://grand-angle.lefigaro.fr/extreme-droite-europe-enquete-vote-populisme (Consulté le 30 octobre 2020).
- Vif, L., 2020. Qu’est-Ce Que L'”Alt-Right”, La Nébuleuse D’extrême Droite Séduite Par Trump. (en ligne) Site-LeVif-FR. Disponible sur : https://www.levif.be/actualite/international/qu-est-ce-que-l-alt-right-la-nebuleuse-d-extreme-droite-seduite-par-trump/article-normal-575849.html?cookie_check=1602517623 (Consulté le 20 octobre 2020).
- Civitas : qui se cache derrière l’association catholique devenue un parti politique ? https://www.rtl.fr/actu/politique/civitas-qui-se-cache-derriere-l-association-catholique-devenue-un-parti-politique-7783901433
- Messire Dieu, premier servi” Étude sur les conditions de la prise de parole chez les militants traditionalistes de Civitas https://www.cairn.info/revue-politix-2014-2-page-59.htm