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1949_10_22--017_SP Truth About the Klan

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If this manifestation of the Klan's presence arouses no great furor of opposition, the next step is the burning of a cross—usually in an open field or otherwise so meaninglessly that newspapers, most of which are alert to report all activities of the Klan and condemn same, are likely to attribute the demonstration to the pranks of small boys. If the community continues to snooze placidly, the Klan calls on the members of a neighboring Klavern to come over and parade, and the local order returns the favor. If this causes no furor except a few denunciatory editorials, the Klan defiantly burns a cross in front of the editor's house or denounces him over the phone, and prepares for a public demonstration of its strength. The next step is usually an open-air ceremony in which several neighboring Klaverns — which have carefully hoarded their "aliens," or candidates for admission, so as to make an impressive show of numbers— join in putting on a "naturalization." There have been no great public assemblies of the Klan since Doctor Green, shortly before his death, ordered the Klan to take off its mask once and for all, and it is too early yet to know whether or not an unmasked Klan will attract many new followers. Green's successor, Wizard Roper, believes that it will. The floggings and intimidations of which the Klan was accused prior to the unmasking of the Georgia order were the work of poltroons concealing themselves in regalia similar to that of the Klan, he claims, and the Klan unmasked in self-protection. In Alabama, where the Klan was unmasked by state law, Imperial Wizard Morris says he is not worried about losing fainthearted members. If a Klansman does not want to appear in public with his face showing, he can stay out of the parades and watch the cross burnings from the side line while the bolder souls carry on. Dr. Lycurgus Spinks is even more optimistic. "Son," he says, "by the time I get through talking to 'em, they'll be so proud to be a Klansman they'll walk out there with their faces bare as a baby's behind. The Klan don't have a October 22. 1919 thing to be ashamed of. It is a law abiding organization. Always has been and always will be." Sociologists who have studied the Klan — not as some queer exotic growth, but as an integral part of the culture structure of the South, a symbol of the deep-seated angers and frustrations of the region—deny that the order can long survive if in all its actions, as its leaders claim, the Klan remains within the law. By its very nature it must move, step by step, to acts of greater lawlessness and violence or it will soon become merely another harmless and innocuous secret organization whose members meet, mumble the ritual, tell a few jokes and go home. Many a citizen joins the Klan out of curiosity, but once he knows the password and the grip, he soon gets bored and quits unless his leaders can keep him stirred up about something. Consider, for instance, the plight of a small Klan in a little town in Georgia, Alabama or South Carolina at a time when there is no burning political issue to rouse the membership. Klan literature and Klan lecturers fulminate against the Catholics, and the members feel that perhaps they should do something about the Catholics. But Catholics in their community are as scarce as polar bears, and if they wanted to intimidate one, they wouldn't know where to find him. The Klan literature mutters darkly against the Jews, but the only Jew that any of them know is Abe Goltzman, who runs the notions store on Main Street. Abe doesn't seem to be plotting against anybody. He belongs to the Kiwanis Club and votes the Democratic ticket and eats lunch at the Eagle Café every day, joking and talking with folks just like anybody else. There doesn't seem to be much sense in burning a cross in front of Abe's house. The Klan doctrine teaches that the Negroes are dangerous. But the local Negroes don't seem to be threatening anybody. Sometimes on Saturday nights, of course, some of them get drunk and fight, and maybe get into a cutting scrape, but the police can handle things like that all right. The chief says so, and he's sitting right there in the Klavern.


1949_10_22--017_SP Truth About the Klan
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