Ramón Del Castillo, PhD
The sound of reveille for the aficionados of the Klu Klux Klan (KKK) during the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia can best be described as a successful failure. The charge of the light brigade was met on the battlefield by other groups seeking to reign in and quell the terror that was on the brink of a riot. Opponents seem to be on a healing journey—a classical tale of good and evil pit against each other. The debacle does beg the question of what must be festering in the collective consciousness of these misguided souls. The recent revival of a group ostensibly driven underground has gained momentum. One can bet that members will be back for more.
We are at a crossroads with race relations. What are you willing to do?
The stimulus for blatantly espousing one’s prejudices and racist attitudes in public comes from the top of the social pyramid. Last year, President Trump could have used his privilege at the bully pulpit to condemn the racism and violence that occurred, but he chose not to. Instead, he shouted out with clarity that the resurgence of the Klansmen had come. He openly supported the gospel of White Supremacy, which has become the calling card of the KKK. Yesterday’s [Aug. 12] tweet for national unity was farcical, a tad late—and further bifurcating the nation as culture wars continue.
Klansmen continue to make a mockery of the Constitution of the United States of América, using it to further a hate agenda. Racism breeds strange bed fellows. Klansmen seem to be in cahoots with the president, using his words as justification for their collective distaste towards People of Color, in particular and anyone who does not conform to their way of life. The illusion of a Post Racial Society, ignited by Martin Luther King’s, “I Have a Dream” speech, has been disintegrating for some time.
Historians describe the KKK as the oldest terrorist group in American society—first emerging after the Civil War in the 1860’s. Wearing white robes and causing havoc in every place they assembled, the KKK use bereavement—that is the loss of their lands after losing the Civil War—as an excuse for their racist behavior. In reality, their crocodile tears were and continue to be a rationalization for engrained prejudices. What gets lost in their perversion of history is that the Civil War was about abolishing slavery—a time when human beings were property for sale to the highest bidder. Entrenched in fear, the essence of the KKK includes menacing behaviors such as bigotry, violence, terrorism, and murder.
Historically, the organization’s membership seemed to be dissipating. The release of the movie, Birth of a Nation inspired the reformation of the Ku Klux Klan in 1915. This movie was the first American motion picture to be screened inside the White House, viewed by President Woodrow Wilson. Produced by D. W. Griffith, the movie used advanced cinematic techniques and storytelling power as the movie was catapulted into one of the landmarks of film history. In 1992, the Library Congress deemed the film “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant,” and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry. Seen through the racist eyes of the confederacy, the movie depicts southern belles as the envy of black men…Southern femininity is framed as endangered by aggressive black men.” Underneath this illusion, the images tell the story of, “The South’s fears of racial integration during and after the Civil War.”
The KKK is bound by both bonds of exclusion and inclusion. Their exclusionary behaviors prohibit members to interact with people of color, while their simultaneous inclusion behavior is hanging with Whites only. Nowadays one does have to wear white sheets and a hood in order to be a Klan member. There is a psychological profile that is even more dangerous than slipping on white sheets and parading around a community. White Power has always been the Klan’s motto, with a beginning towards ingrained contempt for Black people, intensified into a deeper hatred towards African Americans, following the Civil War and Reconstruction. Current members have also adopted a deep disdain for other groups such as Jews, Mexicans, and homosexuals.
What might the rest of the psychological profile look like? The lack of identity and self-esteem breeds self-hate, an aversion to one’s humanity, and a state of normlessness. Groups that have lost their identity can develop an incredulous animosity towards outside groups, building psychological walls and reframing those groups as the “other.” Those “other” groups become the victims, blamed for the inadequacies of groups suffering from lost identities. In seeking out a sense of belonging new groups are created, laced with impenetrable walls, which in the case of the KKK resulted in White Nationalism. Klan behavior is a revelation about deep hate for others outside of their group, festering in their souls. A triad of psychological responses such as fear, anger and ignorance; perhaps, not in this order, become the modus operandi, lingering and suffocating the minds and hearts of the discontented. When one is guided by fear, it is easy to stoke fear among others, especially those who are suffering from the same condition. When ignorance lurks in the consciousness of someone, it is easy to latch onto others that suffer from the same malady. It is even easier to create your now narrative, based on suspiciousness of other groups. They feed off of each other, developing consistent views of the world that are seemingly inconsistent with reality. Fearful and ignorant people constantly look for an enemy to justify their own prejudices, shaping them according to the distorted views they hang onto. During this intense process, group members are consumed with anger, it only takes a slight miscalculation to kindle this negative energy. The result is what renowned psychologist Gordon Allport refers to as eventually a hate that is transformed into physical attack and eventually a complete annihilation of other groups.
The notion that US race relations was improving doesn’t hold weight. We are at a crossroads with race relations. What are you willing to do?
Dr. Ramón Del Castillo is an Independent Journalist. © 8-13-2018 Ramón Del Castillo.