Welcome to the inquiry on the B.B.C. world service.
Each week we bring you four expert witnesses answering one pressing question from the news on June twenty eighth nineteen twenty one, the local newspaper in Charlottesville, Virginia, carried the following news hundreds of Charlotte's phill's leading business and professional men made around the tomb of Jefferson at the midnight hour one night last week, and sealed the pledge of chivalry and patriotism with the deepest crimson of red American the coup clucks clan, America's most notorious racist group had set up shop almost a century later, the client's shadow has returned to Charlotte's in July, dozens of clansmen protested against the removal of a statue of a controversial civil war.
A few weeks later, hundreds of far right activists marched to Charlottesville streets what followed has become infamous, there were violent confrontations with count of protesters in the far right activist drove her car into a crowd of people, killing an anti racism demonstrate, although the clan were a small minority of the protesters their influence was clear in the burning torches, they carried with them.
What was missing, with a white hoods in twenty seventeen.
Not only is the K.K.K. still alive, but its members had the confidence to much open.
I'm James Fletcher, and this week, we're asking how has the coup cracks clan lasted so long.
Part one, the idea people would bring their families, there'd Be music playing, they had their own House band, they would sell food, they would sell Souvenirs our first expert witness could be describing any country fair or Community picnic and to take a closer, listen to the House band, they're magic.
We've all had them now.
Great, we've always segregate and again with this ritualistic crust burning in the crisis could be sixty or seventy feet tall.
In the nineteen sixties, the triggered his interest in the group, such mainstream events were a long way from the client's founding back in the nineteenth century, this was right after the civil war in eighteen sixty six, and there are a group of fewer than ten Confederate Veterans that met in a small town called PughAskeyTennessee, the civil war had been fought over the issue of slavery and the victory of the anti slavery North met a huge upheaval in the Confederate South, where white supremacy had been the cornerstone of society that first Klan group were determined to fight attempts to give equal rights to African Americans, and they were quickly copied by other loosely connected vigilante style groups across the South, they were able to capture the collective memory, mostly through the national media, who really were fascinated by the K.K.K. is blending theatrical performance and collective violence.
The violence targeted African Americans in the K.K.K. His political opponents and the performance involve dressing up in costumes, including pretending to be ghosts of Confederate Veterans that are coming from held to come back to wreak vengeance on their targets, but this would be integrated into these terrible acts of violence, the clan's first reign of terror lasted only a few years, the federal government intervene to prosecute Klan crimes, while new racist laws in the South satisfied the clans goals, the group's disappeared from public view.
Until the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the civil war.
One of the things that occurs around that period is that we see the romantic recollections these romantic recollections sought to minimise the brutality of slavery and recast the civil war has a fight for local rights, the most famous example is the groundbreaking nineteen fifteen silent film birth of a nation, at the time, it was the largest in scale film ever produced.
There were scenes that were depicting their era, coming out of the civil war and depicting the K.K.K. as the valiant defenders of weight womanhood.
During that era, it was a historical whitewash with white hoods.
So this is the first time we see the idea of the K.K.K. associated with weight robes and hoods.
This is the first time we see ritual walls where crust burnings these costumes and rituals invented for the film quickly crossed over into the real world.
Around the year of the birth of the nation, a failed entrepreneur named William j.
Simmons decided that this could be an event around which would he sighs the rebirth of the clan could be accomplished so he set out to organise a set of people to March up stone and have the first cross burning this second coming of the clan was very different to the first, it was a unified national organisation he targeted immigrants, Jews and Catholics, as well as African Americans, and it was huge, with as many as five million members, they were large enough in influential enough that they were able to act literally hundreds of local officials and the nineteen twenty four presidential election was really shaped by how clean constituencies were trying to rewrite the platforms are both major political parties, the violence and intimidation continued to, but once again the clans days were numbered internal scandals and infighting saw numbers dwindle, but it was tax, but I did it.
In the end, the internal revenue service is what actually ultimately puts the clan out a business, a bankrupt, the group, then, so it disappears again by nineteen forty four as a formal organisation, an entity, as the civil rights movement gathered steam in the fifties and sixties, the clan re emerged again to fight back.
This infamous period included campaigns of bombing and murder, but the Klan was by now, a dozen or so different groups, not the unified force that had been in the twenties, by the nineteen seventies, its membership was falling Again, so what has survived the one hundred fifty years since its founding, isn't a unified Coo clucks Klan organisation, but an idea in the U.S., when people think of organised way supremacy by far the most resonant symbol of that are the symbols of the K.K.K. burning crosses now asks wait robes, so the clan is able really has lit a fire vision of what white supremacy is around their own symbols, it really is an idea, they can be adapted in a variety of guises by a variety of people.
So who are the people who have adopted this idea, this vision.
Actually, my home is Indian old Mississippi, born and raised here in Palma b. b.
King was raised blues, the Delta blues, wasn't the only African American influence in the upbringing of our second expert witness, I was raised by a black Lady, she worked for my grandmother, and she raised my mother, she raised my older brother, she raised my older sister, she raised myself and her younger sister.
So why, ironically, the name isgard shepherd number were racist, I was raised in a very, very dysfunctional family, I had an alcoholic father was really vile course with these Danish going home.
I was just laughs, and I was looking for a place to fill a void within myself and Niko clutch clean was there as a teenager in the mid seventies, Scott shepherd went to a Klan rally in Mississippi, The client and gather and they make their hate for speeches in then course I do the ceremonial Accra, sliding and circle in the cross had never seen anything like it, and I was drawn to the mistake, it wasn't just costumes and chanting, that the clansmen offered, they put down arm around my shoulders.
You know, said, we'll be your family wear take care, we'll protect you were teaching they dig it seems Andy Blaine relax another minorities and people and different religions, for the problems ahead.
Scott was in his own words, gung Ho about his new racist world aids just nineteen, he was a Grand Dragon or state leader of the clan in Tennessee, when you heard the valance and findings in the bidding and things like that.
I don't participate in it.
But, you know, cheer Vidal bacteria, no neck movement justice guilty, and in my heart.
Scott says his skills lay more in recruitment have more young men, just like himself, they came from a troubled home and head problems were their family.
Our parents, mainly, and asset down sad was totally lost out there in this world, till I found the clay and move meant him, then I would better of myself, because when I told them, and, once these young recruits were in, they were exposed to the clans ideology.
They talk about the say, up to paying it against an attack on their quarter, an no here.
Now, the Garden went, and then they move into the race war.
Once you had that period, you pretty much pretty much brainwash while people had to wait until eighteen to become full members indoctrination in the clans beliefs and rituals could start much earlier, you know, young kids to three years old, I've even seen babies with robe Vincennes hoods.
Our second expert witness has described how the K.K.K., he's survived for so long, where young men are troubled by sense of chaos and confusion.
It offers a promise of order and the clan, have been very flexible in how they sell that I don't really care about their immigration issues are all rather issues, there are main purposes events to white race, practice whites premises agers explored.
A lot of these mainstream issues to get theirself warrant out Nadia say saying they're opportunistic I absolutely you took to work as for Scott.
After many years of doubts he finally abandoned his white supremacist views and now works to educate people about its dangers.
One of the main people he felt he had to explain himself to was Rebecca Scott Hawkins, the black woman who raised him walk up to a door knock down it after not seeing her for many years in, she opened the door in, and it was a door or open her arms to open Akhenaten was ever said about it sensed anything negative beanie way when she told me, she said, you know, I always knew That you would find your way back and be back home.
Part three, freedom to hate when I talk to Europeans, they asked me, things like how on earth has the United States had banned the K.K.K. Eric is going to help us answer that question.
He's written a book called, freedom to be racist and has spent a fair amount of time.
As an American living in Europe, where most people are shocked to hear that in the United States, you can say racist things in public and not get in trouble.
The first amendment to the U.S Constitution famously guarantees the right to free speech.
But this wasn't always seen as absolute in the civil rights era, for example, public order laws were used to ban anti racism protests when these cases, ended up in the courts, judges started to rule that free speech, couldn't be restricted by other laws, but the civil rights protesters weren't the only ones who benefited the Grand bargain at the time was, we will protect the rights of civil rights activist to say what they want, but to do that, we have to also protect the rights of racist to say what they want in the strongest possible terms.
Just how far this Grand bargain goes was made clear by a famous case in the nineteen seventies, there was an attempt by a neo Nazi group to March through skokiaan Illinois, which is a suburb of Chicago.
That was highly Jewish and At the time, in the late seventies, had a very large proportion of Holocaust survivors, and then your answer group wanted to March through schoolkid in uniform in third Reich harbour, and that was quite provocative and seem to be quite an aggressive step in the direction of promoting racist values and ideas.
In the end, the Supreme Court upheld their right to March through this town.
So in the United States racists and racist groups, such as the K.K.K. can say, pretty much, whatever they want, but there are some limits.
If you say to a crowd that you had banned whipping up into a racist frenzy, Hey, look, there goes and axe wherever ex, maybe a Jew, an African American illusion.
Go get him, and that crowd the tax that person, you can be convicted for, inciting violence.
There are also limits when it comes to things like burning crosses in two thousand and two, the Supreme Court decided that if you are carrying a burning cross and you go and planted in front of African Americans home, then there can be considered what's called a true threat, which means that person could justifiably fear for their lives that you are coming for them, and so they're kind of intimidation is now legal, but if you want to burn a cross on your own land for your own purposes, even if they're racist, that's O.K., of course, if K.K.K. members break the law.
They can be punished for That, like everyone else, but the K.K.K. as a whole can't be banned in the United States, the way we handled the K.K.K. and resus and neo Nazis that want to March and speak is either through more speech right speaking back against their ideas and explaining why they're horrible and dangerous or are through counter immobilisation counter protests, it's up to private citizens and groups to apply pressure and try to restrict the clans activities, some have done this through protest, while others have successfully bankrupted clan groups by suing them for damages in civil courts.
So, how has the K.K.K. lasted so long.
Our third expert witness has explained that one key reason is that the cake a.k.s core belief white supremacy and racism is protected by America's approach to freedom of speech.
Do you think the K.K.K. will ever be restricted in the U.S., no, not for its ideas.
I think that would be a huge change in American political culture.
This helps us understand how the K.K.K. has survived until today, but is it thriving part for old ideas, new move me, you can get a little emotional and a little overwhelming.
On the other hand, somebody's gotta read the stuff, and document.
It's a very, very dark place our final expert witness spends a lot of her time immersed in the world of organisations deemed to be actively spreading hate, often on the Internet, you reading everything from something that pretends to be an academic Treatise to just grow some memes about Jews and others, Heidi buyer Eric works for the southern poverty law centre, which monitors all the hate croutes active in the United States.
At our last count in twenty sixteen we documented nine hundred seventeen a. groups across the United States, and that's considerably higher than the numbers that we were recording, for example, in the nineteen nineties, when the number of hate groups bounced around four hundred and fifty a little up at one point will down, it's probably safe to say that there's maybe a million and a half to two million people who are involved in the organised hate me that number includes black premise end Islam must hate groups, but the majority are white nationalists, the K.K.K. is a fraction of its former size, with around five thousand members, overall, but it's part of a larger, more modern white supremacist Community, much of it found online.
I mean, work in the nineteen nineties.
If you were running, some kind of a hate group your proper gear, they would only have the reach of those you could sort of get in the room or get on the fount, of course, the worldwide web changed all of that, the Internet, not only help these groups reach more people, but also operated like a giant version of the clan rallies, we've already heard about allowing a minority with radical views to surround themselves with people who agree with them.
You know, The folks who stood on the streets of Charlotte bill saying, Jews, get out, and so on.
They were world that baldness from online, because you can feel like everybody stands with you, but it's not just the Internet.
That's behind the rise of the extreme right, the March upwards in the number of hate groups actually started in the year, two thousand when the U.S. census Bureau said that whites would become a minority in the United States in twenty forty two, Hey, groups, obviously, who want to create a white ethno state freaked out and started recruiting, then, Barack Obama, the United States' first black President was elected a very obvious example of the increasing power and influence of minorities, the backlash against President Obama, combined with the economic uncertainty in the wake of the financial crisis of two thousand eight energised the extreme right, but Heidi by Eric says it's Obama successor, who's helped bring them in from the fringe when Donald Tramp came down that staircase and trump Tower in new York city and started talking about Mexicans as rapists people on their way to premises move perked up their ears, and as he continued to say terrible things about immigrants and Muslims, they started to join the political system, they began to lobby for Donald trump they start Akon and things like glorious leader, and now we have a group of people who are politically energised, and it looks like they'll start putting up candidates, And it was the recent Charlottesville protests that made many sit up and take note of what the white supremacist movement has become what was surprising to me was that there was so many different kinds of organisations in the same place, meaning you had clansmen you had neo Nazis skinheads that kind of solidarity across groups is rare and, from my perspective, frightening because we prefer these people to invite not be able to get their act together.
Many of the young white nationalists who protested in Charlotte's, he'll prefer white Polo shirts to white hoods, but the clans influence is still clear the crayon start of stands there, as the, Granddaddy of this movement.
It's not the main player, but that idea of the clan is something that's not dismissed by the rest of these folks, because it's basically their their parent right, the parent to this movement.
So, how has the crew clacks clan lasted so long.
We've heard how, through its long history, the K.K.K. has come and gone rising opportunistic plea to take advantage of personal discontent and political and economic turbulence American society has decided that or views, however, extreme have a right to be expressed in the belief that sunlight is the best disinfectant.
But sunlight also nurtures the seed that falls in fertile soil white supremacy and the oppression of black people, and then later, other people in those ideas have always Ian are made at American politics, they have become less And less of a force, but they're still there, and the choir can still harnessed those ideas.
And, you know, to expunge them from our history is going to take some serious work, and that's all for this edition of the inquiry, and for me, James Fletcher, the programme was produced by Kate Lambo and mixed by rod Farquhar thanks for downloading it.
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