Rambling Jack: On the Ku Klux Klan, the scourge of racism and removing statues

Despite the rumors, there is no evidence that the Ku Klux Klan is operating in McKinleyville. This was confirmed recently by Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsal (Union, Aug. 9). It’s also worth pointing out that the website of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, has no information indicating that the KKK operates in McKinleyville.

So let’s dispense with this false rumor. Repeat: There is no evidence that the KKK is operating in McKinleyville.

Unfortunately, with our nation undergoing a period of devolution, the threat of hate groups popping up in McKinleyville or other North Coast communities is greater than it has been in a long time, especially after President Donald Trump’s statements following the violent events that unfolded Aug. 12 in Charlottesville, Va.

Nazis and KKK members, carrying tiki torches, marched through town, chanting racist and anti-Semitic slogans and fighting with counter-protesters. A professed neo-Nazi plowed his car through a crowd, killing a woman and injuring 19 counter-protesters.

Under normal circumstances, the President of the United States – whether a Republican or a Democrat – would strongly denounce the racist hate-mongers.

Instead, Trump condemned the violence “on both sides,” which suggested a moral equivalence between the Klansmen and anti-racist protesters. Then, at the urging of his staff, he later read a prepared statement from a teleprompter in which he did condemn the racists, but the condemnation seemed hesitant and muted. The day after, he was back to his bigoted self, defending the alt-right as “good people” in a jaw-dropping press conference, thereby emboldening the white supremacists.

Now that the leader of the free world has provided cover for the citronella skinheads, we can expect more rallies as the white supremacist movement gains momentum and lures more dummies into its fold. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, white nationalists are already planning rallies in the Bay Area.

Hopefully, this hateful virus won’t spread to Humboldt, but we need to remain vigilant in case it does.

Meanwhile, we need to do whatever we can to combat the racism that already exists. Right now, there are a few white readers who are thinking “Racism? There’s no racism!” It’s understandable that they don’t know that there’s racism. They’re white, like me, so they don’t bear the brunt of it. But racism is a real thing here in Humboldt, as it is everywhere.

But how bad is it? The McKinleyville Municipal Advisory Committee may find out as it explores the issue at some upcoming meetings. The idea is to create a dialogue and get this all out in the open.

Hats off to the committee for agreeing to dive into this uncomfortable discussion.

Removing McKinley statue?

In Charlottesville, the KKK was rallying behind a statue of Robert E. Lee, the commander of the Confederate Army of Virgina during the Civil War. Lee was a traitor and a white supremacist, who fought against the United States to preserve slavery.

The statue was erected in 1924, during a time when African Americans were pushing for civil rights and battling the nation’s system of apartheid. The KKK pushed back, terrorizing and killing people of color. The statue was put up as a reminders of who was in charge – the white supremacist.

Taking down a statue celebrating a white supremacist makes sense. Trump, on the other hand, rolled out the slippery slope argument – if we remove a statue of Lee, what’s next? Statues of George Washington? Thomas Jefferson?

That’s bunk, There’s a clear distinction between Lee and our nation’s founders.

But perhaps Arcata will prove that there is, indeed, a slippery slope.

Last week, on the CommUnity Pride and Peace Facebook page, Emilee Quackenbush announced that a petition will be circulated this week asking that the Arcata City Council remove the statue of William McKinley that graces the Arcata Plaza. Quackenbush and others argue that McKinley is not historically relevant to Arcata and that something else would be more appropriate for the center of town.

There’s some truth to that argument. After all, McKinley never actually came to Arcata.

But let’s be careful equating McKinley with the Confederates.

McKinley fought for the Union during the Civil War. He saw combat and put his life on the line to fight against the white supremacists. He wasn’t perfect by any means, but he was progressive for his time.

We should allow Bill to stand where he is for another 100 years, at least. But the citizens have a right to petition for his removal.

What do you think? Send a letter to opinion@madriverunion.com and let us know.

Jack Durham is the editor and co-publisher of the Mad River Union.

 







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