Black Klansman: Race, Hate, And the Undercover Investigation of a Lifetime

“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope.”
― Ron Stallworth, Black Klansman: Race, Hate, and the Undercover Investigation of a Lifetime

Name of the book: Black Klansman

Author: Ron Stallworth

Genre: Non-fiction – memoir/ biography

Publisher: Arrow Books – Penguin Random House, United Kingdom

Publishing place: United Kingdom

Year: 2014, reissued in 2018

In the hardcover of the title of the book reads K K K, with an additional K in between is to denote the Ku Klux Klan, an American white-supremacist hate group whose primary target is African-Americans. This book becomes stranger and adventurous than fiction, because Detective Ron Stallworth, a first black detective in the history of the Colorado Springs Police Department, in the State of Colorado, U.S.A, managed to infiltrate and provide information about top military officials involved in this hate crime organisation.

This hate group also happened to have access to the country’s most classified information. To read through the words of a man who lived through and worked in the years that followed the Civil Rights Movement was truly exciting. The investigation that Ron Stallworth had lead is still so surreal and unprecedented.

It all started when Ron Stallworth replied to a classified ad in the newspaper in October 1978, that wanted to recruit people to join the Ku Klux Klan, “Ku Klux Klan, For Information Contact, P.O. Box 4771, Security, Colorado 80230”. He answered with his real name “Ron Stallworth”. Little did he know that he set into motion the events that would empower him to spoil the Colorado Springs chapter of the white supremacist group, all of it while posing as a white man himself.

During this time, Stallworth not only exposed the white supremacists in the military but also sabotaged cross burnings, hold hooded marches, organise a “border watch” to shoot Mexican labourers crossing the Rio Grande, revealed plans to recruit members in prison, and a lot more. There was, however, the question of how a black officer could infiltrate the Klan.

Stallworth devised a plan: He would continue to be “the voice,” posing as a white man on the phone, while a fellow white officer would be “the face,” portraying him in person. Working the phone, Stallworth befriended the local Klan organiser, the state organiser, and even David Duke, the Grand Wizard himself.

As unbelievably true, this book is, the scariest takeaway is how his insights on prejudice are still relevant in today’s situation for African-Americans in America. The grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, actually endorsed Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential elections. Since President Trump’s election, there has been an increase in alternative-right movements and white supremacist ideologies. This one brief incident in the book, the supreme racist David Duke’s January 1979 visit to Colorado Springs, whereas a twist the police chief assigned Stallworth to be Duke’s personal bodyguard during the tour.

Stallworth even got Duke to pose for a photo with him. But when Stallworth slipped his arm around Duke’s shoulder right when the shutter clicked, the Grand Wizard had enough. He sprung for the camera while Stallworth threatened to arrest him for assaulting an officer, and he backed out. Stallworth saw this as a win, intimidating a man who thought the black race as inferior but also reflected on how protestants, his ancestors had fought so bravely against the brutality of the Klan. The lines where he mentions the darkest time of the death of Martin Luther King, the thought of how long African-Americans have come from the Civil Rights Movement was very emotional.

Background

Cults are defined as a religious group, often living together, whose beliefs are considered extreme or strange. It is a said system of religious worship or excessive admiration of a person or a thing.[1] The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) is one such group formed in the post-Civil War American secret society advocating, promoting white supremacy. It confined its membership to American-born white Christians.[2]

With this cults rise against the latest BLACK LIVES MATTER movement in America, it is essential to look into its foundation to eradicate its ideology. The first one, as said, was founded immediately after the Civil War and lasted until the 1870s. The other began in 1915, and the Civil Rights Movement in the threatened the Klan’s idea of segregation, calling for another revival. After its first chapter, the Klan moved beyond just targeting blacks, and broadened its message of hate to include Catholics, Jews and foreigners.

The members of the Klan tried restoring white supremacy by aiming violence at freed black people, who were slaves previously.[3]

‘Klankraft’ is what the members call their ways and practises. Even though they were a secretive group, there is some idea of their methods based on their supremacist views. The most well-known symbols of the KKK included white robes, along with a conical mask that majorly intended to add to the fear of their cruel attacks. The KKK also carry out cross burnings. They even resorted to using unique titles among themselves. For example, the leaders of the Klan are referred to as Grand or Imperial Wizards.[4]

The Black People of America

The end of the American Civil War was where slavery was abolished, and the former slaves were free and equal to white people, legally – but the reality was far different. As the Ku Klux Klan was a white underground terrorist group, they would not accept black people as equals, would be dressed in white robes to stress their belief that whites were superior to blacks. And thus, as a result, many black people did not register to vote and kept away from white areas.

They have seemingly caused a wave of terror. The people who followed the ideologies of the Klan resorted to beating, name-calling or beat up black persons who tried to vote or tried getting an education. They had to face the truth that even if the war was won, the battle was not over having them struggle against racial discrimination to be treated fairly and equally, and are struggling even today.[5]

Current Scenario

Now, how big of a threat is the KKK in the U.S today? There are two warnings; the first one being these isolated cells can become breeding grounds for unpredictable violence, and the second one being KKK’s history emerging and receding without a pattern.

The KKK failed to defeat the Black Civil Rights Movement but might have an ever-lasting impact on the American political system. KKK activities seemed to have played a significant role in shifting votes from Democratic to Republican since the 1960s and even years later, now. Racial conflict can have wide-ranging effects that resonate and echoes over generations in ways that voters might not easily or directly recognise. This aspect is fascinating but also so alarming because the idea of racial segregation should not get anybody votes in an ideal democracy.[6]

The Ku Klux movement then was a product of specific social forces which can be more or less distinguished, concluded. It is like a link on the end-less chain of social change over time. The KKK movement is always seen as a fragment of the past, but any mass movement would have its impact- years down the line.

With hate crimes against blacks and other racial minorities still existing in America, it is deeply saddening how relevant is the ideology of KKK to those oppressors and how it resonates to them. It is also proven to have caused a shift in the political system of America. One cannot imagine, waking up one day to so-called hooded vigilantes threatening their existence because of their skin colour.


[1] Oxford Dictionary & Thesaurus of Current English, Pg.102, (2nd ed. 2007)

[2] Merriam-Webster online dictionary (4/08/20, 3:15 pm) https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Ku Klux Klan

[3] The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, Ku Klux Klan, ( 4/08/20, 4:35 pm) https://www.britannica.com/topic/Ku-Klux-Klan

[4] Sara Kamouni, What is the KKK?., The Sun, (4/08/20, 6:05 pm) https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/2154997/ku-klux-klan-imperial-wizard-leader-frank-ancona-donald-trump-thomas-robb/

[5] Black People of America – The Ku Klux Klan, Scott Michael Rank, (5/08/20, 8:36 pm) https://www.historyonthenet.com/black-peoples-of-america-the-ku-klux-klan

[6] Does KKK history still affect U.S Voters? Bill Schaller- Brandeis, (6/08/20, 11;43 am)

Krishnasree S from NMIMS, Mumbai

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