A Date With The Ku Klux Klan
Hit the Road, Jack!
A Date With The KKK
I don’t really know too many people who would be proud enough to date anyone in the Ku Klux Klan. Can you just imagine someone asking you what your boyfriend does for a living and you tell that person that he is a Grand Dragon in the Bayou Knights of the Ku Klux Klan? “Mom, Dad, meet Bubba Stankweed, he’s a Grand Dragon in the KKK!”
But I digress. This isn’t about dating anyone in the KKK. This is about what happens when a bunch of punk rockers meet up with the Bayou Knights of the Ku Klux Klan of Louisiana in downtown Pensacola on a wet Saturday afternoon in May of 1997.
I’d always wanted to go to a KKK protest and I finally got my chance. I’d only seen these clowns in white sheets on television and they just didn’t seem real. Who in their right mind would put on a white sheet and a pointy cap and go around saying stupid ignorant things about people who were different from him? Well, the KKK would, of course. And one of the qualifications of joining the KKK is an unusual IQ test where you must have a score below 80 to become a member!
It was a soggy Saturday afternoon, the rain having just stopped when I pulled up to the courthouse in downtown Pensacola. Across the street from the courthouse was my roommate, Charlie, who stood in his striped long sleeve shirt staring across the street at the white hooded clowns holding KKK and Confederate flags. I saw him and motioned for him to cross the street and join me on the courthouse sidewalk to see what the KKK was up to in our little city.
Why were these idiots here? Did they think they would be successful at recruiting new members? There weren’t more than 50 or so protesters who showed up, although I heard so many punks the night before at the show talking about how they were going to be there setting up anti KKK booths and protesting. Unfortunately, few of them actually showed up.
My curiosity got the best of me and I walked up to the KKK table and got their application and info. Ninety nine percent of the others who walked up to the table took the information out of curiosity to find out what their modus operandi was, not to actually join. The literature talked about how they didn’t hate anyone. Yeah, right. No one wanted to join that ridiculous group. This was 1997, not 1918’s Birth of a Nation. Most of the KKKers looked so angry, so bitter, full of hatred. You could see it on their faces and the way they stood. One guy in particular stood out from all the others. This guy was full of hatred but I really think he hated himself more than anything. He wasn’t wearing your typical KKK fashion, but a white t-shirt with the KKK emblem, tight jeans and cowboy boots. He fit the skinhead description all the way down to his low IQ and belligerent expression. I just chuckled to myself because I knew how much his anger was destroying him inside.
A few city cops milled around, hands clasping their gun belts, thumbs slipped inside their waistbands, scanning the crowd for trouble. Both groups were behaving themselves. People on both sides were videotaping. I tried to cover my face when the KKK pointed their video cameras at me but gave up after a few minutes. I took pictures of them and they took pictures of us. I continued chatting with some punks and my roommate.
I was curious and decided to ask the hooded drones some questions. I asked one of them how he kept his hat so pointy. His answer? “Bein’ white.” Well there you go! That makes sense! His white head is pointy! Then I inquired as to how they obtained their sheets, asking if they had to make them themselves or did they purchase them from special KKK stores. I got no answer. I was just trying to irritate them. They weren’t really allowed to say much. The Grand Dragon was the spokesperson of the whole buffoonish group and the peons had to keep their mouths shut. Probably because the Grand Dragon was afraid one of them might say something stupid. His fear was justified.
All of a sudden I heard a guy’s voice shouting and turn around to see a young man about 16 with a Dead Kennedys “No Nazis” t-shirt on walk right in the middle of all the hooded buffoons and confront them! Everyone turned around to watch him. The news cameras immediately focused in on this young guy. He had no fear. I certainly wouldn’t have gotten in the middle of the KKK members and confronted them the way he did. His name was Alistair and he stepped right in the middle of them and said, “I just want to have a conversation with you about your beliefs. I’m only 16 years old and I can’t hurt you so why won’t you talk to me and tell us why you are here?”
The hooded protesters just stood there and stared, a few chuckled and made remarks under their breath to other drones. The crowd of protesters was quiet, waiting to see what would happen next, inching closer to the KKK. The cops moved closer too, anticipating something might happen.
Alistair then raised his voice, aggravated that they wouldn’t respond and said, “Well if you won’t have a conversation with me then why don’t you just get the hell out of Pensacola!” We all started yelling at this point, clapping and cheering him on. They certainly weren’t having much success recruiting new members to their “club.” They came to the wrong city.
Still, they did not respond to Alistair and seemed a bit surprised that a teenager would stand in the middle of them all and confront them, calling them on their obvious racial hatred. The hoods stood with their flags and drooping white robes, sweating in the humidity of an early Saturday afternoon. Occasionally they’d glance at each other and chuckle.
Ten minutes later, the KKK started packing up their “gear” and slowly wobbled back to their vans, their wet outfits waving in the afternoon breeze. It was obvious they were trying to play it cool and make it seem like they were just leaving because it was time to go, but we knew they would have stayed longer had we not begun to give them a piece of our minds. We followed them, telling them to go home and never come back to Pensacola again. Some protesters began calling them cowards, giving them the finger and pointing video cameras into the KKK's vans. Other protesters began knocking on their vehicles' window glass. The cops told us to get away from the KKK demonstrators and let them leave. It seemed to me that they were getting a little nervous that we were getting more and more agitated after Alistair confronted them in the way that he did.
A lesson was taught and that was to stay out of our town. It’s been over five years since the Bayou Knights came to town and I think they got the message they weren’t wanted here. We might be small and we might be southern, but that doesn’t mean we are all racist backwards hicks who drive around in four-wheel drive trucks with Confederate flags. And it was empowering to see them leave with their tails between their legs. Since that warm May afternoon in 1997, I have yet to see another KKK rally in Pensacola. I think we taught them a lesson – that we didn’t need their backwards, ignorant ideas in our city and for them to stay the hell out.