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The History of Ku Klux Klan as an Extremist Group

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According to the FBI Don’t Be a Puppet they state, an extremist group is a group of individuals whose beliefs, values, and ideals fall far outside of what society considers to be normal. An extremist group is often associated with violent tactics that convey their point to outsiders (FBI.gov). There are many definitions may refer to these groups as “violent extremist groups”. Violent acts are perceived as mechanisms of freed fighting supporters. However, to any outsider these acts are interpreted as acts of terrorism. (FBI, 2016). Some say extremist groups are correlated with discussions of terrorist organizations. According to the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) they consider a violent extremist to a person who supports or commits ideologically motivated violence to further political goals. A key point to remember is that their actions are ideologically motivated.

There is both Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) and Domestic Terrorist Organizations. Operation 250 states that a foreign terrorist organization is a group that operates on foreign soil by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Counterterrorism. This is outlined in the immigration and Nationality Act of 1952. Domestic Terrorist are groups in which engage in acts of violence that are dangerous to human life or critical infrastructure in the United States. Both of these share a common interest which is the intent to intimidate or coerce an innocent civilian.

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Right wing extremist has historically has not been confined to one specific time period. This is due to that right-wing extremist is highly contextual and depends highly on the individual situation of a country. Right wings follow a number of different ideologies and belief systems. There is a combination of three different components, anti-government, nationalist and racist. With this there are many known right wing groups within the United States. A right-wing ideology consist of a group that falls into the category of white supremacists, anti-government groups and Christian fundamentalists. Right wings tend to incorporate parts of all three ideologies into their own belief systems. Some examples of a right-wing extremist are: White Supremacist, Ku Klux Klan, Sovereign Citizens and National Alliance.

Within my paper I discuss the start of the Ku Klux Klan, the rise and the fall. Significance about the group and who their targets are and for what reason they went after these targets. The Ku Klux Klan has a long history of violence and it is one of the most infamous and oldest groups in America.

It’s crazy to imagine that we are living in a society in which friends, family and neighbors are being murdered simply because of the color of their skin. You may try to think what has someone done wrong that this may have occurred. Well, its’s simple and the sad part is that is has existed. This is the life of an African-American living in the southern United States throughout much of America’s history. With the formation of the Ku Klux Klan, it led to one of the most contributing factors of the long bloody struggle that was racism in America. According to Counter Extremism Project they state that the Klan is classified as a criminal, domestic terrorist, violent racist group (2019). Throughout three summits in history, the Klan has forced out blacks and other minorities to live in a fear that them nor anyone else deserves to live in.

The Ku Klux Klan was founded in 1866 by a group of 6 men. The six men were: John D. Kennedy, John C. Lester, Frank O. McCord, James R. Crowe, Richard R. Reed, J. Calvin Jones. The group members founded the Klan in Pulaski, Tennessee (Smith, 2011). The members wanted to create a name that had purpose and meaning, so they took the Greek word kylos, which means “circle”. Klan was later added for the purpose of alliteration (Ku Klux Klan). They were next tasked with creating a symbol that would last so they infamous burning-cross icon became a symbol of the KKK in the 1920’s. They used this tactic of the burning cross as a symbol of intimidation (Anti-Defamation League, 2012). The most distinguishing characteristic of the Klan members is their white robes they were with cone shaped hats that cover their faces (Tom Rice, 2015). The purpose of these outfits where to make them look more outlandish and terrifying, as well as making it more intimidating for their victims when they are faced with them.

The Klan was very selective on each and every member that they accept. They look for someone who has the same beliefs as them. They also look for WASP’s (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants) could become members. These members possessed the ideology of white supremacy to all other races and other ethnic divisions, which is similar to all the concepts of Ne-Nazism, however they claim that most of their beliefs on Christian values and nativism (Trueman,1918-1939). Many have often thought that the KKK only had hatred towards African- Americans, but which in fact that wasn’t true. The Klan had hatred towards groups such as Jews, Catholics, homosexuals and a variety of immigrant group.

By 1869, the Klan has helped to terrorize black voters and also helped to overturn the elected Republican governments in the Deep South (Daniels, 2001). Between 1870 and 1871, the Radical Republicans struck back congress, which is when they passed the Enforcement Act which is aimed to give blacks rights. Later, a Joint Select Committee issued a 12- volume report on its hearings of Klan violence. According to National Geographic, during President Ulysses S. Grant tenure, he suspended habeas corpus in nine South Carolina countries, and convictions in South Carolina and Mississippi which helped to bring a decline in violence. But, it wasn’t until the retreat when the Supreme Court ruled in 1883 that Congress lacked the authority to outlaw racial discrimination by a private organization, the National Government effectively abandoned its efforts in protecting Negro rights under the Fourteenth Amendment (Southern Poverty Law Center).

In this day and age many of us wonder as to why any group of people which posses such a hatred for certain groups of people. There is really no legitimate justification as to why, but one factor that does contribute is their hatred of rapid economic progression in the North, and the stagnant economy of the South. Some may say that this is what led to angered white southerners so much that they put blame onto the black population, along with leftover racial disputes from the times of slavery (Smith, 2011). Today people like to wonder how our society could have permitted such a destruction of life, as well as support it. It’s scary to think that the society we live in could support such a group that portrayed negativity and hatred to innocent civilians.

Roger Daniels states that back then, the Klan had many sources of income that included membership fees, funds that were acquired from a various events and sales of Klan propaganda, as well as offering free will donations (2001). This income gave the Klan’s many forms of media and strategy possible, such as mass mailings, pamphlets and public events and protests. They also did community service projects such as, “adopt a highway” programs that helped them to make themselves look good in the eyes of their communities. The members of the Ku Klux Klan did everything in their power to prevent the black communities from exercising their newly acquired rights, which was often being done during massive events.

A typical KKK event consisted of members dressed in their white robes and robes that symbolized their ranks (National Geographic). Then they went on nighttime raids, during which they would whip and even murder blacks and any of their supporters. Unfortunately, these events started to become extremely effective. In 1960, about 47% of the total population were black, but with only 2% of which were registered to be able to vote. This lack of political pressure is what has allowed the Klan to exist for such a long period of time.

What majority of people don’t understand or know about the Ku Klux Klan is that there has been three different Klan’s over the course of history, each which had slightly different beliefs and tactics. The first KKK existed from the initial founding until around 1870. During this time congress had passed the KKK act, which allowed authorities to end such activities by force and penalize anyone who is affiliated with terrorist organizations. At this time, blacks were the only targets of the KKK, for majority of the times. Then in 1920, the group was rekindled due to a northward migration of blacks. During this time, it was also when other groups were added to the Klan’s harassment agenda. At this time the group begun to spread northward for the first time, which made Ohio one of its many strongholds with more then 50 thousand members. The second Klan had around three million members in total at its peaking point. The third Klan settled down up until after World War II (Southern Poverty Law Center, 2018). Which opposed a various of civil rights movements. With the previous election of President Barack Obama, it was noticed that a small spike of activity with the few remaining Klan members.

This brings you to the question as to do you think there will be a fourth Klan that is yet to come. Today, in our society there are still some isolated incidents that are thought to may have been linked to the KKK, but they are so few and far between that it is hard to give an accurate answer. The remaining 5,000 members have joined forces with Neo-Nazis and other far-right extremist groups. The Klan of today has fragmented into more than 40 separate factions of a variety of different sizes. There is no such thing as a one KKK. The Klan has a rather high association with unlawful activity such as hate crimes and domestic terrorism, which now defeats their original intentions of keeping a good public image. This seems to prove that the Klan’s days are limited, and that the age of hate is slowly coming to an end.

Lastly, Klansmen are still committing acts of intimidation and violence. They are doing this without funds, ideas, able leadership, and with only a scattered amount of membership, the Klan to this day remains the historical symbol of a racist terrorism. Blacks and other minorities of America’s southern regions were only recently able to live their lives without the fear of being able a victim of a hate crime. This is the right that everyone, doesn’t matter the race, gender, orientation or your mental capacity should be able to enjoy living the life without fear. New generations of human race people are becoming more tolerant of social and the physical differences in their fellow beings. It is ideal that maybe someday this world will become hate free, but there is not a grantee that this will ever occur due to everything that our society has been through and all the changes that are still occurring. What this means is less conflict, less war and more happiness and prosperity between each and every individual which is the ultimate goal of human race.

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