it’s 2017, the kkk still hasn’t been declared a terrorist group? trump’s affinity for them doesn’t help
September 5, 2017
By Nick Douglas, AFROPUNK Contributor
Know Your Black History: How Failures of the Past Demand Bold Action Today
The tactic used by the KKK and neo-Nazis members in Charlottesville—utilizing a car to kill and terrorize citizens—is a tactic which the American government and the world denounced when terrorists did this same thing recently in Spain and France. Past groups who used these tactics have been declared “terrorists,” but Americans who support Trump cannot make the connection, so I am making it for them: These were both acts of terrorism.
Security and rescue workers tend to the area after a lorry truck ploughed through a Christmas market on December 20, 2016 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Michele Tantussi/Getty Images)
This latest eruption of racial hatred by a small minority of Americans can be directly attributed to Trump. Since Trump began running for president in 2015, 100 new hate groups have been created. These groups were created by his hate-filled campaign and emboldened by his unwillingness to say that hatred and bigotry will not be tolerated in the U.S. Trump’s “blaming both sides” for the Charlottesville tragedy has demonstrated that he does not want to distance himself from his KKK and neo-Nazi supporters.
By failing to totally denounce these groups, Trump, his supporters and the Republican Party have clearly signaled they welcome the support of the KKK and neo-Nazis.
Less than 75 years ago we fought a world war to rid ourselves of Nazism. The world suffered nearly 50 million casualties and the U.S. suffered 400,000 casualties. It is an international disgrace and dishonors Americans who served in WWII that we allow neo-Nazis to parade through our streets carrying Nazi flags.
Trump’s only agenda has been to try to reverse the policies put in place by his predecessor President Barack Obama. He has tried and failed to repeal and replace the AHCA. He has insisted on reversing Obama’s Dreamer policy (which protected 600,000 illegal immigrants who entered as children).
Trump also plans to scrap the Obama Administration’s equal pay reporting rule. He is trying to reverse rights gained by LGBT Americans to serve in the military and exercise their civil rights. He has tried to ban people from countries he deems “terrorists.” All of these proposals are simply reversals of Obama-era policies. His gross incompetence and personal mental instability make it unlikely he will be able to achieve any of his election promises.
Trump’s recent pardon of the conviction of Sheriff Joe Arpaio for racial profiling serves as a symbol to his supporters that he is prepared to actively oppose people of color and enforce racist policies against them.
Knowing our own history can help us understand these events and the action we should take to oppose them.
When the U.S. purchased the Louisiana Territory from France in 1803, it doubled the size of the country. Along with this vast territory, Americans got something they had not bargained for: a diverse multi-ethnic group of new citizens, French, Spanish, Native Americans, Creoles and free people of color. They were people who did not think like the Americans streaming into Louisiana from the North, nor accept their norms of behavior.
Louisiana, because of its history, had developed a unique society. People of color and Native Americans enjoyed a variety of rights, including serving in armed militias, the right to own and inherit land, and the right to testify against whites in court. This society included slavery but not in the sense Americans understood it in 1803. During Spanish rule 1763 to 1802 Louisiana developed coartación. This manumission law allowed slaves to purchase their own freedom through legally binding arbitration. This allowed slaves to earn their way out of bondage, which many did.
These newly freed people then became part of a growing free people of color population. Louisiana had a society with slaves but they were not “a slave society” like the American colonies. Races intermarried and mixed socially in places like the Café des Refugies. Many whites acknowledged and embraced their relationships with people of color and Native Americans. Although not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, these “liberal” laws allowed Louisiana citizens to cooperate and coexist in relative tranquility.
The reaction of Americans coming into the Louisiana Territory was the exact reaction of Trump supporters to President Obama’s legacy of a more inclusive multi-ethnic society. They are not comfortable with a society that is different from their norms. Trump supporters want to “Take America Back” and “Make America Great Again.”
One-hundred and fifty years ago slaveholders and slavery sympathizers were defeated in the Civil War. They were alarmed at the progress that citizens of goodwill made during Reconstruction. Their reaction was the creation of the KKK, White Knights and other terrorist hate groups to inhibit the cooperation and coexistence of Americans of goodwill. They created a reign of terror on citizens of color for nearly the next hundred years.
Grand Dragon driving to rally in North Carolina
Groups like the Lost Causers sprang up. Lost Causers believed that the Civil War and the Confederacy was an honorable cause. Lost Causers minimized the fact that the Civil War was a fight against slavery, while playing up the virtues of the antebellum South. They were largely responsible for erecting statues and memorials to the Confederacy to intimidate people of color and reinforce the idea of white supremacy.
Trump, his supporters, and the Republican Party are the present-day KKK, neo-Nazis, White Knights and Lost Causers, as their slogan suggest that progress during the last administrations has somehow robbed them of “their America.” Their insistence on preserving Confederate monuments, symbols of racial repression and terrorism were the reasons that Lost Causers erected the statues in the first place. Today like 150 years ago Trump, the Republican Party, KKK, and neo-Nazis, refuse to accept the inclusiveness of a multi-ethnic society.
In the case of the purchase of the Louisiana Territory, Americans coming into Louisiana were scared by the little bit of inclusiveness they saw there. It was a society that was more relaxed about racial designations and relationships, more relaxed about interactions between races, more relaxed about sexuality and more relaxed around the rules and norms of slavery. Americans alarmed by what they saw as a “loose” society set about to immediately change it. The new Americans coming into Louisiana began to reverse the policies of their predecessors the Spanish and French.
In 1803 then provisional governor William Claiborne tightened and enforced Code Noir, the French colonial law that regulated interactions between white and blacks. He later barred free people of color from serving in the militia in 1804, where they had served honorably for generations.
The new Americans outlawed the freeing of slaves under the age of 30 in 1807. In the 1820s and 1830s the Louisiana legislature implemented a vast array of laws to restrict the rights of free people of color and slaves. This included: laws that required free people of color to carry proof of freedom at all times (this sounds eerily familiar to Trump and his supporters insisting on police checking citizenship status for people suspected of being here illegally); making free people of color register at the mayor’s office when they entered New Orleans; and after 1830 forcing freed slaves to leave the state within 60 days.
They changed manumission laws to make it nearly impossible and incredibly expensive to free slaves by forcing anyone who freed a slave to post a $1000 bond to guarantee that the slave would leave the state within 60 days.
At the same time Americans were also ratcheting up pressure on Native Americans. In 1817 the U.S. government started the First Seminole War, which forced the Seminoles out of Northern Florida. In 1819, then General Andrew Jackson used a force of 2,000 Creek warriors to invade the two largest cities in Spanish-held Florida to force the sale of the territory to the U.S.
In 1830 President Andrew Jackson enacted the Indian Relocation Act. It called for the Five Civilized Tribes to be relocated west of the Mississippi onto reservations. Fearful and suspicious of the alliance of Louisiana natives and Native Americans he had seen during the War of 1812, Jackson targeted the Choctaw— longtime allies of other people of color in the Louisiana Territory—as the first tribe for forcible relocation.
Trump’s campaign promised to rid the country of undocumented immigrants under the cover of stopping them from “stealing” American jobs. His policy also would serve to break up a possibly huge multicultural coalition of Latinos and people of color who voted almost unanimously against him in the 2016 election. Trump’s policy eerily mirrors the thinking and political tactics of Jackson in the 1830s.
Ku Klux Klan 1939 in Miami intimidating black voters
Trump, the Republican Party and his supporters, including the KKK and neo-Nazis, have been alarmed by the efforts of Americans to cooperate and coexist over the last eight years. And the success of America’s first black president has infuriated them mainly because it shows their ideology to be based on a completely false premise of white supremacy and the enforcement of white privilege.
Like the KKK, White Knights and Lost Causers of 150 years ago, Trump and his supporters view allowing people of color to participate fully in American society as a zero-sum game.
Trump supporters wrongly believe that any gain by people of color is balanced out by losses to them. In fact the economy of multi-cultural Louisiana Territory was a thriving and vibrant contrast to the poverty, stagnation and backwardness of American’s Jim Crow South.
By not taking forceful action now to oppose and outlaw domestic terrorist groups like the KKK, neo-Nazis and other hate groups and acquiescing to racist apologists we are repeating the failures of the past that led us to this current racial crisis.
We can redeem the failures of the promise the Civil War, Reconstruction, and WWII by taking bold action now. Let’s finally declare the KKK and neo-Nazis as domestic terrorist groups and treat them as such. Let’s use this opportunity as a way to rid ourselves and the world of these criminal hate groups.
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