Sunday, July 12, 2015

Memoirs of a Southern Girl and the KKK

My friend Raja posted this up, and I felt it worth sharing.

This picture brought back memories for me, and I would like to share them. I really do not share much on Facebook, I generally consider it a waste of my time, but for some reason this picture really struck a nerve.

When I was a teenager, in Atlanta Georgia, on weekends we would go down to Lake Spivey, which was the popular summer hangout for teens. On the drive down, we would frequently encounter groups of KKK members, all decked out in their regalia, flying huge American Flags, offering soft drinks out of their coolers and trying to get us to come to their meeting. They would tell us that as Americans we owed it to ourselves to "BE GOOD CITIZENS!" and they had signs that said just that. They stationed themselves at turnoffs near the lake because they knew that teens were headed down to the lake in droves. Most of us just laughed in their faces, called them names (usually not very nice ones) told them they were "Has Bens" and made fun of them. We all knew the KKK was a "thing of the past" something that had existed back in our parents day, or so we led ourselves to believe.

This was in the summer of '63 and '64, and we prided ourselves in having more important things to do that to worry about a bunch of crazy old men playing dress-up in white robes. Sure, we knew there was civil unrest, we watched the news, but I suppose that none of us actually considered ourselves a part of it. After all, we didn't have a problem, in our opinion, people needed to get over it and "live and let live" we concluded.

Looking back, I think we thought that we were enlightened, after all by thwarting their attempts at recruitment, that would put an end to them and their prejudice, right? We lived in a fishbowl. We were too young and naive to see that by ignoring them and doing nothing, we were doing exactly that ... nothing. After all, we rationalized, we were teenagers, what could we possibly do that would have any impact on anything?

Unfortunately, not all teens on that road ended up at Spivey, some took the other road (probably more that we ever knew) and in doing so just kept the hared and prejudice alive. Those teens, I fear, made plenty of impact.

Those afternoons were not isolated to the road to Lake Spivey, they occurred all over the nation. (Yes, I said nation, not only in the Southern States) Today, we see the results of those afternoons, and so many of their recruitment activities as well.

I am not saying that everyone who demonstrates racial prejudice is a product of the KKK, (although we are certainly not born with a gene that makes us that way) nor am I advocating for any flag flying anywhere.

What I am saying is that prejudice and hatred are like any other deadly disease, left untreated it spreads, it grows and eventually it kills.

Just my thoughts.

Raja Messner

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