With the recent shootings at two Jewish community facilities in Overland Park, Kansas being the target of former Klan leader Frazier Glenn Cross, the spotlight has now turned to the crippled white-supremacy group and their attempts at making a comeback in America.
The Ku Klux Klan, once a major force in America, with a membership of nearly 4 million that included men in positions of power like mayors, police chiefs, and other cloaked political power heads throughout the Southern and Midwestern regions of the US, has witnessed a dwindling of membership since the 1920’s, thus reducing its headcount by over 90 percent. With the events of Sunday’s brutal rampage in Overland Park that has been documented as a hate crime, the reality of the incident serves as a reminder that the Klan has not entirely disappeared, and that the group also has the ability to reorganize.
According to the Time, Frazier Glenn Cross, who was charged with murder on Tuesday for the shooting death of three people in the Kansas City suburb, is a prominent white supremacist whose long résumé in the movement included founding the Carolina Knights of the KKK.
As noted by Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) which tracks hate groups and has listed more than 900 active groups in the US, the regional groups like those found by Cross, are the foundation of the twenty-first century Klan, which exists only as a collection of regional organizations devoted to white nationalism. The total memberships of these regional organizations are between 5,000 and 8,000, only a fraction of the members when the Klan was at its peak.
Photojournalist Anthony Karen who has been photographing the Ku Klux Klan since 2005 said to Discovery News, “Individuals affiliated with the Klan aren’t part of an exclusive community — a member could be your neighbor and you’d never know it unless they told you,” he said. “I’ve documented Klan members in 14 states and one in Germany. I personally know members in states/countries that most would never think the Klan existed… places like Vermont, North Dakota, New Jersey, Belgium, Italy, Spain and even Australia.”
Although the organization is attempting to reorganize its member base, historians track the difference in today’s Klan vs that of the 20’s and find that the group is severely disjointed. “The Klan has become marginalized, even among more mainstream racist groups,” says Paul Ortiz, a professor of history at the University of Florida. “The organization itself is a hodgepodge. It’s no longer a mass movement. There’s no nationally recognized leader, and even the language is much more splintered.”
In North Carolina, the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, the group founded by Cross, has attempted to revive the organization by distributing flyers with messages like “The KKK Wants You!” in Florida, Louisiana, Ohio, Texas and Virginia.
Although being a part of the Klan has been a way of life, for some, since they were babies, others seek out the group as a way of rebelling against mainstream culture.
Robert Jones, the imperial klaliff of the Loyal White Knights and a friend to Frazier Cross, says the organization has tripled in size since President Obama’s election, and to reporters “I think he’s just fed up with the way the world’s going. I can see why he is the way he is to an extent. A lot of white people are getting fed up with what people are doing.”
The SPLC says that the uptick in hate groups can be traced directly to the 2000 U.S. Census, which showed that the country would become a majority minority nation by 2043. “They started freaking out,” Heidi Beirich says of white-supremacy organizations.
Is Frazier Cross typical of today’s Klan in post-racial America?
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