“The NAACP and the KKK agree to meet up” sounds like the start of sad joke, but it actually happened, and it went better than you’d likely expect.
We don’t know of any other time that members from the NAACP and KKK agreed to sit down for a chat (at least officially), so this is pretty historic. It all started with a number of attacks on African American men in the town of Gillette, Wyoming.
These attacks seemed to have something to do with the recent appearance of Klan literature in the town, causing Jimmy Simmons, the president of the Casper, Wyoming branch of the NAACP to actually reach out to the KKK for a chat.
Amazingly, John Abarr, a kleagle in the Klu Klux Klan, actually did appear at the Parkway Plaza hotel conference room reserved for the meet. There, under heavy guard and for the first time ever, a member of the NAACP and the KKK had a heart to heart. And they found that they actually agreed on…
… well, nothing. The two argued about state secession, the history of the Klan, interracial marriage, the pros and cons of segregation, all of the old fights.
But Abarr claims to hail from a slightly more moderate chapter of the KKK. He says he married a liberal woman, has liberal kids who are “free to choose their own path,” believes homosexuality is a sin, but also genetic, and that gay marriage should be legal.
In fact, his reasons for joining the KKK seem pretty meek, compared to the group’s horrifying history. “I like it because you wear robes, and get out and light crosses, and have secret handshakes,” he said. “I like being in the Klan — I sort of like it that people think I’m some sort of outlaw.”
He even suggested that he liked to recruit radicals so that he can then “calm them down” after they join.
But the NAACP reps present weren’t buying it.
‘It’s obvious you don’t know the history of your organization,” Simmons said. “It’s obvious to me that you’re not going out and talking about … inclusion.”
Still, Abarr did agree that the attacks on black men in Gillette were hate crimes and that something must be done about them. The races are best as equals, though separate, he seems to believe.
Furthermore, Abarr actually joined the NAACP at the end of the meeting and donated $20 in addition to his $30 membership fee.
“We’ll have to do this again sometime,” Abarr said. “Or maybe not. I don’t know. We’ll have to keep in contact for sure, though.”
So the first meeting between the NAACP and KKK was a little awkward, but it could have been worse, right?