The Ku Klux Klan? Here They Come Again.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the streets again, it’s not.  The hooded hoodlums of the notorious Ku Klux Klan are back.  For so long, in main street and back roads America, a frazzled, frayed, and disheveled band of Klan members have been overlooked, ignored, and pretty much forgotten. They simply ironed the wrinkles out of their white sheets and disappeared into the torn and cobwebbed fabric of time.

But they didn’t go away.

Not all of them.

Not their message anyway.

They simply lingered in the mist.

Hiding in the shadows.

Cloaked by the darkness of nights past.

A historic Ku Klux Klan rally near Chicago

Without warning, however, the good folks of Pangburn, Arkansas, awoke this week to discover an odd collection of fliers posted throughout their community, fliers nailed to public utility poles by the White County Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

The band was seeking new recruits.

No name.

No phone number.

No doctrine.

No diatribe.

No burning crosses.

Nothing but a post office box number placed alongside the picture of a white hood with a sharp point, the harbinger of hatred, the symbol of prejudices run amuck,  muted words that screamed obscenities as though they had a voice.

The mayor of Pangburn was distraught.

He promptly called the FBI.

Can’t come, the FBI said.

Why not?

Nobody’s broken the law.

If a cross burns, if a church is bombed, if a man dies, he FBI will be rolling into Pangburn as thick as fleas on a stray dog.

But hanging up fliers?

It’s not smart.

But it’s not a crime.

Even the National Director of the Ku Klux Klan has turned its back on the White County Knights of Pangburn. “We’re recognized by the state and federal governments,” he said. “They’re a small isolated group. We’re chartered. We’re the real thing. If they do something stupid, then it’s their fault. It’s not ours.”

They always do something stupid.

Anybody who wears a hood and sheet ain’t quite right anyway.

In my hometown of Kilgore, Texas, back during the hard, unforgiving days of the Great Depression, in the early darkness of a calm night, a small band of Ku Klux Klansmen paraded with neither pomp nor circumstance down rutted streets worn down by hard winter rains.

The next morning, a gentleman of the town sauntered casually into the mercantile store and asked Ruth Florey: “Did you see the parade last night?”

She nodded, then remarked, “But I don’t know why they were wearing those sheets and hoods.”

“So nobody would recognize them,” the gentleman said. “It’s a highly secretive organization. Nobody knows who the members are.”

Ruth Florey laughed. “But I knew everybody in the parade,” she said.

The gentleman frowned, and his eyes darkened. “Then name them,” he ordered.

She did.

And she didn’t miss a name.

The gentleman asked cautiously, “How did you know who the men were?”

“I recognized their shoes,” Ruth Florey said. “I sold them their shoes, and everybody in town is too poor to have more than one pair.”

It may be different in Pangburn, Arkansas.

Maybe not.

In Pangburn, eyes shift warily from face to face.

Who wears the white hoods?

Is it you?

Or do you know it’s me?

There are suspicions. One resident has even raised the Aryan Nation flag in front of his home. Won’t give anybody his name but says he posted the fliers.

Looking for new faces, he says.

Faces that feel comfortable beneath a sheet.

But is he alone?

No one knows for sure.

Every face in Pangburn wears concern.

Every face in Pangburn is apprehensive.

Every face in Pangburn looks guilty.

Even the innocent feel indicted and worry about sleeping beneath a sheet at night.


Caleb Pirtle III is author of Place of Skulls, Gamble in the Devil’s Chalk, and Other Voices, Other Towns.


, , , , , , ,

Related Posts