Friday, February 09, 2007

Some People Just Won't Go Away

So this story came over the television at Pearl's when I was working Wed. and it prompted a conversation between two regulars (mildly intoxicated). One, who I will call "Dumbass #1", or D1, saw the headline "KKK On The Rise" and he said good and held up his fist in the white power salute. I am sure I stared wide-eyed with my mouth agape, but I said nothing. Then he and his friend, whom I will call "Less Dumb Dumbass #2", or D2, somehow were talking about the Masons and when the story came up brought up their connection with the KKK. Then the kicker, D1 used the n-word to refer to black people. At this point I was hurriedly cleaning the bar distancing myself from them. My brain was racing. Should I call them out? Should I tell that was inappropriate for a public venue? These two were regulars and spent plenty of money here, and I was not at the Park where I could throw them out (timing is everything). Then I reminded myself of how much I would regret not saying anything. It would have been another should, would, could haves that I am trying to rid my life of right now. Besides, if it escalated and I lost my job at least I stood up for myself.

So, taking a couple deep breaths and calming down I approached them and told them that I did not appreciate their language. D1, who is about in his 50's or 60's was instantly frustrated and said he did not call me a name. Besides it shouldn't matter to me anyway cause black people call each other that word and call him cracker or honky. I told all these words are disrespectful and show that those who use those words have no respect for themselves or others. He argued that him and his black associates say these things to each other all the time and I went further and told him I was not one of his friends and he was in a public venue where others, not his friends, might overhear him and take offense. This went on to include the usage of the n-word and it's history compared to the history of the words cracker and honky. Needless to say, he paid his tab and left. While D2 was present and tried to get a word in, D1 ruled the conversation. When he left, D2 tried to tried to smooth things over by telling me that he was married to a Mexican woman and had had a black man as his best man so there is no way he could be racist, yet he thought it ok use derogatory language. Needless to say the debate died off as I became busy.

I knew I didn't change their minds, but at least I kept my integrity. While this debate was occurring, one patron (another regular), about the same age as the other two gentlemen, who I had tabbed out before I made my statement was finishing his wine. After the conversation started he asked me to rerun his card. I figured he wanted to change his tip to zero as seeing he was friends with these fellows. I was wrong. He scratched out the six dollar tip and rewrote fifty dollars, and told me to "keep my chin up" as he exited. Another semi-regular, a waiter from down the street, came in as D1 was leaving and heard the rest of the debate with D2. She was shocked by D2's statements and even at points told him to shut up. I appreciated their support and didn't feel so alone. That is the problem when you feel like everyone does not or will not share your views. Especially when you think you know someone.
I just remember that I am in Oklahoma and that there are people like me dedicated to ending racism and do believe that racial terms, of any kind, only demean others and the ones who decide to use them.

As the article states, hate groups have a new rallying point and dormant or subtle racism is creeping its way to the surface in many people. People will separate themselves from others in an effort to dehumanize them and making fun of them is one of their tactics. The map I have posted shows that the Southern Poverty Law Center have counted fourteen known active hate-groups in Oklahoma. This does not include teenage gangs and all those who reside and/ or hide in churches and country clubs. I invite anyone who feels like I do on the subject or wants to show their commitment to end racism and ignorance to join me for the the rescheduled Martin Luther King Jr. Parade, which is a silent vigil, on Sat. March 3 at 9am. It steps off from the Ralph Ellison Library and ends at the Capital. I will be marching with the Cimarron Alliance. Contact me if you need a ride or more info.

Klan growing, fed by anti-immigrant feelings, report says

NEW YORK (AP) -- The Ku Klux Klan has rebounded by exploiting current hot-button issues, especially immigration, according to a new report released by the Anti-Defamation League.

The Klan, and other white supremacist groups like skinheads and neo-Nazis, grew significantly more active in the past year, holding more rallies, distributing leaflets and increasing their presence on the Internet -- much of it focused on stirring anti-immigrant sentiment, according to the report.

"Extremist groups are good at seizing on whatever the hot button is of the day and twisting the message to get new members," Deborah M. Lauter, ADL Civil Rights director, said Monday. "This one seems to be taking hold with more of mainstream America than we'd like to see." (Read the full ADL reportexternal link)

"Klan groups have witnessed a surprising and troubling resurgence by exploiting fears of an immigration explosion, and the debate over immigration has, in turn, helped to fuel an increase in Klan activity, with new groups sprouting in parts of the country that have not seen much activity," Lauter said.

Old Klan chapters have been revived and new ones started throughout the South, historically the heart of the group, and in other places such as Michigan, Iowa and New Jersey, says the report. (Watch how the KKK is seeing a resurgenceVideo)

Last May in Alabama, an anti-immigration rally included slogans such as, "Let's get rid of the Mexicans!" according to the document, titled "Ku Klux Klan Rebounds."

"The Klan is increasingly cooperating with other extremist groups and Neo-Nazi groups," Lauter said. "That's a new phenomenon."

Between 2000 and 2005, hate groups mushroomed 33 percent and Klan chapters by 63 percent, according to Mark Potok, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate crimes.

Precise data are difficult to pin down, but Potok's group counts as many as 150 Klan chapters with up to 8,000 members nationwide. More than 800 hate groups exist around the country, Southern Poverty research shows.
Hate groups were fading in 1990s

In the late 1990s, memberships in such groups was crumbling as they lost leaders and struggled to organize, said Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. Many hit bottom around 2000.

"Whenever you think the Klan is down and out, they find another way to reinvent themselves," he said of the recent resurgence.

Historically, the Klan's focus had been to terrorize African-Americans -- through race riots, lynchings and other killings -- but it reached peak membership at more than 4 million in the 1920s by focusing on immigration.

Newcomers from Ireland and Germany were portrayed as Catholic usurpers invading the United States, taking jobs from native-born Americans and undermining national fabric, Levin said.

Said Potok: "It's remarkable to look back at the nativist sentiments toward Catholics -- it's very similar to what we're seeing with Mexicans now."

Today, many white supremacists blame immigrants, particularly Hispanics, for crime, struggling schools or unemployment, for instance. With many Americans already divided on how to revamp laws and practices to address the nation's swelling immigrant communities, immigration "is an issue that works for hate groups," Potok said.
A burning cross on the front lawn

Many Latinos are feeling the effects firsthand. Last September, a Kentucky family originally from El Salvador found a wooden cross burning on their front lawn just weeks after they moved in.

Earlier last year, a Latino teenager in Houston was brutally beaten and sodomized while one attacker screamed "White Power!" The victim barely survived, and one attacker was sentenced to life in prison.

"I've been doing [Hispanic advocacy work] for a long, long time and the atmosphere has never been as poisonous as it has been in the last few years," said Lisa Navarrete, a vice president at the National Council of La Raza. "The level of vitriol is new."

Increasingly, fear permeates many Hispanic communities as individuals and businesses are targeted. Last year, La Raza held a workshop at its annual convention titled "Keeping Our Institutions Safe."

"It was very well attended, unfortunately," Navarrete said.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press.

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