It was the early 1980s, and I was on vacation in Fairmount, West Virginia with my wife, (at the time) visiting a couple of old friends. Upon our arrival the friends, Laura and Doug began to recite the many wonderful excursions we would be enjoying during our stay, which included camping along the great Monongahela River, exquisite dining experiences, and just maybe, a family barbecue on Sunday afternoon.
When speaking of the Sunday event, Laura seemed hesitant to state the exact reasons why our attendance would be tentative, as if there were some mitigating element preventing us from being a part of the festivities. Of course this peaked my curiosity all the more, because I couldn’t help but get the feeling that some aspect of her wrestling with the decision was focused upon me.
“Laura, what’s the problem, and why do I get the feeling it has something to do with me?” I asked, and by the look on her face my instincts were correct.
“It’s nothing,” she snapped, in a half-hearted attempt to shut down the conversation.
After more gentle probing on my part, she finally relented and explained her dilemma to me. Seems she had an older brother John, who was at that time not only a member of the Ku Klux Klan, but he was also the Grand Wizard of their local Fairmount, West Virginia chapter.
Upon hearing this, and I kid you not, my first reaction was; “Awesome, I’d love to meet him.”
To which she responded, “Did you hear what I said? He’s in the Klan, and he would rather shoot a nigger than spend two minutes talking to one. Sorry to be so blunt. Not trying to offend and all, but that’s the truth.”
“No offense taken," I replied. "But I’m very serious. I’d love to go.”
At this point my wife, Doug, and Laura were all staring at me as if I had lost my mind. The subject quickly changed to our immediate plans of camping out, and for the next fun-filled days we didn’t discuss the barbecue again. The days zipped by way too quickly.
I am awakened by Laura, who poked her head in the guest room my wife and I occupied, asking me to join her in the kitchen. With just the two of us sitting at the kitchen table, she wanted to offer some background on her brother’s list of atrocities over the many years he was associated with the Klan. The list included a very brutal beat-down of a ‘nigger’ – her words, who once tried to ask her out on a date. That, along with cross burnings to intimidate Black families attempting to move into all-white communities, and a laundry lists of insults and physical altercations directed towards Blacks dating back to when he was a teenager.
“You still want to go to the barbecue if that psycho is going to be there?” she asked, at the conclusion of the diatribe.
“Laura, it’s not the first time I’ve spoken to guys who are in the Klan,” I replied, which took her aback.
You see folks, from a very early age I have always been fascinated by the Klan and the concept that human beings can actually hate people they have never met. Years before, I was the only person of color at a party in Columbia, Maryland when the host of the affair warned it be a good idea if I left, because as she put it, “That fucking racist bastard and his Klan friends just showed up!” referring to three men who had just entered the soiree.
What I found even more shocking was that Columbia, at the time (the early 1980s), was known as a haven for interracial dating/couples/marriages and touted as the most race friendly community in the nation. So when my friend suggested I depart because of the new arrivals, instead of leaving, I walked right over to the three men and introduced myself. Mind you, I’m looking up at them. Each of the men had to be over six feet tall.
“Hey guys, it was suggested that I leave the party because you showed up. People say you’re in the Klan, is that true?” I asked. They were momentarily taken aback, to the point of being speechless. I continued, “If it is true, and you are, I would love to speak with you to understand what you’re all about; if you don’t mind?"
After a moment of incredulity, followed by a bit of nervous laughter, the tallest of the group relented asking, “So, you want to know why we hate niggers, is that it?” he said, smiling, while all three focused on my reaction to the obvious attempt to rile me.
“Exactly!” I replied, without missing a beat, looking directly into each of their eyes. “I wish you could explain it to me, because I have a hard time understanding how you can actually hate someone, if you don’t really know them. Have you met many people of color in your life?”
Mind you, pretty much all the eyes in that room were now nervously looking in our direction, which made my stomach churn a little, thinking that perhaps I had made a huge mistake engaging them.
As I stood there waiting for a response, the fellow who spoke to me seemed torn between actually engaging in a conversation and maintaining a superior stance against the awkwardness caused by my intrusion. A few more moments of uncomfortable glances and nervous laughter between the three men ended when one of the other gentlemen tapped his buddy on the shoulder saying, “Let’s get the hell out of here!” And they promptly exited the party. I was left standing in the same spot feeling quite disappointed.
After hearing my story, all Laura could do was shrug, throw her hands up in the air and exclaim, “Alright… if that’s what you want, but he ain’t gonna talk to you. No way, no how!”
A few thoughts occurred to me as we made our final approach to the site of the barbecue; (the Ku Klux Klan, a cookout, sergeant Neil Howie, and a burning effigy). What the hell had I talked myself into?
It seemed like a real festive group, as the smell of marijuana filled the air along with the sound of metal clanging as the result of a lively game of horse shoes in progress, and Merle Haggard playing on the boombox. Everywhere people were drinking, eating, laughing, and generally having a splendid time. The entire crowd was of course, really white with most of the folks appearing as if they stepped right out of the 1950s, as far as hairstyles and fashions were concerned.
The house belonged to Laura’s mom, Ms. Beatrice. Her husband, a well-known stalwart within the Klan movement had died less than a year ago. Laura never spoke much of him, other than to tell that which I just described. Like her brother, she had written him off in life, and when he died she said it didn't affect her in the least bit. She even refused to attend her father’s funeral.
The two-story country dwelling was situated in the midst of twenty acres of wooded land. To the far end of the clearing sat a converted school bus that appeared to have merged within the earth and its surroundings. Between the house and the school bus, a blazing fire roared replete with a whole pig roasting on a spit. But I could feel the tension in the air ratcheting up as heads snapped around to steal a glance, shocked to see a nigger in their midst. Yet for some strange reason the negative energy swirling like a dust devil, actually had the reverse effects of bolstering my spirit, because I knew what was about to go down, and they didn’t.
Laura practically dragged us around to meet a host of relatives and friends, introducing us to just about everyone. Most seemed genuinely friendly, while a few just stood there like deer caught in headlights with a, ‘What do I say to a nigger?’ uneasiness in their eyes.
I watched as Laura then disappeared into the bus for a few brief moments, only to exit with a disgusted look on her face. (That’s where her brother must be), I figured. She was headed towards a huge cooler filled with ice and beer, and I knew she was getting one for her brother. That's when I made my move.
“I’ll get that,” I said, taking the six-pack of beers right out of her hands. She stood there blinking her eyes rapidly and moving her mouth, but no words came out. I just smiled and headed off towards the school bus.
It was in those moments between the cooler and the school bus that all movement on the grounds seemed to crank down to slow motion. (Oh my God!) I thought, as I could practically hear all the anxious thoughts of those gathered about, which felt like being shot by a barrage of arrows with each step I took.
Off in the distance, like an echo, I heard my wife calling, “H., stop!”
As I drew nearer, Ms. Beatrice was just exiting the bus looking down, while gingerly taking each step with great difficulty. She was a plump, dark-haired beauty with round, happy cheeks, which I took as a sign of a warm heart. She finally looked up to see me standing there, and to say she was flabbergasted would be an understatement. Her eyes were stretched wide and she was shaking her head with a silent, ‘No, no, no… you can’t go in there,’ I offered her a steady forearm the last few steps.
A reassuring smile from me made her chuckle with a knowing grin. She then made a grand gesture of stepping aside, while offering a helping hand as I climbed the steps.
After the second step up, I felt the last touch of her fingertips against mine. Her thoughts of good will entered my heart as I entered the bus. The gasps of those standing near, was the last thing I heard.
Having entered the bus, what I saw made me think the whole idea was a huge mistake. Sitting towards the rear, which was converted into a nice comfy living area with tables and a kitchen, were a couple of imposing figures.
Clearly of eastern European heritage, these were young guys, late twenties-early thirties, and I could sense they were cock-sure and full of themselves. Dressed in overalls, blue jeans, and wife-beater T-shirts, it was like stepping into a scene from the James Dean movie, as they continued staring as if I had lost my ever-loving mind. For a split second, I couldn’t have agreed with them more.
I recognized Laura’s brother instantly, because of his jaw line and shape of the noses they had in common. Stopping to within a few feet of the table, with the six-pack of beers outstretched I said, “You boys look thirsty, have a beer. Mind if I sit?”
They looked at each other with expressions that can only be described as amazement, and back to me.
“Go right ahead,” replied the one I had assumed was John.
I handed out the beers, pausing to look each man in the eyes with kindness, before sitting down. Remembering my previous encounter with members of the Klan, I decided to pull a reverse.
“So… people call me H, and I hear you boys don’t like niggers?” I said laughing. “Well gaddamn-it, I can’t stand them either!”
With that, both men looked at each other again and then burst into uproarious laughter, with Laura’s brother laughing the hardest. He was the first to stretch out his hand to shake mine.
“I’m John, this is my buddy Eddie.”
John had blond hair and chiseled features, the picture of Aryan perfection (Berliner… no wonder. They must worship this guy) I thought. Eddie had the eyes and mouth of a straight up killer; cold, blank and crooked, with pencil thin lips and a face so tight I though his skin would crack. Black hair, and a long horizontal scar on his forehead accentuated his imposing presence.
“So what don’t you like about niggers?” Eddie asked, still laughing to himself.
“Well, a nigger by definition is a shiftless, lazy, dirty creature that lives in ignorance, squalor and shame. I can’t stand people like that. What kind of niggers don’t you like?”
That’s how our conversation began, and it lasted for more than two and a half hours. I’ve written about this conversation in a novel under the pen-name H. P. Stanly, titled Memoirs of An Extraterrestrial, The Negro Conundrum, which is available as a paperback and Kindle on Amazon, if you want more details.
You see, in addition to the conversations above, as a producer of talk shows during the heyday of the genre – the late 1980s, early 1990s, I have literally spoken with dozens of Klan members, Neo-Nazis, racist skinheads, and hundreds more racists of every ilk that one can imagine. I'm not talking about simple fifteen-minute phone conversations checking to see if a particular racist is available for an episode. I've spent hours engaged in one-on-ones, getting to know what makes people tick – what motivates their hatred.
What I discovered, is that racists who originate from the south, regardless of their socioeconomic status, seem to possess an innate sense of superiority over Native Americans, Hispanics, and especially Blacks. I believe it's cultural, passed down from generation to generation from bloodlines who owned property and slaves.
Slavery in America was different than slavery anywhere else in this world because there was never a clause; language that provided for the American Negro slaves to gain their freedom. And since slaves in this country were never supposed to be anything other than someone's property, it would have been impossible for Americans to have a foundation upon which they could ever perceive a Negro as being their equal.
So imagine the shock White people felt after the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. In that single moment in time, they were forced to contemplate the inconceivable – the destruction of all that was holy in America – the White man's God given right to dominate the inferior races of earth, especially Negroes. They had kidnapped them and brought to this country for a single purpose; to serve them. The idea of free Negroes walking about, without so much as a by your leave, was unimaginable and abhorrent to the sensibilities of White people. Why do you think they passed Jim Crow Laws?
It is obvious everyone was in agreement that it was the responsibility of state governments to take appropriate steps in maintaining a separation of the races, so Negroes would never get the notion in their heads that they were a part of an America that was built primarily for White people.
Of course slavery continued in America, albeit under another name; the prison system and chain gangs, which reinforced the cultural precept about 'Negroes knowing their place as servants. People forget that many affluent families in the north, south, east, and west employed Negro housekeepers, maids, butlers, nannies, doormen, shoeshine boys–servants, on up through the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.
For many of the racists I have spoken to over the last forty years, the cultural bias was patently obvious, especially when one considers that most devout racists have never actually engaged in a conversation with a Black person, let-a-lone met a Black person they would have considered befriending.
A rudimentary understanding of how the dynamics of language plays into culture explains this. When we understand that language and culture are inextricably joined as one, then it is nearly impossible for Black people to escape 400 years of programing via the very words they use to describe themselves. It's just as hard for Whites to block the whispers of racist ideas, feelings, and customs, which are a part of American hegemony. Where do you think, White guilt comes from? The internal struggle to reconcile instinctual feelings of superiority over Black people, with the desire to embrace all people as equal in the eyes of God.
Read some of my older posts, with quotes from president Abraham Lincoln and Roger B. Taney delineating that negroes would never be accepted as equals to the White man, whether emancipated or not. White privilege and consequently Black inferiority exists, because of 400-years of programming via the very language we speak in this country, which buttresses the notion that White people come first.
Yet, for reasons I have desribed previously, (Blackness, the Stockholm Syndrome, and Uncle Tom) Black people today have developed a sort of amnesia, while preferring to re-write history, imagining there was ever a time in America when Negroes/Blacks were not under the gun. As if Blacks getting shot by White people or police officers is a new thing. Cell phones merely reveal that which has been done in darkness for the last 400 years.
The only thing that has changed dramatically over the last forty years of American history, is the willingness of Black people to directly and tacitly participate in the systematic extermination of millions of their own people, at the hands of each other. They have become so damaged as a people, that they can ignore thousands of murders in a single year, to focus all their energies on a single death at the hands of White or Black police officers.
So we have this apparent blindness to the desperate conditions persisting within the Black community, while embracing a campaign demanding that White people not only see it, but embrace the very thing Black people apparently despise more than anything else – the lives of Black people.
Black Lives Matter came into existence as a result of one of the most shameful, lawless, and degrading displays by a people since the Rodney King riots – Ferguson. The idea that they would actually have the temerity to venture out beyond the wasteland of a neighborhood they left in its wake, preaching to anyone other than Black people, in my opinion, is the epitome of ignorance.
Then, just when you thought a people couldn’t sink any lower, five innocent police officers are executed in Dallas, and Blacks decide the proper response is to flood the internet with tweets, responses to articles, and Facebook posts praising these deaths, and calling the shooter a hero?
To make comparisons between this current BLM incarnation and the Civil Rights demonstrations of the 1950s and 1960s, is an insult to reason and intelligence that leaves a foul smell hanging in the air. The only comparison I see, having lived through the Civil Rights era, is that we are once again allowing a movement that began in the ghettos of America, to drag all people of color into the same, soul-stealing abyss of separation from the rest of society that helped to create this mess in the first place. I am referring to the Black Power/Black Culture Movement, when a people of color lost their collective minds and chose to separate themselves from the rest of society to become a Black people. It is exactly what the elite wanted us to do (self-imposed Jim Crow), and it has been all downhill ever since.
Think about it; fifty years of Black pride, Black History Studies, Black History Months, and Black History museums and what has it all led too; an angry mob calling themselves Black Lives Matter, raising clinched fists, while turning back the hands of time with a self-defeating slogan. Self-defeating, because the slogan isn't actually a positive statement that celebrates all Black Lives, but rather, it is a plea for the lives of a small percentage of Blacks who have either been shot, or might be shot by a White or Black police officer.
If it was truly a statement that embraced life, then Black Lives Matter would be in cities like Chicago, as we speak, spreading their message among those whose lives are at risk just for being Black, in a Black neighborhood.
One thing I will tell you about the conversations I have had in the company of the Klan members in West Virginia, and just about every racist I have ever spoken to, is that we have finally arrived at the moment they predicted. We stand at the precipice of a situation that could easily escalate into the all-out race war that White racists have been dreaming about for fifty years. And it is Black people once again, who are being PLAYED by the elite and the MSM they control, to act out in such a way that will lead to an even greater marginalization from the rest of society and their own destruction. It is ironic that every time president Obama even hints at gun control, White people go out and buy guns in record numbers. Recent polling suggests that upwards of 70% of the population believes race relations are at their worst since the LA riots. With so many armed citizens in this country, all it takes is another Dallas.
The solution to this madness, is Black Lives Matter needs to stand down and deescalate by stopping everything they’re doing in the public arena outside of Black communities. Precious time and efforts could be spent more effectively by directly engaging in the process of healing the very people they claim to be protesting on behalf of – Black people. They should be just as fervent at organizing to improve the lives of the poorest of the poor, and the illiterate within Black communities across this country, because nothing says, ‘I’m unemployable’ like not being able to read.
Or perhaps they could organize a movement to stop Blacks from murdering each other. Thirty-five Blacks will get shot, and many of them will die today... in the time it takes you to read this essay. I wish that every time a Black person was shot by another Black person, the main stream media would plaster the crime scene and photos of the tragedy on every news site, twenty-four-seven, the same way they do when a police officer shoots a Black person.
I understand the apprehensions of BLM to take on the source of the real violence in Black communities, when you consider that 2,000 people have been shot and 400 dead in Chicago alone, since the beginning of the year. It is actually prudent to be more afraid of Black people than White people who actually don’t give a damn about race during the course of their daily lives. That is, until they can’t get to work or pick up their children from school on time, because BLM is stopping traffic. But someone has to help Black people who can’t help themselves and BLM seems to have a knack for organizing. They are also pretty brave when it comes to facing down police officers trying to do their jobs. Perhaps that same bravery could be employed in Black neighborhoods across this country, facing down drug dealers, and gang-bangers.
So in closing, the solution really comes down to basic Newtonian physics; action/reaction. Violence begets violence. End the callous disregard for life in Black communities, and police officers won’t feel threatened and wary of being shot themselves when they answer a 911 call.
Herman Williams III