White Power to the Rescue January 28, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in History, Race, Racism.
Tags: chris hedges, civil war, confederacy, fort pillow, history, ida b. wells, jacob burkle, janis fullilove, jefferson davis, KKK, ku klux klan, memphis racism, nathan bedford forrest, oral history, racism, robert e. lee, roger hollander, slavery, slaves, underground railroad, white supremecy
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On a windy afternoon a few days ago I went to a depressed section of North Memphis to visit an old clapboard house that was once owned by a German immigrant named Jacob Burkle. Oral history—and oral history is all anyone has in this case since no written
(Illustration: Mr. Fish)
documents survive—holds that Burkle used his house as a stop on the underground railroad for escaped slaves in the decade before the Civil War. The house is now a small museum called Slave Haven. It has artifacts such as leg irons, iron collars and broadsheets advertising the sale of men, women and children. In the gray floor of the porch there is a trapdoor that leads to a long crawl space and a jagged hole in a brick cellar wall where fugitives could have pushed themselves down into the basement. Escaped slaves were purportedly guided by Burkle at night down a tunnel or trench toward the nearby Mississippi River and turned over to sympathetic river traders who took them north to Cairo, Ill., and on to freedom in Canada.
Burkle and his descendants had good reason to avoid written records and to keep their activities secret. Memphis, on the eve of the Civil War, was one of the biggest slave markets in the South. After the war the city was an epicenter for Ku Klux Klan terror that included lynching, the nighttime burning of black churches and schools and the killing of black leaders and their white supporters, atrocities that continued into the 20th century. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis in 1968. If word had gotten out that Burkle used his home to help slaves escape, the structure would almost certainly have been burned and Burkle or his descendants, at the very least, driven out of the city. The story of Burkle’s aid to slaves fleeing bondage became public knowledge only a couple of decades ago.
The modest public profile of the Burkle house stands in stunning contrast with the monument in the center of Memphis to native son Nathan Bedford Forrest. Forrest, who is buried in Forrest Park under a statue of himself in his Confederate general’s uniform and mounted on a horse, is one of the most odious figures in American history. A moody, barely literate, violent man—he was not averse to shooting his own troops if he deemed them to be cowards—he became a millionaire before the war as a slave trader. As a Confederate general he was noted for moronic aphorisms such as “War means fighting and fighting means killing.” He was, even by the accounts of those who served under him, a butcher. He led a massacre at Fort Pillow in Henning, Tenn., of some 300 black Union troops—who had surrendered and put down their weapons—as well as women and children who had sheltered in the fort. Forrest was, after the war, the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. He used his skills as a former cavalry commander to lead armed night raids to terrorize blacks.
Forrest, like many other white racists of the antebellum South, is enjoying a disquieting renaissance. The Sons of Confederate Veterans and the West Tennessee Historical Commission last summer put up a 1,000-pound granite marker at the entrance to the park that read “Forrest Park.” The city, saying the groups had not obtained a permit, removed it with a crane. A dispute over the park name, now raging in the Memphis City Council, exposes the deep divide in Memphis and throughout much of the South between those who laud the Confederacy and those who detest it, a split that runs like a wide fault down racial lines.
A call last week by Memphis City Councilwoman Janis Fullilove, who is African-American, to strip Forrest’s name from the park and rename it after the crusading black journalist Ida B. Wells set off such an acrimonious debate between her and some white council members that Fullilove left a meeting in tears.
Wells was one of the nation’s most courageous and important journalists. She moved to Memphis as a young woman to live with her aunt. Her investigations revealed that lynching was fundamentally a mechanism to rid white businessmen of black competitors. When Thomas Moss of Memphis, a black man who ran the People’s Grocery Co., was murdered with his partners by a mob of whites and his store was looted and destroyed, Wells was incensed. “This is what opened my eyes to what lynching really was,” she wrote. She noted “that the Southerner had never gotten over this resentment that the Negro was no longer his plaything, his servant, and his source of income” and was using charges of rape against black business owners to mask this resentment. The lynching of Moss, she wrote, was “[a]n excuse to get rid of Negroes who were acquiring wealth and property and thus keep the race terrorized and ‘keep the nigger down.’ ”
Her newspaper, Free Speech, which railed against white mob violence, the inadequate black schools, segregation, discrimination and a corrupt legal system that denied justice to blacks, was destroyed by whites. Wells was forced to flee the city, becoming, as she wrote, “an exile from home for hinting at the truth.”
The split between those in Memphis who hold up authentic heroes—those who fought to protect, defend and preserve life, such as Wells and Burkle—and those who memorialize slave traders and bigots such as Forrest points up a disturbing rise of a neo-Confederate ideology in the South. Honoring figures like Forrest in Memphis while ignoring Wells would be like erecting a statue to the Nazi death camp commander Amon Goeth in the Czech Republic town of Svitavy, the birthplace of Oskar Schindler, who rescued 1,200 Jews.
The rewriting of history in the South is a retreat by beleaguered whites into a mythical self-glorification. I witnessed a similar retreat during the war in Yugoslavia in the 1990s. As Yugoslavia’s economy deteriorated, ethnic groups built fantasies of a glorious past that became a substitute for history. They sought to remove, through exclusion and finally violence, competing ethnicities to restore this mythological past. The embrace by nationalist groups of a nonreality-based belief system made communication with other ethnic groups impossible. They no longer spoke the same cultural language. There was no common historical narrative built around verifiable truth. A similar disconnect was illustrated last week in Memphis when the chairman of the city’s parks committee, William Boyd, informed the council that Forrest “promoted progress for black people in this country after the war.” Boyd argued that the KKK was “more of a social club” at its inception and didn’t begin carrying out “bad and horrific things” until it reconstituted itself with the rise of the modern civil rights movement.
“Lord, have mercy,” Fullilove muttered as she listened.
But Forrest is only one of numerous flashpoints. Fliers reading “Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan Wants You to Join” appeared in the mailboxes of white families in Memphis in early January. The Ku Klux Klan also distributed pamphlets a few days ago in an Atlanta suburb. The Tennessee Legislature last year officially declared July 13 as Nathan Bedford Forrest Day to honor his birthday. There are 32 historical markers honoring Forrest in Tennessee alone and several in other Southern states. Montgomery, Ala., which I visited last fall, has a gigantic Confederate flag on the outskirts of the city, planted there by the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Confederate monuments dot Montgomery’s city center. There are three Confederate state holidays in Alabama, including Martin Luther King/Robert E. Lee Day. Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi also honor Lee’s birthday. Jefferson Davis’ birthday is a state holiday in Alabama and Florida. And re-enactments of Confederate victories in the Civil War crowd Southern calendars.
The steady rise of ethnic nationalism over the past decade, the replacing of history with mendacious and sanitized versions of lost glory, is part of the moral decay that infects a dying culture. It is a frightening attempt, by those who are desperate and trapped, to escape through invented history their despair, impoverishment and hopelessness. It breeds intolerance and eventually violence. Violence becomes in this perverted belief system a cleansing agent, a way to restore a lost world. There are ample historical records that disprove the myths espoused by the neo-Confederates, who insist the Civil War was not about slavery but states’ rights and the protection of traditional Christianity. But these records are useless in puncturing their self-delusion, just as documentary evidence does nothing to blunt the self-delusion of Holocaust deniers. Those who retreat into fantasy cannot be engaged in rational discussion, for fantasy is all that is left of their tattered self-esteem. When their myths are attacked as untrue it triggers not a discussion of facts and evidence but a ferocious emotional backlash. The challenge of the myth threatens what is left of hope. And as the economy unravels, as the future looks bleaker and bleaker, this terrifying myth gains potency.
Achilles V. Clark, a soldier with the 20th Tennessee Cavalry under Forrest during the 1864 massacre at Fort Pillow, wrote to his sister after the attack: “The slaughter was awful. Words cannot describe the scene. The poor deluded negroes would run up to our men, fall upon their knees, and with uplifted hands scream for mercy but they were ordered to their feet and then shot down. … I, with several others, tried to stop the butchery, and at one time had partially succeeded, but General Forrest ordered them shot down like dogs and the carnage continued. Finally our men became sick of blood and the firing ceased.”
Pete Seeger Carries Us On May 6, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Art, Literature and Culture, Peace.
Tags: amy goodman, bruce springsteen, civil rights activist, denis moynihan, environmental activist, folk music, folk singer, huac, hudson river recovery, ku klux klan, labor movement music, paul robeson, peace activist, peekskil concert, pete seeger nobel peace, pete seger, protest music, roger hollander, smothers brothers, woodie guthrie
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Published on Wednesday, May 6, 2009 by TruthDig.com
It was some garden party. Eighteen-thousand people packed into Madison Square Garden Sunday night to celebrate the first 90 years of Pete Seeger’s life.
The legendary folk singer is a living history of the 20th century’s grass-roots struggles for worker rights, civil rights, the environment and peace. Powerful, passionate performances and tributes rang out from the stage, highlighting Seeger’s enduring imprint on our society.
Bruce Springsteen opened his set with a tribute to Pete, saying, “As Pete and I traveled to Washington for President Obama’s inaugural celebration, he told me the entire story of ‘We Shall Overcome,’ how it moved from a labor-movement song and, with Pete’s inspiration, had been adopted by the civil rights movement. And that day, as we sang ‘This Land Is Your Land,’ I looked at Pete. The first black president of the United States was seated to his right. I thought of the incredible journey that Pete had taken. … He was so happy that day. It was like, Pete, you outlasted the bastards, man.”
Springsteen recalled Pete’s only request for the inaugural: “ ‘Well, I know I want to sing all the verses [of ‘This Land Is Your Land']. You know, I want to sing all the ones that Woody [Guthrie] wrote, especially the two that get left out … about private property and the relief office.’ … That’s what Pete’s done his whole life: He sings all the verses all the time, especially the ones that we’d like to leave out of our history as a people.”
The oft-censored verses, for the record:
“In the squares of the city, under shadow of the steeple,
at the relief office, I saw my people.
As they stood there hungry, I stood there whistling,
this land was made for you and me.
A great high wall there tried to stop me.
A great big sign there said private property,
but on the other side it didn’t say nothing.
That side was made for you and me.”
Seeger’s unflinching commitment to social justice landed him before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1955. He told HUAC, “I resent very much and very deeply the implication of being called before this committee that in some way because my opinions may be different from yours, that I am any less of an American than anyone else.” Seeger was blacklisted and didn’t appear on television for close to 15 years until he sang on “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.”
Seeger told me: “The Smothers Brothers were a big, big success on the CBS television. And … in the spring of ’67, CBS says, ‘What can we do to make you happier?’ And they said, ‘Let us have Seeger on.’ And CBS said, ‘Well, we’ll think about it.’ Finally, in October they said, ‘OK, you can have him on.’ And I sang this song ‘Waist deep in the Big Muddy, the big fool says to push on.’ … In New York, they scissored the song out. The Smothers Brothers took to the print media and said, ‘CBS … censored Seeger’s best song.’ … Finally, in late January of ’68, CBS said, ‘OK, OK, he can sing the song.’ ” The song tells of an Army captain who drowned while ordering his troops deeper and deeper into a river-an obvious metaphor for U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
In 1949, Pete Seeger and the great “whitelisted” black opera singer and actor Paul Robeson held a concert in Peekskill, N.Y., an upstate village with an active Ku Klux Klan. A vigilante mob stoned the crowd. Hundreds were injured. Pete took rocks from that assault and incorporated them into his fireplace-so that the stones meant to maim now just protect the flame.
Dear to Pete for his life has been the Hudson River, said to be one of the most polluted bodies of water in the world. In 1966, Pete co-founded the environmental organization Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, which uses a beautiful wooden boat and an annual celebration to engage and educate people on the need to clean the Hudson and protect the environment. There is a movement to nominate Pete Seeger for the Nobel Peace Prize.
At Madison Square Garden, Pete was center stage, playing his banjo. His singing voice is faint now, after 70 years of singing truth to power. He mouthed the words to the songs, but what came out were the voices of the 18,000 people in the audience, singing out. That’s Pete’s legacy. That’s what will carry on.
Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.
Tags: Alaska, alaska attorney general, Alaska politics, anti-gay, domestic violence, KKK, ku klux klan, leah burton, max blumenthal, native americans, palin 2012, palin appointment, palin controversy, palin presidential candidate, politics, racism, rape his wife, richard burton, right wing, roger hollander, Sarah Palin, spousal rape, wayne anthony ross
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(Roger’s note: sometime shortly after the election, I believe, I said I would post no more Sarah Palin stories, and I have kept my work up until now. This one is too good to pass up.)
The governor is reeling after nominating for attorney general a man who allegedly defended the right of men to rape their wives.
While priming her political machine for a likely 2012 presidential primary run, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has fomented a scandal that threatens to further erode her reputation in the Last Frontier.
In March, Palin nominated Wayne Anthony Ross for attorney general. Ross, a colorful far-right lawyer and longtime Palin ally who sports his initials, W.A.R., on his Hummer’s vanity plates, was once considered a shoo-in for confirmation. However, his nomination was thrown into grave peril when his opponents presented evidence that he called homosexuals “degenerates,” hailed the “courage” of a student who lionized the Ku Klux Klan, vowed to undermine the sovereignty of Native American tribes, and allegedly defended men who rape their wives. According to two sources close to the confirmation hearings, Palin may ask Ross to withdraw before his appointment comes to a vote.
Palin’s hopes for a swift confirmation process were dashed April 10 when Leah Burton, a veteran lobbyist on children’s issues and domestic violence, submitted a letter to the Alaska State Judiciary Committee claiming that Ross publicly defended spousal rape. According to Burton, who detailed the allegations for me, Ross allegedly declared during a speech before a 1991 gathering of the “father’s rights” group Dads Against Discrimination, “If a guy can’t rape his wife, who’s he gonna rape?” (In a subsequent letter, Ross denied the remark and claimed, “I don’t talk like that!”)
Burton said Ross’s statement was consistent with his overarching attitude toward women’s issues. She claimed that he once said during a debate on the Equal Rights Amendment, “If a woman would keep her mouth shut, there wouldn’t be an issue with domestic violence.” Burton also maintained she has been in touch with “a number” of domestic-violence victims who witnessed Ross make “horrible” statements, but are too intimidated to speak out. “Alaska is a very small state and it’s terrifying for these victims to come forward because they’re afraid of retribution,” Burton told me.
Since Burton’s testimony, her father, former Alaska Public Safety Commissioner Richard Burton, wrote a letter of his own demanding to Ross that he withdraw his nomination. “You sir, speak and act like the kind of bully I met many times when responding to domestic-violence calls, some of the most dangerous situations police officers are often in,” Burton wrote. Ross reacted with characteristic fury to the Burtons’ broadsides, barking to reporters that if “anybody said that to me, we’d have a little confrontation because that’s a bunch of crap.” At the same time, a grassroots group raising support for Palin’s presidential bid called Conservatives4Palin attacked Leah Burton as an anti-Christian “fringe nutcase.”
But as pro-Palin forces attempted to push back against Ross’s critics, dozens of op-eds Ross authored during the 1980s and 1990s surfaced as key exhibits in the case against his confirmation. Among them is a 1993 piece entitled, “KKK ‘art’ project gets ‘A’ for courage,” in which Ross cheered on a local college student who had offended an African-American classmate by creating a statue of a Klansman with a cross in one hand and a flag in the other. “It might have been fun to see [the African-American student] try to remove the display,” Ross wrote. “Then she could have been arrested and her future as a student of the university could have been resolved through the university disciplinary proceedings.”
During the early 1980s, while Anchorage residents grappled over renaming the city’s 15th Street as Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, and state legislators mulled establishing a state holiday honoring the assassinated civil-rights leader, Ross wrote several manifestoes attacking King as a communist subversive, according to University of Alaska-Anchorage music professor and local progressive activist Phil Munger. Munger also told me Ross has routinely appeared at public events beside his friend, Don Tanner, a white nationalist who moved to South Africa for a period during the 1980s to support its apartheid government, and who reveled crowds of conservatives with anti-black “South African jokes” upon his return to Alaska.
A glance at Ross’s published archive shows he never limited his resentment to minorities. He taunted environmentalists (“It is time we quit crying over the oil spill” was the title of an editorial he wrote in the wake of the Exxon Valdez disaster); he denounced homosexuals as “degenerates” during a 1993 legal fight over a local gay-rights ordinance; and announced that his final wish before dying was to overturn Roe v. Wade. While rising through the ranks of the NRA’s national leadership in the 1980s, Ross published a piece in the mercenary magazine Soldier of Fortune, defending the right to form antigovernment militias.
“Ross’s profile fits where Palin wants to go after the current legislative session ends,” Munger remarked to me. “She seems to be planning some behind-the-scenes movement to stir up the crazies, especially by convincing them the federal government is going take their guns away. So nobody here is surprised by this selection.”
While Ross sustained withering criticism for his views on social issues, Native American tribes denounced his vociferous opposition to their subsistence rights. The tribes were especially disturbed by his vow during a 2002 gubernatorial debate to “hire a band of junkyard dog” attorneys to gut federal laws guaranteeing natives subsistence preferences. “It almost looked like she was rubbing our face in Anthony Ross’s appointment,” said Tim Towarak, co-chairman of the Alaska Federation of Natives, told The Bristol Bay Times. “Like rubbing our face on the ground, saying ‘Here, take this.’” With increasingly powerful tribal groups mobilizing a united front against Ross, Palin was compelled to defend her own record, pleading, “Obviously I am not anti-Native and would never appoint anyone who is.”
If Palin withdraws Ross’s nomination, she could end another embarrassing political spectacle before it registers on the national press corps’ radar. Alternatively, if she manages to ram his appointment through, Palin can begin implementing a hard-right legal agenda that will appeal to the elements she is cultivating as the base of her likely 2012 presidential campaign. However Palin decides to proceed with W.A.R., by nominating him, she has staked out the culture war as the fuel for her national ambitions.
Max Blumenthal is a senior writer for The Daily Beast and writing fellow at The Nation Institute, whose book, Republican Gomorrah (Basic/Nation Books), is forthcoming in Spring 2009. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
America unmasked: The images that reveal the Ku Klux Klan is alive and kicking in 2009 February 23, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Racism.
Tags: anthony karen, Barack Obama, bogalusa, hate crimes, KKK, ku klux klan, leonard doyle, lynching, racism, roger hollander, skinheads, white supremacist, white supremacy
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The USA has a new president but an old problem – and nothing typifies it like today’s Ku Klux Klan. The photographer Anthony Karen gained unprecedented access to the ‘Invisible Empire’
Saturday, 21 February 2009, www.independent.co.uk
These images show members of the Ku Klux Klan as they want to be seen, scary and secretive and waiting in the wings for Barack and his colour-blind vision for America to fail. Anthony Karen, a former Marine and self-taught photojournalist was granted access to the innermost sanctum of the Klan. He doesn’t tell us how he did it but he was considered trustworthy enough to be invited into their homes and allowed to photograph their most secretive ceremonies, such as the infamous cross burnings.
When he talks about the Klan members he has encountered he tends not to dwell on the fate of their victims. Karen’s feat is that he takes us to places few photojournalists have been before, into the belly of the beast. The scenes he presents portray a kinder, gentler Klan. The mute photographs present an organisation that is far less threatening than the hate group of our popular imagination. Consciously or otherwise, his photographs hold our imagination in their grip while doing double duty as propaganda for the extremist right, much as Leni Riefenstahl’s work did for the Nazis.
Today the Klan is a mere shadow of what it used to be and there are at least 34 differently named Klan groups. “They are a fairly low-rent bunch of people, many of whom use their local organisations as a way of raising money for themselves,” says Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama.
Photographs of the Klan folk in their hooded regalia aren’t all that rare. The archives of America’s newspapers contain plenty of front-page photographs of lynchings throughout the past century. Three years ago, James Cameron, the last survivor of an attempted lynching died, thankfully of natural causes.
The older generation of Black Americans grew up hearing about Klan lynchings whispered over the dinner table but never mentioned outside the home. At the Klan’s height, around the turn of the 20th century, some 30 to 40 lynchings a year were being recorded. It is believed that there were in fact many more unrecorded deaths, especially in the cotton-growing south where the deaths of black field-hands were often not recorded.
Karen’s photographs show an entirely different side of the far right. He presents a 58-year-old, fifth-generation seamstress he calls “Ms Ruth” and he has photographed her running up an outfit for the “Exalted Cyclops” or head of a local KKK chapter. She gets paid about $140 for her trouble. Karen tells us that she uses the earnings to help care for her 40-year-old quadriplegic daughter, who was injured in a car accident 10 years ago.
Karen’s images of the Klan and its supporters regularly appear on the recruiting websites of the far right. Out of context, the images of hooded Klansmen and their families tell us little of the real story – the inexorable rise in the number of extremist organisations in America.
The number of hate-crime victims in the US is also rising and as America’s middle and working class gets thrown out of work, the hate groups behind the crimes are flourishing. As people lose their homes to foreclosure and, without the benefit of a safety net, find themselves slipping into poverty, there is already a search for scapegoats underway. Immigrants from central and South America have become particular targets as the grim economic times take hold.
Anyone who doubts the capacity of the modern KKK for violence need look no further than the recent case of 43-year-old Cynthia Lynch of Tulsa, Oklahoma. She had never been out of her home state before she travelled to Louisiana to be initiated into the Klan. She was met off the bus by two members of a group that calls itself the Sons of Dixie and taken to a campsite in the woods 60 miles north of New Orleans.
There, Lynch’s head was shaven and after 24 hours of Klan boot camp, including chanting and running with torches, she had had enough and asked to be taken to town. After an argument, the group’s “Grand Lordship”, Chuck Foster, is alleged to have shot her to death. He was charged with second-degree murder and is awaiting trial. Just as shocking is that the event happened in Bogalusa, a backwoods Louisiana town that was once known as the Klan capital of the US.
In the 1960s the Klan operated with impunity in Bogalusa and once held a public meeting to decide which black church to burn down next. Local Klan members were suspected of ambushing two black policemen in 1965, killing one and wounding the other. No one was ever tried for the crimes.
Despite all its notoriety the Klan has been a spent force for decades with nothing like the clout it once wielded. At its peak the KKK boasted four million members and controlled the governor’s mansions and legislatures of several states. Since the 1930s the KKK has been in a state of disorganisation and today it probably has 6,000 members. But the economic crisis is swelling their ranks and already, a month after the inauguration of the first black president, the tidal wave of interracial harmony that greeted Obama’s election is starting to recede.
“Things are certain to get worse,” says Potok. “The ingredients are all there: a dire economy that is certain to get worse; high levels of immigration; the white majority that is soon to turn into a minority and a black man in the White House.”
More than 400 hate-related incidents, from cross-burnings to effigies of President Obama hanging from nooses have been reported, according to law-enforcement authorities and Potok’s organisation, which files lawsuits against hate groups aimed at making them bankrupt.
Late last year, two suspected skinheads who had links to a violent Klan chapter in Kentucky were charged with plotting to kill 88 black students. They were then going to assassinate President Obama by blasting him from a speeding car while wearing white tuxedos and top hats. They were never going to succeed, given the huge security net around Obama, but the fact that they had planned such an outlandish attack may be a harbinger of things to come.
“There is a tremendous backlash to Obama’s election,” says Richard Barrett, the leader of the Nationalist Movement, another white supremacist group. “Many people look at the flag of the Republic of New Africa that was hoisted over the White House as an act of war.
David Duke Helps Son of ex-Klan Leader in Fight for Palm Beach County Republican Seat December 1, 2008Posted by rogerhollander in U.S. Election 2008.
Tags: Add new tag, charles elmore, county, david duke, derek black, discrimination, gop, grand wizard, hate, Immigration, KKK, klansman, ku klux klan, palm beach, racism, Republican Party, Republican racism, white supremacist
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Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 01, 2008
WEST PALM BEACH — — Derek Black says “of course” he will attend a meeting Wednesday for new members of Palm Beach County’s Republican Executive Committee. Never mind that the party chairman says Black’s “white supremacist” associations are not welcome and he will not be seated.
“I was elected,” Black, 19, says.
Sporting a black hat, the son of former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard Don Black was seated last week in a restaurant off Southern Boulevard. Sitting next to him was one of his supporters: David Duke, former Louisiana state legislator and another former KKK grand wizard.
“We’re going to fight,” Duke said. “I know Derek Black is going to fight for his constitutional liberties. That’s why I’m here, because I want to assist Derek.”
Sorry, says county GOP Chairman Sid Dinerstein. In the qualifying period in June, Black didn’t sign a loyalty oath pledging he would not do anything injurious to the party. And that’s not the only problem.
“He participates in white supremacist activities,” Dinerstein said. “We’re the party of Lincoln. We’re the party that says we don’t judge anybody by the color of their skin.”
Derek Black’s response: “I’ve told (Dinerstein) I’m not a white supremacist; that’s an insult. I would describe myself as a white person who is concerned about discrimination against white people.”
A community college student who was home-schooled in West Palm Beach, Black once contributed a kids page to his father’s Stormfront Internet forum around the time he was 12. The page included puzzles, games, animated Confederate flags and white-pride songs. He has since helped with his father’s Internet audio broadcasts.
But did voters really have any idea who he is?
Duke leaned in.
“Irrelevant question,” Duke said. “He got the votes. He won election.”
Black says he campaigned around the district for the seat. Executive committee members elect the county party chairman and help determine where the party spends its money.
He said he answered any questions voters asked, but mostly talked about issues.
“I talked about immigration,” he said. “I talked about the presidential campaign. That was the biggest issue. This was back in August, July. Most of them weren’t happy with (Sen. John) McCain turning out to be their candidate. It did come up a few times that I didn’t like McCain.”
He continued: “A large part of the district, the Republican part of the district, is Hispanic, Cubans. They’re the ones I’ve gotten the most public support from. Walking down the street, going to Publix, it was old Cuban men who slapped me on the back and told me to fight the system.”
Duke, who lives in Louisiana, said he won’t be in West Palm Beach for the Wednesday meeting, but he conducted an Internet broadcast with Don Black from the restaurant. The Grateful Dead’s Truckin’ blared over the eatery’s music system in the background. In the broadcast, the men took Dinerstein to task: He has “chutzpah” to take an “anti-democratic” position, Duke said.
It’s a line Duke has used before on his Web site: “Sid Dinerstein, a Jewish-extremist loyalist to Israel, has the chutzpah to think that he has the right to deny Derek Black his legally elected office because he doesn’t like Mr. Black’s views.”
At least four books and dictionaries have defined Stormfront as the Internet’s first “hate” site dating back to 1995. Stormfront’s site link on a Google search comes with this description: “Racialist discussion board for pro-White activists and anyone else interested in White survival.”
Barack Obama’s election has helped drive up Stormfront traffic to record levels, Don Black said.
Duke said the historic election has helped galvanize support for the causes he believes in: “Obama enables people to see more clearly. It makes it clear we’re losing control of our country.”
But Don Black said press reports of threats against Obama on the Stormfront forums have been exaggerated. He said he suspects one contributor, who hadn’t posted in six years, was deliberately trying to stir up trouble for the site recently. He said he does not condone violence and wants a “peaceful revolution” that ends racial preferences for minorities and promotes the civil liberties of whites.
Echoing what Duke and his father say about themselves, Derek Black says he never uses the term “white supremacist.”
His case goes like this: He says he won 62 percent of the vote in his district (published reports put it at 58 percent at the time). The oath is a technicality that should not overturn an election, he contends. He says he is prepared to hire a lawyer to explore legal options if he is not seated.
When party leaders realized who he is, they scrambled to bar him within days of the August vote. Dinerstein said he has the backing of the state party.
“The loyalty oath is very important, and folks do need to sign it on time,” said Republican Party of Florida spokeswoman Erin VanSickle.
But Derek Black said he’ll keep up the fight for the seat, even if his opponents want to shun him as viper’s brood.
“I thought it was amusing. I’m accused of having a past when I’m 19,” he said.