Today I read an article (which can be accessed here) about a local purported Ku Klux Klan member planning a mass protest of the renaming of Confederate-themed parks here in Memphis. The man, who refers to himself as the "Exalted Cyclops", intends to rally all of his fellow klansmen in a park formerly named for Nathan Bedford Forest, a renowned Confederate leader and creator of the Ku Klux Klan. The article was extremely thought provoking, particularly because it relates to many of our assigned readings and touches upon several key ideas that we have recently discussed in class.
What struck me first and foremost within this article was the fact that it continued to defy the frustrating “master narrative”, the narrative that too often suggests that not only was there a clear and defined beginning to racial prejudice, but an ending as well. Realistically, as clearly demonstrated in this text, racial discrimination is far from over. Though the overall public is generally oblivious to or at least ill informed about the current whereabouts of racist institutions like the KKK, it is imperative to understand that they still exist, and that racism is still rampant. Too often people talk about racist acts in the past tense, myself included. For instance, in class, when we discuss lynching, segregation, and racial violence, I have caught myself thinking something along the lines of, “That’s horrible! I can’t believe people did things like that back then!” while, in reality, acts of racism are still widely prevalent. (If anyone would like to view further proof of that, please check out this website.)
On a different note, one specific quote from the article stuck with me. One woman claimed that, by changing the names of these parks to ones that are not steeped in racial dispute and thus undeniably less controversial, the Memphis City Council is “trying to get rid of [and rewrite] history.” I found this postulation interesting. Is it possible that she has a point? And, if so, do you think that changing these names is a positive or a negative action? I completely understand the Memphis City Council’s decision to cease celebrating Confederate “heroes” by changing the names of the parks, and I get that this point in American history was extremely flawed (to put it very, very mildly). However, at the same time, I feel that it is important to illuminate the injustice rather than to sweep it under the rug. History cannot be erased or gotten rid of, but only improved upon over time, and, while things have definitely improved for African Americans and other minorities since the Civil War, it is scary to think that there are still active and passionate members of the KKK in existence. After all, as Winston Churchill best put it: “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”