This photograph portrays an African-American Georgia State Trooper dressed in riot gear at a KKK protest in Gainesville in the early 1980's. Standing in front of him is a very young Caucasian boy dressed in a traditional Klan hood and robe.
Personally, I find this picture to be exceptionally thought provoking. The boy standing before the State Trooper is merely an innocent child with no awareness of or appreciation for the symbolism of hatred his clothing represents. He was likely dressed by his parents; however, at such an early age, he does not yet display signs of sharing their bigotry towards African-Americans. Instead, he simply seems curious, as any boy might be, about the Trooper’s shield that he reaches out to touch and examine. It is doubtful that he has any understanding of what it is used for or why; maybe he simply saw his own reflection in the armor and was intrigued by it. That’s just the way children are: inquisitive, impulsive, and indifferent to distinctions of skin color. At this particular time in his life, he has no idea of the significant implications or consequences of what he is doing.
However, the State Trooper does, and that makes me wonder what is going through his mind at the time of this photograph. It is clear that the child is obviously being raised in an environment in in which he is taught to hate others, including the Trooper, based solely on the color of their skin. Though it is not the boy’s fault, the fact that his family members support the Ku Klux Klan makes it almost inevitable that racist tendencies will eventually be instilled in him. Thus, this picture perfectly represents the continuous cycle of racial prejudice passed down from generation to generation. Racial hate is not an intrinsic thing, something that people are born with, but something that is instilled in children by their parents, who learned it from their parents, who learned it from their parents, and so on and so forth until it eventually becomes habitual.
This juxtaposition of innocence versus hate within this photo is astounding, as is the irony of a black man protecting the right of white people to assemble and protest against him, his temperance in the face of discrimination, and the hope that the young boy clad in his KKK costume represents: the hope that racism might one day be completely expunged. This photograph serves as a vital reminder that it only takes one person to inspire his generation and make a world of difference.