Thursday, February 28, 2013

Photograph of 1980's KKK Protest

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. 


  1. Taylor, your interpretation of this picture is excellent. This photograph clearly reveals how racism can be passed down through generations. I enjoyed how you discussed the innocence of the child and how he was unaware of the statement his outfit was making. It reminded me of a news article I recently came across that described a recent assault on an African American minor (see link below). While traveling on an airplane with his mother, a crying 19-month-old African American boy was slapped in the face by a white passenger, John Rickey Hundley. Before Hundley slapped the baby he allegedly told the mother to, “shut that (N-word) baby up.”

    This atrocious incident displays that no generation is left out of discrimination or racism. The young child, supposedly born into a world where he will not be discriminated against, is still affected by the generations of racism before him. The baby was not acting out to disrupt the other passengers, but was simply crying due to the change in altitude. Although Hundley denies that this incident was racial, his statement is difficult to believe. By using the N-word to address the child, Hundley undoubtedly made this assault into a racial incident. The N-word is permeated with decades of feelings of hate, disgust, and anger and should not be used against an innocent child – let alone anyone. By choosing to use the N-word, Handley’s displays his belief that this baby was of an inferior status and, therefore, did not deserve equal respect. This assault reminds us that no generation is free from racism. Even a young baby, unable to comprehend why he was attacked, cannot escape the generations of hate that have come before him. It is unfortunate to see such young children forced into the racial roles that society created.

  2. This picture that you found is quite amazing. As soon as I saw this I was astonished at how the child out of all people went up to the Black police officer. Another thing that ran through my head was the fact that this picture was taken in the 1980’s. The trooper seems a bit older so as a viewer we can assume that he was present for the racial onslaught of the 60’s and well the child was not. This child as you said was “merely an innocent child with no awareness of or appreciation for the symbolism of hatred his clothing represents” and that is totally the case. The child does not understand anything of what is happening but the trooper does having obviously experienced racial discrimination in his life. I find it quite stunning how the trooper looks at the child with the knowledge that he will grow up to hate having been raised with that mentality. Sure the child could have changed his ways when he grew up but I doubt it as children are molded by their parents and they were surely racist.

  3. I agree with your interpretation because some of the exact same thoughts went through my head while examining the photo. It is sad to think racism will essentially be forever engrained in America because of how often it is passed down generation by generation through family beliefs. Although today there are less amounts of radical racists, there is no doubt that they still exist today. I certainly hope that because of the progress made in civil rights even after the 1980's, children who are exposed to such radical hatred are at least able to form their own opinions and not just follow previous generations. I also am forced to wonder if the boy in the photograph is in fact a racist KKK member today, or was able to escape his parent's racist brainwashing.

  4. Taylor, I like both the picture you chose and the comments that you made on the picture. The picture has so much meaning behind it. Just as it has been stated the child has been dressed in KKK clothing, completely unaware of the racism behind the outfit that the child is wearing. The child is simply intrigued by the shield that the Black state trooper is holding. Regardless of racial background, children are attracted to those things which are typically different from the norm such as seeing the reflection of themselves in this shield.

    I can only imagine what is going through the head of the black state trooper. From first glance it appears to be a mini smirk on the face of the trooper. He could possibly be thinking "wow after all of this time, racially charged organizations continue to exist and take it to a new level by tying their children to such occurrences." Maybe he was thinking "Look at this innocent child, caught in the midst of racial tension." From the picture, we are unable to tell but what we can tell is that it appears that the black state trooper finds some enjoyment out of the child.

    The picture made me realize two things. The first is that despite how children dress on the outside, they see no color from their inside. All children see is an interesting object or item that catches their attention. Children don't see a race or ethnic background. The second is that parents have the most powerful effect on their children, particularly when it comes to a group of people. Although the child is very young in the picture, if his parents were to continue to take him to such rallies and teach him that another race was inferior to him, he could potentially begin to believe it and continue the racist cycle that has developed in our nation.

  5. Dang. This picture is worth a thousand words, so I think you have finished your blog posts for the first half of the semester. This is incredible. Your interpretation is dead on. I think your right, that kid simply is intrigued by the shield and quite possibly his own reflection. I wonder how he got up there. It seems to be the last place to find a child, and yet the exact place that innocence and love is most needed. I also wonder whether this child grew up to be in the KKK. There is honestly no telling. I'd be interested in hearing more history behind this photograph. GREAT FIND!