Type: Response Essays
Sample donated: Renee Gutierrez
Last updated: December 25, 2019
Imagine living in a country where freedom is preached night and day but having to constantly fear for your life and have lesser advantages than those around you just because you are part of a minority group. This was the typical life for anyone who was black, Jewish, Catholic, or supported communism or socialism, from the 1860s to even today (“Effects of the Ku Klux”). In part, this was because of the discrimination that those groups of Americans were faced with, but in whole, was due to the majority who held the prejudice and took violent actions based on their beliefs. These majorities formed a destructive group, known as the Ku Klux Klan, that assaults and threatens anyone who does not hold the same beliefs (Salem Press).
The assembly of Ku Klux Klan formed the genesis of terrorism and enabled prejudice in America, seeing that the group was born from hatred and fear, threatened and assaulted minorities everywhere in America, and held a strong grip on American politics in the 1900s. The birth of the Ku Klux Klan occurred in 1866, when three Confederate Veterans aimed to combat the beginning of the Southern Reconstruction (Salem Press). Those veterans feared black dominance and hated the race that they viewed as inferior and threatened their families. “Blacks paraded with guns on their shoulders, a sight that frightened many whites. Such was the land of the South when the Pulaski pranksters made their first rides. They soon noticed that their white-garbed apparitions were having a strange effect. Many people believed they were being haunted by ghosts when they saw white-robed men and white-covered horses riding at them out of the night. The Klansmen were quick to play upon these fears, quick to see how the terror they inspired could be used to put their society back to what it had been.
What had begun as a social prank turned into serious political action. The growing bands of Klansmen rode out deliberately to break up Carpetbagger political rallies and to chase and haunt those who attended them.” (Cook 19)Due to the threat that white Southerners felt from the freed African Americans, they began to become hostile to the new citizens. What began as a purposeless joke, soon found a deadly purpose. The Klan’s purpose was created out of pure fear of losing their superiority and hatred of the results of the Civil War.
In general, the group thrived off of the terror they caused in the Black citizens through their actions, which took place in the night. As their active adversity to the Reconstruction acts became more known, the organization began to grow rapidly. The Klan also made it a point to use attire that would frighten the protesters, referred to at the time, as Carpetbaggers. The Ku Klux Klan uniform consisted of “white gowns and pointed cowls to intimidate superstitious African Americans” along with horses covered in white. The all white attire made the superstitious majority horrified because Klan members resembled ghost-like apparitions, which, in turn, made them feel as though they were being haunted by deceased Confederate soldiers (Salem Press). Horror and fear played enormous roles in forming organized terrorism, like the Ku Klux Klan. When the Klan realized that it could feed off of the fear of African Americans and cause disruptions in the governmental operations to take away their Southern lifestyle, it made a point to utilize it in every way. The KKK set the precedent for modern terrorist groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda, both of which use violence and hatred to create terror and confusion.
Ensuing the creation of terrorism, the Ku Klux Klan began using several other tactics, beyond just fear itself, to hold supremacy. The Ku Klux Klan’s first goal was to discourage Black Americans and stop them from gaining the right to vote (Salem Press). The Klan assaulted Black citizens and activists in various ways, which included but were not limited to, whippings, beatings, kidnappings, killings, and more specifically, lynchings (open hangings). Following its rebirth in 1915, after being disbanded in 1871, the KKK began to target more minorities, such as Jews, Catholics, Blacks, Immigrants, Socialists, and Communists (“Effects of the Ku Klux”). In fact, after the Klan was revived in 1915, it was responsible for more than 500 lynchings of African Americans (Salem Press). As minority groups became more plentiful and common, the Klan gained targets.
They widened their range of assaults and scare tactics to terrorize those groups. As the Klan began to target these groups, even people who were not Klan members formed stereotypes and adopted prejudiced mindsets towards the minorities, in response to the hatred and fear that clouded their minds. . Even with its clearly visible destructive and violent habits, the Ku Klux Klan had heavy influence and involvement in politics in the 1900s and even somewhat still today. After its revival, the KKK began influencing elections and helping to get sympathetic officials to various public offices, in states in both the North and South. Along with its reputation for being an extremely racist group, the KKK also spread hatred for other groups, both religious and political (West’s Encyclopedia). For example, Robert Shelton, a Klan Grand Dragon, helped elect two Alabama governors (Salem Press). The influence on politics by the Ku Klux Klan spiraled from the growing support for the group (West’s Encyclopedia).
This way, the ideas and thoughts of the KKK made their way into American government. This only intensified the need for the civil rights movement. Many of the ideas adopted from the Klan were not only racist, but they were discriminatory in many other ways too. The influence of the KKK’s thoughts and policies only added to the growing prejudice in America. The American government of the mid 1900s had strong influence from the Klan.
Along with several KKK members and sympathizers in various offices, American law enforcement showed bias and prejudice in favor of the Klan in a myriad of cases. In one case, FBI withheld crucial information that would have led to conviction of criminals and prevention of Klan violence because the FBI was not adverse to Klan crimes/violence and basically turned a blind eye to it during the civil rights movement (West’s Encyclopedia). Along with the purposeful ignorance of law enforcement, even when Klan members were tried for serious crimes, they were rarely convicted. Such was in the case of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing, where 4 African American girls were killed and several other attendees injured. Robert Chambliss, even after being identified by a witness, was acquitted of murder charges and only convicted of possessing 122 sticks of dynamite without a permit (“Effects of the Ku Klux”). With the growth and takeover of the Klan, white jurors’ prejudices grew and minorities did not stand a chance against their white counterparts.
Along with government policy influence by the Klan, already making life for minorities difficult, the courts were biased based on the prejudice instilled in them by the KKK and groups alike. In closing, the formation of the Ku Klux Klan organization intensified prejudice and established terrorism in American society through its hatred and terror-born creation, crimes and injustices against minorities, and its overpowering sway in political America. Now, imagine how drastically different America would be today, had the Ku Klux Klan not organized. Though the group still aims to establish a white-run society, their beliefs are no longer shared by masses or majorities. Without the impact of the Klan, present American society and political ideas would be substantial varied to what they are currently.
Minority groups might not even exist in today’s America because after all, minorities are created when people are not equal.