Sunday, February 26, 2006

(Miscege)NATION - The open secret at the heart of US white supremacy

"An American Secret" By CYNTHIA CARR in the NY Times Magazine

"I was 17 when I learned that my grandfather had been a Klansman. I didn't want to know more then, and I didn't want to talk about it. The news wasn't just shameful; it was frightening. I wondered if I could find out too much, if Grandpa could become someone I wouldn't love. After all, this information suggested that I'd never really known him." [...] "Grandpa had always been so quiet, so abstemious and, I thought, so predictable. He worked his whole life at the Marion, Ind., Post Office and, for a hobby, studied railroad timetables. He owned a single necktie that he would wear out before he bought another. He was a teetotaler who did not allow liquor in the house. I don't remember ever hearing a racial slur. But there was also a fury in him that he never showed the grandkids. I heard the stories with some astonishment: when the alarm clock didn't work, he stomped it in the backyard and smashed it into a telephone pole. When my dad got pericarditis as a boy, Grandpa flew into a rage; it was going to cost money.

He was also intensely secretive. He would not say who his father was. Born out of wedlock, he had taken his mother's last name, and of her we knew little except that she died young. He would not say where she was buried. Every year on Memorial Day, he would go alone with three geraniums to a certain cemetery. After Grandpa's death, we looked hard for that grave and could find it nowhere." (more)


At 4:13 PM, Blogger nubian said...

i wonder why she is deeply saddened by the fact that black people don't get all up in arms that her grandfather was a member of the kkk?

well, i know why

At 2:46 PM, Blogger piny said...

Right. It's like she reported her friend saying, for one thing:

I thought that I'd taken a big risk, that she might be disdainful or even angry. Robbie is someone I can count on to say exactly what she thinks. But her response surprised me: "Hearing that is a relief. It makes me feel like I'm not crazy, like I'm not making up something." In her opinion, white silence is often just a refusal to acknowledge what black people have been through. So I told her about searching the Marion lynching photo for my grandfather's face and learning that my sister had done it, too. She said, "Those are the stories we need to hear."

The Klan operated and survived because it was condoned by the white people around it--lynching wasn't considered a criminal act, but an instrument of justice. The Klan and its activities weren't an aberration, but an extension of the status quo. Whether or not her grandfather put on a white hood, he was complicit in the atmosphere of racist terror and brutalization that the Klan symbolized.

...So why would people whose grandparents lived through that have a high opinion of him in the first place?


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