Some holidays get old very fast, and even one day after the day has passed, it loses all of its “flavor.” Take St. Patrick’s Day for example, or Valentine’s Day, or even Halloween. But Martin Luther King Jr. Day is about so much more than the man, his birthday, or even the designated day for celebrating his birthday in January.
No one really needs to be told what he did for this country to deserve having his own holiday. He was a man of peace who did everything he could to further peaceful race relations predominantly between the black and white races — yet sad to say, that peace was never permanently realized, and the clash of the colors continues to this day.
It is inspiring to read his life story, and it is encouraging to realize how dedicated he was to that cause of peace and to know how many times he led “the charge” for each new issue that reared its ugly head. He was there for so many people and so many issues, and always chose the path of peace, of nonresistance. He was there for Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott; he was there for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom; less than a month later, he was there, giving the eulogy for three of the four young murdered black schoolgirls at Birmingham’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing.
Part of what he said in their eulogy was, “They say to us that we must be concerned not merely about who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers.”
That is something I have always put a lot of thought on—what exactly does bring a person to commit racial murder? Or hate crimes? What can create the thoughts that make that kind of deed acceptable or even desirable?
In a 1965 memo to J. Edgar Hoover, FBI agents named four men as primary suspects for the bombing. All four men were members of a splinter group of the local Ku Klux Klan. I wanted to know the thoughts of the Klansmen and so I looked up what they believe and what went into their doctrine. We would all be surprised.
They are all about God, the Constitution, and service to others, and Klansmen must help other Klansmen. It seems like a religious organization of worship and prayer and dedication to upholding the Constitution and keeping our country safe and free. Perhaps so far, it seems good. Perhaps. Until one gets to the requirements for joining and what members are expected and compelled to do.
I did not know that back in the 1960s, the Klan was a respected organization. Many people — lawyers, judges, police officers, and even Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black — belonged to it. It was a matter of social climbing. But what was (or is) the four-fold duty of any Klansman? Taken directly from their rule book, Copy-write 1916, by J. W. Simmons of Atlanta, GA., this was found on page 16 of their 54-page book: 1). To worship God; 2). be patriotic toward our country; 3). be devoted and loyal to our Klan and Emperor, and 4). to practice clannishness toward his fellow Klansmen.
Then their Creed on page 2 states their dedication to God and the Constitution and such and yet also includes this paragraph: “We avow the distinction between the races of mankind as same has been decreed by the Creator, and we shall ever be true in the faithful maintenance of White Supremacy and will strenuously oppose any compromise thereof in any and all things.” What that clearly says, although masked in softer tones, is that Klansmen firmly believe they are better than all other people and will go to any extremes to prove it and show it and maintain that superiority, even if it means eliminating those who are not of the Klan.
On page 13, it says: “Give us to know that each Klansman by the process of thought and conduct determines his own destiny, good or bad: May he forsake the bad and choose and strive for the good, remembering always that the living Christ is a Klansman’s criterion of character.” Does that not sound as though they take Jesus to be some kind of model for being a Klansman? If a Klansman-to-be ever read about the life of Jesus, would they ever come across even one instance
of where Jesus physically hurt or killed another living soul? Never!
His character was spotless and Godlike at all times, displaying kindness and love for all. He did not discriminate or shun those of any color. And to follow his exemplary behavior could only lead to a good outcome or destiny.
On page 25-26, the requirements for becoming a bonafide member of the KKK is laid out by a list of 10 questions that must all be answered with an emphatic YES. They are (as listed in the book): 1. Is the motive prompting your ambition to be a Klansman serious and unselfish? 2. Are you a native-born white, Gentile American citizen? (You know the old saying, “I would never want to be part of a group that would have me for a member”? With a little tweak, that could be read as, “I want to be part of a group that would only have white, Gentile American citizens and no one else as members.”) 3. Are you absolutely opposed to and free of any allegiance of any nature to any cause, government, people, sect or ruler that is foreign to the United States of America? 4. Do you believe in the tenets of the Christian religion? (According to Wikipedia, the tenets of Christianity are: Belief in God the Father, Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and the Holy Spirit. The death, descent into hell, resurrection and ascension of Christ. The holiness of the Church and the communion of saints. Christ’s second coming, the Day of Judgment and salvation of the faithful. I guess they can believe all that and still murder.) 5. Do you esteem the United States of America and its institutions above any other government, civil, political or ecclesiastical, in the whole world? 6. Will you, without mental reservation, take a solemn oath to defend, preserve and enforce same? (That means, to defend, preserve and enforce white supremacy.) 7. Do you believe in clannishness and will you faithfully practice same towards Klansmen? 8. Do you believe in and will you faithfully strive for the eternal maintenance of white supremacy? (This is the big one that allows Klansmen to do what they do—up to torture and killing. Martin Luther King could not and would not accept that behavior to be foisted upon black people or upon any people.) 9. Will you faithfully obey our constitution and laws, and conform willingly to all our usages, requirements and regulations? (THEIR requirements and regulations, WHATEVER they would be—and we’ve seen the results of some of those requirements.) 10. Can you be always depended on? (The real question is, to do what?)
Still, without stating so in harsh terms, they are asking if you will do ANYTHING they ask you to do, making it seem like it will be in harmony with the Constitution and the Christian faith.
Martin Luther King Jr. is still a hero in my eyes. He had many fine examples as his role models, not the least of which was Gandhi. There are no white supremacist heroes and there never will be. The God I
believe in is not a white supremacist—in fact, his son, Jesus, was not even white. And while there are many mansions in heaven, there are no separate “rooms” to accommodate the different races or religions. Would anyone (except white supremacists) really want a God who did not love us all? Yet we can choose to turn away from him because of our free will, which he granted us. Our end result is always what we choose.
Thank you, Martin Luther King Jr., for all you did.
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Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.