21 Feb 2013
- Written by Dr. Karanja A. Ajanaku
While the KKK stands for Ku Klux Klan, the letters actually are an acronym representing standstill and decline.
The group's hooded history is the saga of a group of American citizens who occupy a "hall of shame" that is home to far too many whose beliefs fly in the face of the "ideal" of the country.
Now, a KKK countdown is on. Klan members have applied to rally in Downtown Memphis on March 30. That intention has stirred an array of emotions and has appointed and elected officials engaged in a variety of activities associated with the possibility – indeed the likelihood – of the gathering.
One City Council member has pushed for new police protection guidelines that would include barring the group from wearing masks and saddling them with the expense of additional police protection.
Another is cautioning about the Council landing on the wrong side of free-speech protection and all the no-good that can come from that.
The new head of the Memphis Branch NAACP says the group should just be ignored – something that certainly didn't happen during a previous Klan visit in January 1998. Police hauled out tear gas in that instance, using it on those protesting the Klan's presence. When the smoke cleared, about two-dozen were arrested, windows were shattered and Memphis winced.
Oh yeah, the Klan was protesting national Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This time they're mad about the Council's Feb. 5th renaming of the three Confederate-themed downtown parks – Confederate Park, Nathan Bedford Forrest Park and Jefferson Davis Park – to Memphis Park, Health Sciences Park and Mississippi River Park. Of course, the old Forrest Park is where you find the grave of Nathan Bedford Forrest – post-Civil War Klan leader and a lieutenant general for the Confederacy.
The decision on the pending rally application falls to Police Director Toney Armstrong, who has said he mostly is concerned about the carrying of weapons, noting that he also sees the KKK masks as an issue.
Mayor AC Wharton Jr., meanwhile, is calling on the citizens of Memphis to "just go about our business." He's floated the notion of a celebration of tolerance and diversity, thinking it will speak volumes more than the amplified whimper of the Klan gatherers.
There is plenty of history to make the case for the value of those occupying superior moral ground not allowing themselves to be turned from their principles. They stick to them. And they don't needlessly expose themselves because those of unlike mind decide to make a public show of their position.
Meanwhile, a 7-member committee authorized by a City Council resolution to review the issues involved in the naming of the three downtown parks now has its members. It will be chaired by Councilmen Bill Boyd and Harold Collins.
The committee includes Memphis Branch NAACP President Norman, also senior pastor of First Baptist Broad; Jimmy Ogle, president of the Shelby County Historical Commission; Larry Smith, deputy director of Parks & Neighborhoods for the City of Memphis; Michael Robinson, chairman of African & African American Studies, LeMoyne Owen College; and Dr. Douglas Cupples, longtime professor, Department of History, University of Memphis.
Councilman Jim Strickland offered up the resolution that led to the committee. And it's worth noting that committee member Norman, the NAACP head, already has said he wouldn't have bothered with the renaming of the parks.
In his email noting the naming of the committee, Councilman Boyd wrote, "This is a good representative assembly of Memphians who are capable of providing a reasonable solution for recommendation to the Memphis City Council."
Is there a committee or committees in Memphis' future to arrest the senseless killing and other indications – many of them economic – that Memphis in many ways still is limping along since the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. here 45 years ago this April.
If the Klan rally, or even the idea of it, moves the city an inch closer to coalescing around an idea that can galvanize the bulk of the city in a more positive manner toward resolution of our most pressing social issues, then thank goodness for them.
Meanwhile, if you go to the rally, stay at home, or attend a more positive-themed gathering elsewhere, think before you speak or do.
And, be prepared to be held accountable.