Ku Klux-Klan (KKK) is defined in Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English as a “secret American political organization of Protestant White men who opposed people of other races or religions.” Activities of the dreadful KKK were at the peak during the era of slave labour in America, especially during the rising protests by Black slaves for freedom. A few White supporters who took side with the Black slaves in their agitations became the major targets of attack by the KKK. Arson was their trade mark, in addition to the use of arms to terrorise people. They were rarely arrested by security agencies despite the crimes they committed.
Therefore, Ku Klux-Klan culture has to do with acts of terrorism and arson by oppressive conservative forces, and acts of resistance by victims of oppression. What was Ku Klux-Klan in America long ago would be called cult groups in Nigeria today. Their peculiarities include organized, clandestine acts of terrorism and criminality, backed by faceless sponsors, with tentacles reaching out to vulnerable people in society.
In the case of America, even some high-ranking lawenforcement officers had sympathy for and gave some protection to the dreadful Ku Klux-Klan terrorists. Their goal was to preserve the conservative culture of slave masters.
The phenomenon of conservatism and oppression as well as the forces which oppose and resist tyranny and retrogression are global issues. Despite claims to democratic culture and a higher level of civilization, there are those who benefit from and trade in oppression and tyranny, neither is there any abatement in crimes against humanity. Forms of oppression merely wear new garbs.
The Ku Klux-Klan phenomenon evolved along with with capitalist movement, whereby wealth and power determined rights and positions in society. Religion also wore the garb of hypocrisy, whereby White supremacists and slave masters, as patrons of the KKK, would appear in priestly robes in the day, but at night wear masks to ply their trade. The story of Harriet Tubman, as a symbol of resistance to oppression and tyranny, stands as an eternal indictment on human hypocrisy. The house where Harriet lived in Auburn, New York, is a museum now owned and operated by African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.
The story of Haiti, a nation that came into being by the heroic efforts of Black slaves, is another indictment on the hypocrisy of a “civilized world.” The people of Haiti fought and won a 10-year war with France (the bloodiest in modern history) and declared their independence. While other countries in the Americas operated slavery, Haiti in its 1805 Independence Constitution, provided freedom or any person of African descent arriving on its shores.
Sir Hilary Beckles, pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University of West Indies, left a record that the tragedy of Haiti did not come from natural disasters but from two nations – France and America. These nations, he said: “betrayed, failed and destroyed the dream that was Haiti; crushed to dust in an effort to destroy the flower of freedom and the seed of justice” by imposition of heavy debts.
Despite the greed, oppression and hypocrisy of powerful nations, groups and individuals, the resilience of the human spirit in the midst of adversities is a great tribute worthy of recognition. That a group of people came together to establish a secret organization devoted to gangsterism and terrorism on the ground of racial and religious differences, is also a sad tribute to the culture of oppression. The irony of human hypocrisy is that the high priests of gansterism and oppression are usually in the forefront in pointing fingers at weaker operators of same malfeasance.
If we take the example of leadership in Nigeria since 1960, we find the hypocrisy of a new regime always heaping blames upon and describing the immediate-past regime as the architect of every ill in the country. Yet, an average Nigerian holds the opinion that all those who had held political offices are the enemies and oppressors of the masses. Like the cabals of the Ku Klux-Klan who wore masks at night to operate, members of the Nigerian political class are not only clever gamblers and opportunists, but they are also smooth operators. The culture of resistance to such operators is a tribute to human resilience worthy of recognition.
Dr. Amirize is a retired lecturer at the Rivers State University, PH.