Apparently politicians rarely learn from the mistakes of their fellow politicians.
Take Georgia state representative Tommie Benton, who on Thursday told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the Ku Klux Klan “made a lot of people straighten up.”
“I’m not saying what they did was right,” he added. “It’s just the way things were.” But he believes that the Klan “was not so much a racist thing but a vigilante thing to keep law and order.”
On Friday Democratic lawmakers struck back.
If nothing else, Representative Benton’s declaration transforms Hillary Clinton’s comments earlier this week concerning Reconstruction (and the response to them) into a minor kerfuffle.
I can’t wait for the people who whine that I talk too much about historical memory and heritage to protest that I should keep away from those subjects in favor of “safer” topics. The fact is that if this is how people remember the past, they will use those understandings in the present to shape our future … and I for one don’t care for an America in which people say that the KKK’s purpose was “to keep law and order.” Its purpose was to maintain white supremacy through violence and terrorism, and to thwart the promise of emancipation by any means necessary.
That someone characterizes an effort to denounce actual terrorism as “cultural terrorism” stuns me. That the same person also has proposed another bill that “would require streets named in honor of veterans that have been renamed since 1968 [to] revert back to their original names” suggests what a hypocrite he is when it comes to “cultural terrorism.” Clearly 1968 is no accident: it’s the year Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was murdered.
You bet this is a fight over history and memory. It’s going to say much about us as a society if we celebrate domestic terrorists while mocking the struggle for liberty, equality, justice, and opportunity. And if condemning such behavior leads to critics calling me some leftist socialist Marxist fascist academic, so be it. At least then we’ll know where they are coming from.