Editorial: Wire Receives Letter from the KKK

Martina Pansze, Editor-In-Chief

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When an envelope addressed to the “Campus Student Media Group” appeared in The Wire’s mailbox, it had a stamp in place of a return address. The stamp read “Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan” along with a logo of a hooded figure on a rearing horse holding a cross, with the confederate and Betsy Ross flags in the background.

The letter was promotional, seemingly mass-produced. Addressed to “the Editor,” it begins: “Recently we have come under extreme fire for being a hate group. This couldn’t be further from the truth. We … only wish to keep the white race pure as God intended for His chosen people. Only those who live in ignorance call us hateful.” It encouraged The Wire to condemn “harmful literature”–including a fiction novel titled “The Slave Players.” According to the letter, the novel was “written just to agitate the college-educated who always think they have a better answer for the woes of the world.”

Why a chapter of the KKK chose to reach out to Whitman is beyond me. I have since heard from an editor of The Willamette Collegian that their publication received an identical letter, as did the student-run newspaper groups at Linfield and Lewis and Clark Colleges.

The group, which is based in North Carolina, is modelled after the most historically militant and violent chapter of the Klan, “The White Knights.” Throughout their existence, the White Knights have been responsible for bombings, church burnings and homicide–often directed at civil rights activists. Today, the Loyal White Knights is considered the largest active KKK chapter. The Washington Post reported that the Loyal White Knights applied for a rally permit in Charlottesville this past July for the Unite the Right event that took a violent turn, leaving one protester dead.

I am at a loss for words, except to condemn the Loyal White Knights in the strongest possible terms. The content of the letter and the purpose of the group itself are abhorring beyond belief. And yet, it must be believed and faced fully. Although this letter appears to come from North Carolina, according to a 2017 report by the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are 21 hate groups still active in Washington state, including two KKK chapters: one in Vancouver and the other in Spokane. Both in the political mainstream as well as close to home, explicit white supremacy is not dead, nor has it ever been in the colonized United States.

At Whitman we dissect the messy myriad of ways that the past can be concretely seen today. For those like myself whose privilege allows us to sometimes forget, let this serve as a reminder for how important this work is. Let us not ignore or normalize white supremacy, candid or not, and let us refuse to let racist words, actions and policies in our communities go unchallenged.

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