Looks like race relations in America are finally moving faux-ward.
An unlikely meeting between representatives of the NAACP and an organizer of the Ku Klux Klan in a Casper, Wyoming hotel this past weekend transpired peacefully (but dramatically) in what is considered the first meeting of its kind.
After months of requesting a summit, President of the Casper NAACP Jimmy Simmons gathered with John Abarr, an organizer for the United Klans of America. The meeting was held under tight security to discuss issues of hate, the Casper Star-Tribune reported.
The meeting ended with Abarr paying $50 to join the civil rights group — after, that is, a slew of derogatory and sometimes racist remarks from the Klansman.
Simmons, acting without the support of higher-ups at the NAACP, arranged the meeting as an attempt to discuss reports of beatings of black men associating with white women and the distribution of KKK literature in the state.
The United Klans of America "imperial wizard," Bradley Jenkins, said he was excited Abarr was meeting with the NAACP. (Yes, imperial wizard really is title given to the highest-ranking Klansman, and no, they cannot make themselves disappear.)
Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, warned the meeting was a step in the wrong direction. “It gives legitimacy to the Klan as an organization you can talk to.”
That’s exactly what Simmons might have been trying to do, until Abarr spoke up about the societal benefits of segregation.
“We want white babies,” he said.
When the subject of current and past instances of hate-driven violence by the Klan was brought up, Abarr said “I just know what it is today...I had relatives in the Klan in the ’20s and they didn’t lynch anybody.”
NAACP representatives were shocked by these comments, and NAACP member Hamilton remarked that “it’s obvious you don’t know the history of your organization…and it’s obvious to me you don’t know what you are.”
Abarr maintains the Klan is not the hate group of the 1960s and 1970s, calling the new Klan a non-violent Christian organization lobbying for conservative politics.
“What I like to do is recruit really radical kids, then calm them down after they join,” he said. He then added that the Klan believes in treating everybody equally. Um, this is the same guy who tweeted this earlier in the year:
@DixieMafiaGM There are way to many Niggers in Montana especially here in Great Falls. Also there are a lot of indians— John Abarr (@TheHoodedone33) March 4, 2013
The meeting ended with Abarr joining the NAACP, adding a $20 donation to the $30 membership fee.
Talk about one bizarre PR move.
(Image: Alan Rogers/Star-Tribune)