Nelson: KKK fliers unfortunate but not earth-shaking

The appearance of “recruiting” fliers dropped on east Medford driveways from a group calling itself United Northern and Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan has alarmed many residents. It’s repugnant, but not surprising, given the recent resurgence of openly expressing racist attitudes here and elsewhere in the country.

It’s important not to dismiss this incident entirely. But it’s also a good idea to keep it in perspective.

It’s unlikely that there are more than a handful of local residents who are actual members of any active Klan organization. Fliers with similar racist content have appeared from time to time over the past couple of years, first with Nazi symbolism, now with Klan-inspired content. There aren’t many neo-Nazis wandering about either, but fliers and handbills might give the impression they are more numerous than they really are.

The most recent fliers prominently display the words “integrity, respect and freedom” and call for “the return of family values and morals.” The fliers also display the internet address of a website of the “United Northern and Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.” The site declares the group’s goal is to “unite White Christians” to uphold a twisted vision of an America that does not resemble any America that ever was or ever will be. In general terms, it plays on the unfounded fear of immigrants, gays, non-Christians and people of color.

This fear is nonsense, of course, but it resonates with those who are inclined to look for someone else to blame for their own failures.

This is not to say that racist attitudes don’t exist in Medford. They do, and they always have. But the vast majority of local residents reject appeals to join shadowy groups claiming to work for the “preservation of the white race.”

Southern Oregon and the state as a whole have a checkered history when it comes to race relations. The Klan was active here in the 1920s, as it was in many parts of the country. But the days of Klan parades through town by day and burning crosses by night are relics of the past, and efforts to revive them with transparent appeals to hatred are doomed to failure.

As one local resident noted, despite the “warm and fuzzy” nature of the language on the fliers, “My 12-year-old grandson saw right through that immediately.”

Reach Editorial Page Editor Gary Nelson at gnelson@rosebudmedia.com.

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