The Ku Klux Klan is expanding its recruitment campaign.
Residents of communities across the country have reported finding plastic bags in their front yards containing rocks, candy and recruitment flyers asking, “Are there troubles in your neighborhood? Contact the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan today!” The messages have been found in states across the country, including California, New Jersey, Michigan, Alabama and Kansas, where, last week, the FBI arrested a group of white men plotting to bomb an apartment building where more than 100 Somali meatpackers live.
In South Carolina, the group distributed recruitment flyers at Clemson University in October. Rob Locklear, an “exalted cyclops” (chief officer) with the organization, said the KKK is a separatist organization, not a hate group, and is not condoning violence but raising awareness. “By going out and distributing our literature we’re letting people know we are very much still relevant. We are very much still here,” he said.
The KKK originally formed in the 1860s, following the end of slavery, and became integrated into local governments, churches and law enforcement. By the 1920s, the KKK claimed four million members, and freely terrorized and murdered Black Americans and their allies. During the Civil Rights era, as more people called for racial equality, the KKK responded with beatings, lynchings and a campaign of firebombing homes, businesses and churches.
After a series of Klan members were prosecuted for their crimes in the latter part of the 20th century, public sentiment turned against them and the organization receded into the background — but never entirely went away. In 2016, the Klan is making a comeback. Emboldened by a political climate in which coded racism has fallen away in favor of “straight talk,” the Klan is hoping to find an eager audience for its message of white supremacy, and has expanded its targets to include LGBTQ people, Muslims and immigrants.
The timing isn’t coincidental: The Klan’s comeback has been fueled by factors including white fury over a Black president in the White House, a highly visible campaign against police brutality and the 2016 presidential campaign, during which the Republican nominee has expressed views that align with the Klan’s message of white supremacy. White nationalists, militia groups, far right extremists and neo-Nazi websites have enthusiastically endorsed Trump,