No group brings to mind images of hatred, violence and sheer ugliness more than the Ku Klux Klan. But is it possible that today's iteration of the KKK looks remarkably different from the iconic images of white men in white robes and white hoods, burning crosses and terrorizing black people (and those who were allies of blacks)? The answer, according to a new project by photojournalist Anthony Karen, is yes and no.
Karen goes "under the hood" in parts of the Midwest, North Carolina and Louisiana to show us a glimpse of what the 2013 version of the Ku Klux Klan looks like. According to an interview with the Daily Mail, the New York-based Karen found today's members to be "no different than somebody living next door." These days, Karen says, members of the KKK are closer to us than we think but rarely ever look like the historic images found in historic films like The Birth of a Nation. "You'd only know they were in the Klan if they decided to share that with you, had a distinguishing emblem on a T-shirt or a racially themed tattoo," he says.
But many traditions for which the KKK has become known still exist. The photos show that Klansmen still wear the hoods to attend meetings and initiation ceremonies. They may not ride around on horseback anymore (members are shown near their trucks and motorcycles), but they still hide out in plain sight, such as a Klansmen Karen met who works by day as an engineer on a subway. Another is shown with a tattoo of a noose running down his back. The cross-burning ceremonies still take place, although, Karen notes, today's Klan prefers to use the term " 'cross lighting' as it 'dispels darkness, [and] brings truth and freedom to the world.' It bears witness to the light of Christ, according to their beliefs."
Today's KKK no longer has the following it once had. At the height of the organization's popularity, there were milions of members throughout the United States; now, according to the Mail, there are only 5,000 to 8,000. And for those who still walk among us, there have been attempts to bridge the gap between their group and other minority groups such as the NAACP.
Back in August, in Casper, Wyo., members of the local NAACP chapter met with a representative of the United Klans of America after reports of black men being attacked by KKK members in nearby Gilette, Wyo. The meeting ended with John Abarr handing over registration money to become a member of the NAACP.
Read more at the Daily Mail.
Jozen Cummings is the author and creator of the popular relationship blog Until I Get Married, which is currently in development for a television series with Warner Bros. He also hosts a weekly podcast with WNYC about Empire called Empire Afterparty, is a contributor at VerySmartBrothas.com and works at Twitter as an editorial curator. Follow him on Twitter.