Even as tens of thousands of people – black and white, young and old, preachers and presidents – poured into Selma, Al., last weekend to commemorate the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” and the voting rights victories that followed, members of the Ku Klux Klan were driving through town, throwing plastic bags stuffed with KKK flyers and rocks onto doorsteps and lawns.
In the last two weeks, Robert Jones, the grand dragon of the Loyal White Knights of the KKK, told AL.com that members of his group had distributed some 4,000 flyers to random homes throughout Selma and Montgomery, some 50 miles away. The rocks inside the flyer bags were meant to act as paperweights to keep the hate from blowing away.
“We pretty much put out flyers, some against King and some against immigration,” Jones told AL.com. “It’s times for the American people to wake up to these falsehoods that they preach about MLK.”
But that wasn’t all. A few days before the eyes of the country turned to Selma, a neo-Confederate group, Friends of Forrest, Inc., once again put up a racially charged billboard about a half-mile from the Edmund Pettus Bridge – the site of the Bloody Sunday beating of mostly black civil rights marchers on March 7, 1965.
The billboard, with the Confederate flag in the background, depicts Confederate Army General and later KKK leader Nathan Bedford Forrest, astride a warhorse next to his signature battle cry: “Keep the skeer [scare] on ‘em.”
Friends of Forrest has ties to the League of the South (LOS), a neo-Confederate hate group that promotes racial separation, argues that slavery was ordained by God, and advocates modern-day secession. (Lately, LOS has been paying for billboards of its own across the south and plastered with one word: “Secede.”)
Patricia Goodwin, the head of Friends of Forrest, told the New York Daily News, that the billboard “was put there with positive intent to ask people who come to Selma to explore and enjoy our 19th century history.”
Meanwhile, over the weekend, a group of young racists at the University of Oklahoma weren’t wearing white sheets as an expression of their racist views. They were dressed in black tie.
Several members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE), one of America’s largest college fraternities, were caught on video chanting a racist ditty as they headed for a black-tie affair on a bus Saturday night.
“There will never be a nigger SAE. There will never be a nigger SAE. You can hang him from a tree, but he will never sign with me. There will never be a nigger SAE.”
Someone posted the 9-second video to Youtube and by late Sunday night, according to The New York Times, Sigma Alpha Epsilon closed its University of Oklahoma chapter. Hours later, university president, David Boren, said at an early morning anti-racism rally that the university had severed all ties with the fraternity and ordered it members out of the frat house by midnight.
In a written statement directed at the frat boys on the bus, Boren said, “You are disgraceful. You have violated all that we stand for. You should not have the privilege of calling yourselves ‘Sooners.’ Real Sooners are not racist. Real Sooners are not bigots.”
It has indeed been a busy few days in the fairy tale kingdom called post-racial America.
But in the real America, at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Saturday, President Barack Obama embraced Congressman John Lewis, whose head was cracked open by a state trooper’s billy club on Bloody Sunday. Then the president addressed the nation.
“In one afternoon 50 years ago,” the president said, “so much of our turbulent history – the stain of slavery and anguish of civil war; the yoke of segregation and tyranny of Jim Crow; the death of four little girls in Birmingham; and the dream of a Baptist preacher – all that history met on this bridge.”
Obama said he and the thousands of people gathered at the bridge with him had come to “honor the courage of ordinary Americans willing to endure billy clubs and the chastening rod; tear gas and the trampling hoof; men and women who despite the gush of blood and splintered bone would stay true to their North Star and keep marching towards justice.”
Although the country has come far since that Bloody Sunday, the president said that there is still work to be done.
“We just need to open our eyes,” he said, “and our ears, and our hearts to know that this nation’s racial history still casts a long shadow upon us.”
And just a few blocks away, a plastic bag filled with rocks and hate was tossed on another doorstep.