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July 30, 2014, 1:15 pm

‘DWB’ and the new, improved Klan

I just saw that the International Keystone Knights of the KKK has applied to adopt a section of a highway in Appalachian Georgia. That’s the program where organizations volunteer to keep a stretch of highway clean and, in exchange, they get recognized by having a sign with their name on it erected on the side of the road.

It was interesting, but it didn’t actually surprise me. After all, I had always had a sneaking suspicion that the Ku Klux Klan was already in charge of the highway systems in the United States of America.

What, that’s not true?

Well, how do you explain the findings in a federal study, in 2005, that informed us that Black (9.5 percent) and Hispanic (8.8 percent) drivers were “much more likely to be searched (after traffic stops) than whites (3.6 percent), and that Blacks (4.5 percent) were more than twice as likely as whites (2.1 percent) to be arrested” as a part of such highway stops? Let’s not forget that the same report disclosed that in police-public contacts, force was used against Blacks 4.4 percent of the time, but against whites just 1.2 percent of the time.

A 2007 study by the Arizona Department of Public Safety disclosed that African Americans and Hispanics stopped by Arizona State Police were more likely to be searched “on all major highways included in this analysis.” In fact, African Americans and Hispanics were searched 2.5 times as frequently as whites were. Even worse, minorities, including African Americans, were also consistently stopped for longer periods of time than whites, on all interstate highways, in Arizona.

A related 2004 report, by Dr. Frederic Solop of Northern Arizona University, concluded that: “Hispanics and African Americans are consistently stopped….at rates disproportionately greater than their representation within the violator population….These differences are statistically significant and fit the Supreme Court’s definition of the presence of racial and ethnic discrimination.”

A 2003 report by the University of Nevada Las Vegas, found that, while Blacks comprised about 6 percent of Nevada’s population, they, somehow, represented 12 percent of all highway stops by state police. Also, Black drivers were more likely (4.6 percent) than whites (2.8 percent) to be handcuffed at some point during the stop. As in Arizona, Black drivers were searched at a rate twice that of white drivers. Oh, and by the way, the police also found in their searches that drugs were less frequently seized during stops of Blacks and Hispanics, as compared to whites.

Nevertheless, Black drivers were arrested at more than twice the rate as white drivers (4.5 percent versus 2.5 percent).

It’s good to know that none of this activity has escaped the attention of professional observers. Two member/ authors of the American Sociological Association — Donald Tomaskovic-Devey, of the University of Massachusetts, and Patricia Warren, of Florida State University — have found that “racial profiling — stopping or searching cars and drivers based primarily on race, rather than any other suspicion or observed violation of the law — is particularly problematic because it’s a form of discrimination, enacted and organized by federal and local governments.”

I couldn’t have said that any better, myself.

In Missouri, the authors found that, in 2007, Blacks were 78 percent more likely than whites to be searched and Hispanics were 118 percent more likely, even though contraband was found 25 percent less often among Black drivers and 38 percent less often among Hispanic drivers.

Here’s the interesting part: The authors have also shed a bit of much-needed light on what causes the disparity in Black, white and Hispanic treatment by police officers, on the highway.

“The two most common sources of individual bias,” they wrote, “are conscious prejudices and unconscious cognitive bias.” But, they make a very strong point (I hope it’s true) that individual “prejudices against African Americans (is) on the decline in the United States.”

They do, however, go on, then, to explain that, despite that pattern, “implicit” biases against minorities are widespread in the population. While only about 10 percent of the white population will admit they have explicitly racist attitudes, more than three-quarters display implicit, anti-Black bias.

So, there it is.

Maybe that explains, finally, why Black folks, even in “post-racial America” are still disproportionately unemployed, underemployed, incarcerated and socially ostracized. While it’s no longer socially acceptable to SAY you are a racist, it’s apparently still “cool” for three-fourths of the country to do racially biased things to Blacks, at virtually every level of social and economic interaction.

My guess is that the members of the Klu Klux Klan, bless their hearts, have figured all of this out, and are just fine with it. Rather than appear overtly racist, therefore, the Klan is now adopting, “officially,” the attitude of the three-fourths of Americans who “display implicit, anti-Black bias.” No real change in their mission statement, just better PR efforts.

According to a lady named April Chambers, the secretary of the International Keystone Knights of the KKK, “All we want to do is to adopt a highway. We’re not doing it for publicity.

We’re doing it to keep the mountains beautiful. People throwing trash out on the side of the road … that ain’t right.”

For a minute, I almost found myself agreeing with those sentiments. The Klan lady actually had me going, right up to the point where she added: “We’re not racist. We just want to be with white people. If that’s a crime, then I don’t know. It’s alright to be Black and Latino and be proud, but you can’t be white and proud. I don’t understand it.”

That’s where she lost me. That’s when I started to wonder: As bad as it already is to be “driving while Black(DWB)” through America, how much worse it would probably be to be a Black driver and to have your car break down, one late night on Route 515, in Georgia, and to look out of your car window and read the sign that says that the road you’re traveling is officially under the guidance of the friendly, local Klu Klux Klan, whose members, by the way, “only want to be with white people.”

Because, I imagine they read the same research that the rest of us read, Klan members clearly understand that many of their attitudes are held, in a private way, by most Americans. So, they are simply changing their tactics. They’re attempting to “re-brand” themselves, as we have suggested African Americans should have done, a while ago.

This is no longer “your father’s Klu Klux Klan;” you know … the one that used to terrorize the South (and many, many parts of the North); the one that was irrevocably committed to stopping Black folks from exercising their right to vote; and the one that, from time to time, found it convenient and appropriate to lynch the occasional Negro. No, this is the new and improved Ku Klux Klan.

This isn’t, of course, the first time that the Klan has tried to adopt a highway. They made a similar application for the Adopt A Highway program, in Missouri, in 1997. The rejection of their application was overturned in federal court and, for a brief period, they were the official guardian of a section of that state’s highway.

Maybe that had something to do with the point I made earlier about Black drivers on Missouri highways being 78 percent more likely than whites to be searched, when their cars were stopped.

As I said at the outset, when I saw the news about the Georgia Klan’s Adopt a Highway application, I wasn’t surprised at all. I had longed believed that they, or their “cousins,” were in charge of our nation’s highways, anyway.

Keep an eye on all of this … and, by all means, watch where you’re driving.

 

A. Bruce Crawley is president and principal owner of Millennium 3 Management Inc.