Looking out: White Power!?

Wednesday, August 14, 1996

"Sometimes irony can be so socially constructive, as well as instructive, that it rises above even the highest court in the land." — Irving Elmer Bell

For the sake of irony here, try to imagine a Ku Klux Klansman who takes great pleasure in terrorising people of colour and African-Americans in particular. You know, the kind who burn crosses and use (when on their very best behaviour) generalisations such as "you people" instead of the n-word.

Picture him among a group of like-minded Klanspeople dressed in white sheets and Confederate flags. Unless you have been living on the moon, you know that the KKK is, at the very least, one of the USA's most violent terrorist groups.

To give a bit more definition and contrast to this Klansman's image, let us also imagine an African-American who is attending college. She has seen and endured her share of racism in the difficult 18 years she has lived.

Now let me bring both people them together in a scene that you can, just as easily, imagine. A group of 15 Klanspeople is gathered for a demonstration inside the parking lot of a local police station. Around them is a 2½ metre chain-link fence that protects the demonstrators from a rapidly growing angry mob of perhaps 1000 anti-Klan protesters. Angry taunts and many vehement exchanges follow.

Shortly thereafter, the largely Anglo-American mob of protesters began hurling a good deal more than verbal insults; they attacked the demonstrators in earnest.

Amid the chaos one Klansman was set upon and viciously beaten to the ground, clubbed and kicked into a thoroughly bloody mass of agony. It was difficult to discern the outline of the Confederate flag on the front of his shirt. It seemed as if he was sinking beneath an angry churning surface in a white sea of kicking-waves, ??? flailing arms and feet.

Black, alone and intent upon saving the Klansman from what might well have been death, the young woman dived into that sea. She took up a life-saving position of a human shield atop his bloody body. Then, like a captain commanding compassion from a mutinous crew, she demanded that he be left alone.

With amazing swiftness, the foaming mob calmed and became eerily still.

What courage! What compassion! The irony of it all deeply moved me as I viewed the newscast. On June 22, the scene I have described took place in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Five of the anti-Klan protesters were arrested on charges that ranged from disorderly conduct to assault. Thirty police officers were treated for chemical irritation.

An African-American woman turned out to be that Klansman's saviour. I wonder whether he would still be willing to burn a cross on her lawn (if she were to move into the house next door to his) or if, when he heals from his injuries he will go back to that cowardly group of racists again and hoist a fist in the air while chanting, "White Power!"
[The writer is a prisoner on death row in the United States. He is happy to answer letters commenting on his columns. He can be written to at: Brandon Astor Jones, EF-122216, G2-51, Jackson State Prison, PO Box 3877, Jackson, GA 30233, USA. Australians Against Executions is raising funds to pay for a lawyer for Brandon's resentencing trial. So far $7000 has been raised. If you can help, please make cheques payable to the Brandon Astor Jones Defence Account and post to 10 Palara Place, Dee Why NSW 2099. Donations to the Brandon Astor Jones Defence Account may also be made at any Commonwealth Bank, account No. 2127 1003 7638.]