BIRMINGHAM, AL—For nearly 150 years, the Ku Klux Klan has been steadfast in its commitment to the ideals of its founders. These traditional values—preservation of White cultural heritage, strict adherence to Christian principles, and broad-based coalition-building against the inferior dog-races of Asia and Africa—have served to strengthen the Klan throughout its long and proud history.
But now, these time-honored traditions are under siege.
Though the midnight raids and public hangings are no longer as visible as they once were, the importance of preserving Klan tradition is now greater than ever, as hundreds of loosely associated KKK factions—some official, most not—struggle to preserve a sense of unity in an increasingly divided Aryan Nation.
Today, the Klan's fragile, hard-won cohesion is unraveling, as a splinter group of progress-minded Klansmen is challenging one of the group's most dearly held beliefs: the subhuman, animal status of non-White minorities. This small group of reformers is claiming nothing less than that blacks and Jews may be partially related to human, or White, beings. And that has many in the Klan crying foul.
"It's heresy is what it is," said Clement Dawes, former KKK Grand Wizard and Clarksdale, MS, yam farmer. "Saying that blacks and Jews are half-human, I can't believe it. They may as well be claiming that slavery and lynching are half-wrong."
Critics say the reformers are betraying the teachings of their forefathers. But the reformers say they're only trying to bring the Klan into the modern era.
"New advances in the mapping of the human genome show that there's a strong possibility that blacks and Jews—and perhaps even the wily Chinee—are partially human, sharing some genetic characteristics with Whites," said Reform KKK Grand Exalted Cyclops Darrell Walker, speaking from the splinter group's Birmingham headquarters. "I didn't set out to be a crusader, but we cannot blindly shut out the truth, however disturbing it may be. If we do, we are as bad as the filthy, savage blacks and Jews themselves, for as Jesus said, we have eyes but do not see."
Pastor Fred Knox of Smyrna, GA, Grand Exalted Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, disagreed. "These liberal scum are selling out everything right and true that they profess to believe in," Knox said. "They do not deserve to wear the robes and hoods of a true Klansman. It pains my heart to hear such lies from the mouth of a White man."
Stung by such criticism, Walker and his followers insist they are as committed to virulent race-hate as any God-fearing KKK member. Calling Knox's remarks "lies twisting our words to his own narrow-minded agenda," he said his group's motives are pure.
"Why must they sow the seeds of discord instead of working with us in peace? We all want to drive the niggers back to Africa. We all hate the Jew bankers," Walker said. "We all want the same thing: for the mongrel races to be driven from our shores so that good Christian White folk can live in peace. Is that so wrong?"
But to Walker's enemies, such pleas for tolerance and understanding are merely the slippery, fork-tongued rhetoric of Jew-loving race traitors.
"Oh, the words fall like honey from his lips," said longtime KKK member Anthony Couch of Monroe, LA. "Mr. Walker distorts words like the Jew-run media. Blacks part human—the very idea! What does he expect us to do, half-hate them?"
Some Klansmen say that while Walker's ideas are sound, he is moving too quickly and should aim for more gradual change.
"People need time," said Grand Dragon Joseph Hamm, a noted moderate. "You can't erase deeply held beliefs just like that. He may as well expect the whole Aryan community to magically achieve widespread literacy, presto, overnight."
Yet despite the opposition, Walker's movement is slowly winning support. A growing number of KKK members feel that the organization is too inflexible, and that Klan doctrine is too tradition-bound.
"Of course, minorities should be hunted and persecuted; nobody's saying they shouldn't," KKK member Bob Parrish of Bessemer, AL, said. "But to ignore the truth is to choose to live in ignorance, and White people deserve better than that. These are the '90s. Will we turn against each other in superstition and prejudice? Or will we embrace the future and oppose all non-Whites together as brothers? It's time for a more enlightened hatred."
Will Walker's tiny Reform KKK movement survive the death threats, bomb scares and other attacks from the traditionalists who oppose them? Will it someday achieve its goal of transforming the entire White supremacist movement? Only time will tell.
"I see a day when we will no longer view ourselves as 'reformists' or 'traditionalists,' but simply as Klansmen, united in our mutual hatred of others," Walker said. "I do not know if I will live to see this glorious day, but I do know this: The candle of truth will never be snuffed out by fear, hatred and ignorance. We shall overcome."