This week, a KKK organization called the Soldiers of the Cross is hosting a white supremacy training camp in the hills outside of Harrison. This is not new; "Klan camp" has been around since at least 2013, a significant year in the timeline of recent black uprisings and movement building. It was in 2013 that George Zimmerman was acquitted of the murder of Trayvon Martin, the year that the Dream Defenders took over the Florida Capitol in protest of the state's "stand your ground" law, and the year in which national conversations about racial injustice blossomed into the #BlackLivesMatter movement of today.
The KKK saw an opportunity to welcome white people who fear that the extension of their rights to others in society will result in their loss of power. Unless we offer a counter narrative and wage a campaign for the hearts and minds of our white communities, we risk abandoning people to the culture of silence and fear that protects and swells these extremist groups.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has been tracking hate group activity in the U.S. for many years. It reported an increase in instances of violent vigilante acts and more organized plots starting in 2010. An official within the Department of Homeland Security warned of a similar spark in white supremacist recruitment and Klan growth after Obama's presidential win. History shows that these spikes occur as a backlash to periods in which large numbers of marginalized people are on the move to shift power dynamics. It can be in the form of racist symbols and institutions, such as the "rebel"-themed high school built in Fort Smith to accommodate white flight after school desegregation began, or unjust policies such as voter ID laws that tend to disenfranchise poor communities of color.
Domestic terrorism — the FBI's term, not mine — since the Charleston, S.C., shooting, including at least seven arson attacks on black churches, appears primed to increase. Folks who harbor beliefs about racial cleansing and the superiority of the white race have become emboldened to endanger the lives of our neighbors, friends and fellow citizens of color. Whether or not groups like Soldiers of the Cross publicly promote violence, their rhetoric speaks to the Dylan Roofs of the world and seeks to justify the intimidation and destruction that we are seeing.
Black organizing is gaining a momentum that hasn't been seen in decades, enough to spark the latest wave of repression and anti-black violence across the country. While we are outraged, there's little room for surprise. Arkansas has one of the highest numbers of hate groups per capita in the United States. White supremacists thrive on the culture of silence in places like Harrison.
It's time for us to stand up and reject our current status as an incubator for domestic terrorism. Those of us in Little Rock, Fayetteville and other urban areas are called to support the efforts of rural white communities in our state who are standing up to the hate groups that have nestled into their towns.
It might be daunting or even terrifying to consider speaking out about the KKK. But there is a growing effort across the state and the region to make the South a much harder place for them to carry out their mission.
Join a social media campaign this week while the Klan trains leaders in the Ozarks. Use the hashtag #theotherarkansas and #wemaketheroadbywalking and put your voice out there with a selfie or message about rooting out hate. The time is right to dismantle cultures of silence that protect white supremacy and to build new futures not just for ourselves, but for the generations to come.
Acadia Roher is an organizer with Little Rock Collective Liberation and other social justice groups in Central Arkansas.