This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Thursday, August 1, 1991

May 1, 1991 - KKK

A couple of months ago, a friend of mine went to the Anne Frank Exhibit at the Denver Museum of Natural History.

It touched her, changed her. She said that what she learned from the trip was this: people must not be silent when human ghouls are on the march.

It was that experience that triggered her response to the notice in the newspaper: the Ku Klux Klan was going to stage a march through downtown Denver. The Jewish Anti-Defamation League responded quickly -- "stay away," they advised. "Go to the Anne Frank Exhibit instead."

But my friend felt that belied the whole point of Anne Frank's message. She believed -- and not without cost -- that it was her humanitarian duty to show up, to visibly protest what she believed was the naked bigotry of the KKK and the Aryan Nation.
So she went to the counter-KKK demonstration.

Her first surprise came when she discovered that there were many, many more people than the 40 people she expected, or, for that matter, the 600 people later reported by the media.

No way, she said. Two thousand. Minimum.

She said that she wound up standing next to a more experienced protester who offered some surprisingly useful advice. The crowd started chanting, "No Nazis! No KKK! No Fascist USA!"

The protester told her to say just "No Nazis!" then pause while the rest of the crowd picked up the middle chant. Then, shout, "No Fascist USA!"

"If you shout everything," said the more seasoned soul, "you lose your voice in just a few hours."

Many people have been disturbed by the attention given the KKK and Aryan Nation advocates. The public should have stayed away, say some people.

But my friend had a different perspective.

"There was a moment," she said, "when I looked around me and there were white people, and African-Americans, and Chicanos, and Asians, and Native Americans, and they were all standing together. And someone told me that the Bloods and the Crips had declared a truce that day, just so they could all stand together against racism.

"And I thought .... what a great thing these KKK and Aryan Nation people had done. What else could have brought so many people together, finding themselves on the same side, when before all they knew about were their differences?"

Then my friend described something else.

For the first time in her life, she said, she found herself part of a mob. The mob has its own mind, she said, something different than the sum of its parts.

She found herself circling with several other smaller mobs around the cornered KKK marchers. At one point, she said, there were three groups of at least 200 to 400 people each, who had surrounded the skinheads. The counter-demonstraters were shouting their slogans, and my friend looked down and saw the fear, the real terror, of the KKK and Aryan Nation young people who suddenly found themselves utterly outnumbered by people who viewed them as scum, as anathema.

"I don't like to see young people who are scared," said my friend. "I don't care what they believe."

"But," she added after a moment, "maybe in that instant they understood for the first time what it might be like to be a black person, or a Jew, or any of those people that they had targeted, and to be surrounded by a gang of people who only wanted to ... hurt them. Maybe kill them."

She remembered hearing a policeman, on horseback, announce over a megaphone: "We've lost control."

The bus that finally showed up to take the marchers away was a last, desperate attempt on the part of the authorities to prevent carnage. It worked; it separated the opposing forces.

This issue is not simple. There are no quick solutions to conflict between people, not ever.

But if these issues seem important to you, you have options.

Start doing some research. The Douglas Public Library District has a number of titles worthy of your consideration. You might start with "Blood in the Face: the Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nations, Nazi Skinheads, and the Rise of a New White Culture," by James Ridgeway.

If you read the paper at all, consider this: it could be that you can't just uncritically accept the things you read in the paper. Maybe it takes a little more time, a little more effort, a little more investment of yourself, to figure out what's right.

Maybe the future of this country depends on it.

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