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Guest Opinion: KKK fliers are anything but harmless

The Racial Equity Coalition is a grassroots organization in the Rogue Valley dedicated to fostering communities where people of all races can be valued. We write today in response to the recruitment fliers distributed by The United Northern and Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan on Sunday, May 6, to residents of east Medford.

In a Mail Tribune article May 7, reporter Kaylee Tornay confirmed that residents of residential neighborhoods in east Medford received recruitment fliers and enclosed candies in an attempt to solicit new members. Tornay also wrote that the KKK has historically been a violent organization, and that some historically racist state and local policies were influenced by known Klan members. As such, for communities of color and communities of non-dominant faiths, these fliers and the white supremacist organizations they represent are acts of aggression: They recall and encourage hate in our community. We must stand together as a community to deplore these acts.

While today’s KKK is using what appears to be a “soft,” patriotic approach to recruitment through its use of words such as “Integrity,” “Respect” and “Freedom,” we want to challenge assumptions that fliers like these are harmless; let us not be fooled at the rhetoric that still contains an implicit threat of violence. While the flier claims the KKK “does not believe in unprovoked violence” this raises the question, what, exactly, is “unprovoked violence?” Furthermore, is provocation connected to notions of safety? Brothers Thomas Kanewakeron Gray and Lloyd Skanahwati Gray recently experienced what happens to people of color when they are perceived to be a threat to white folks. While they were attending a campus tour at Colorado State University, a parent associated with the tour called police, citing that she felt “unsafe” because the brothers were “too quiet” during the tour. As a result, these two college students were removed from their college tour by police. We ask you, how can shyness cause someone else to feel unsafe? Also, if one can argue that the university is a relatively protected space, then what happens when someone feels “unsafe” or “provoked” outside of protected spaces or institutions?

On their website, The United Northern and Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan list “self preservation,” “the advancement of White Christian America,” and the “safety of White, Christian families” as some of their core values. Does this mean that those who do not fit the “white” and/or “Christian” categories are “provocative” just by existing? Why is the safety of all families not a concern? While Medford Police Lt. Justin Ivens said the Police Department cannot pursue an investigation in relation to the fliers because of protections afforded by the First Ammendment, we hope that that the Medford PD and other law enforcement agencies will affirm that all families are entitled to protection. We know that historically and currently, people of color and those of non-dominant faiths are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators, and given the current politically tense environment, it is more important than ever to ensure that we are creating a safe, welcoming and inclusive community by speaking out against acts of hate.

The recruitment materials state that the KKK is “looking for like-minded men and women from your area.” We trust that residents of the Rogue Valley will not be like-minded. We trust that residents of the Rogue Valley can see beyond the sugar-coating most explicitly symbolized by the candy enclosed in the recruitment packets. We trust that residents will value a society that is inclusive of all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, language and religion.

Alma Rosa Alvarez is a member of the Racial Equity Coalition.