“Peaceful.” The word used to describe last week’s meeting between the NAACP and the KKK.
In what many believe is their first meeting ever, on Saturday, August 31, the NAACP and the KKK sat down and had a meeting that has been described by many accounts as “peaceful.”
According to Al Jazeera, Jimmy Simmons, president of the Casper, Wyoming branch of the NAACP, reached out last June to John Abarr (pictured above), a kleagle with the United Klans of America from Great Falls, Wyoming. Simmons saw a rise in hate crimes in his area and because the authorities weren’t responding properly, he sought to understand the inner workings of the hate himself.
“If you want to talk about hate, get a hater,” Simmons said. “Let him tell you something about hate.”
The National Association for the Advanced of Colored People is an African-American civil rights organization formed in 1909. Its mission then, as now, is “to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination.”
The Ku Klux Klan dates back far earlier, with many accounts stating that the first Klan formed in the late 1860s. Their influence has ebbed and flowed since then, but the third and most recent development of the Klan arose post-World War II in an attempt to prevent the advancement of the civil rights movement.
This groundbreaking meeting took months of negotiating – an awesome act in and of itself – especially when considering that Abarr seems a tough character to understand based on paper alone. Abbar, according to the Star Tribune:
“…makes a point of proving he’s a member of anti-racism groups. Membership: American Civil Liberties Union, the hate-group watchdog Southern Poverty Law Center, and oh, yes — also the United Klans of America, an organization with a website image gallery that includes a target with an Obama campaign symbol bull’s-eye.”
So was the meeting worth it? Abarr doesn’t think so:
“I don’t know if we accomplished too much. We’re not about violence. We’re about being proud to be white.”
Simmons, on the other hand, believes the meeting worthwhile:
“It’s about opening dialogue with a group that claims they’re trying to reform themselves from violence.”
The finale, according to many sources, was how the meeting came to an end:
The Klan organizer paid $30 to join the NAACP, and then gave an additional $20 as a donation.
At the least, the meeting seemed to show each organization the human side of the other and this is one time-tested way to help temper hate. As MLK once famously said:
“We never get rid of an enemy by meeting hate with hate; we get rid of an enemy by getting rid of enmity.”