Righting America

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The Klan is Coming to Dayton (Again) | Righting America

by William Trollinger

Picture of advertisement for presentation on the history of white supremacy.
Flier for William Trollinger’s upcoming presentation at Precious Blood Church in Dayton, Ohio.

This Saturday, May 25, the Klan-affiliated Honorable Sacred Knights of Madison, Indiana will be holding a rally at Courthouse Square in downtown Dayton. Concerned about the possibility of violence, the city of Dayton filed a lawsuit in March in order to keep the projected dozen or so white supremacists from rallying in paramilitary fashion. This past week both sides agreed to a consent decree: the Honorable Sacred Knights are prohibited from bringing shields, bats, long guns, and assault rifles to Courthouse Square, but they are allowed to wear masks and carry sidearms.  

Of course, the Indiana white supremacists want to spark some sort of incident that they can then publicize via social media. So, the city, the University of Dayton (UD), and the Dayton unit of the NAACP are asking folks to stay away. On the other hand, Dayton’s New Black Panther chapter is calling people to Courthouse Square on the 25th to challenge the presence of the Honorable Sacred Knights.

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of participating in a one hour radio roundtable devoted to the May 25 rally. This program was broadcast on WCSU – the Central State University radio station – and included Nan Whaley (mayor of Dayton), Derrick Foward (president of Dayton’s NAACP unit), Donald Domineck (head of Dayton’s New Black Panthers chapter), Dr. Gabriela Pickett (artist and member of Welcome Dayton committee), and myself. Perhaps the most interesting part of this expertly moderated conversation was the lively disagreement between Forward and Domineck regarding how to respond to the white supremacy rally (an exchange with resonances of Martin and Malcolm). Listen to the conversation, from WCSU’s Talk To Me below. (Note that the first six minutes include an interview with Sen. Sherrod Brown.)

While city leaders have asked Daytonians to stay away from Courthouse Square this Saturday, they have also mounted a United Against Hate initiative. UD has also hosted a series of events in response to the May 25 rally (and in response to the posting of several neo-Nazi fliers throughout campus), including a well-attended April 9 White Supremacy teach-in (sponsored by UD’s Human Rights Center).

This Thursday, May 23, I will be speaking at Precious Blood Church here in Dayton on the topic, “The Past and Present of the KKK and White Supremacy.” One of the points I will be making is that it makes sense that the Honorable Sacred Knights are rallying in Dayton. In the 1920s, this city was one of the nation’s great Klan hotbeds, with frequent rallies at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds (just two blocks from UD) that attracted tens of thousands Klansmen, Klanswomen, and enthusiastic spectators.

Of course, the white nationalists from Indiana can only dream of such numbers on May 25. But as I will also mention, the Honorable Sacred Knights is just one in a constellation of white supremacist organizations currently active in America, all of which can be conveniently and iconically grouped under the term “Ku Klux Klan.”  

It should go without saying that 26 months with Donald Trump as president has been a great boon to white nationalism. But Trump is much more the beneficiary of American racism than he is its creator.

That is to say, in the United States we have only just started coming to terms with the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow. We have a long ways to go.