Wednesday, July 25, 2018

A white guy explains the Tinley Park KKK handbills

Tintype of a Klansman (detail) (Metropolitan Museum of Art)
     I celebrate white culture all the time.
     Once a year, I take 100 readers to the opera. Which isn’t exclusively white, not with amazing bass-baritone Eric Owens singing Wotan in the Lyric’s Ring Cycle, plus a wide spectrum of singers of all hues.
     But all told, taken as a whole, opera is still pretty darn white. As are many of my interests: Samuel Johnson, “Downton Abbey” and Wilco, which the L.A. Weekly picked as the second whitest musicians of all time, after Kenny G. I’ve written about Wilco, watched them record a song. Heck, I’ve been to front man Jeff Tweedy’s home. I saw he smoked a lot, but never noticed his pervasive whiteness.
Handbill found in Tinley Park
 (photo by Amber Stahl)
     Then again, being white myself, I wouldn’t, would I? Not noticing stuff is the essence of whiteness — our privilege, as it were. I moved to Northbrook, never noticing the high school was, at the time, 0.1 percent black. I went through 17 years of formal education, and it never occurred to me until much later that I managed to do so without reading a single book by anybody who was black. I took a course in Japanese fiction. But no Toni Morrison, no Ralph Ellison, no Richard Wright.  
     This lapse has led to other embarrassments. When columnist Leonard Pitts’ novel “Grant Park” showed up at the paper, and I decided to give it a read, I was surprised — surprised! — to discover that it was a novel about black people. The characters were black. Which made sense, the author being black.
     I wouldn’t mention any of this — always prudent for a white guy to avoid the topic of race — but a reader shared a photo of the KKK fliers found in the southwestern suburbs Sunday, as reported by the Tinley Park Patch.

     The broadside begins, in the all-caps which the Far Right mistakes for emphatic boldness:
     I’d be prouder if the quotation marks around “YOU CAN SAY IT” were around the following sentence instead, proceeded by a colon — obsession with punctuation, also very white.

To continue reading, click here.


  1. Hmmm. Wilco. I guess I would have never thought of them that way or at least not Tweedy because I associate him with Jewish stuff (his family is Jewish....his kids went to Jewish camp with mine. And for many years i read his brother-in-law's blog "Jew Eat Yet?") I guess the article was more about his music, but you were referring to him personally, as in how you could have missed the whole oh so white thing.

    It's not that I don't think we Jews have white privilege. We most definitely do. But of course it's not the kind of "White" the KKK is referring to. Not the kind of "White" that those flyers want to celebrate. I mean, those Charlottesville marchers liked to changes up their "you will not replace us" with a nice rounds of "Jew will not replace us" just for fun and all.

  2. Wow these guys are from a different era. Still using a dot matrix printer? Shows you how far they didn't progress. Natural selection will take care of them eventually.

    1. Avi: No doubt natural selection will take care of me in due time (rapidly approaching no doubt), but my dot matrix printer is as capable of transcribing rational, articulate, progressive opinions as my laser jet. I find the old fashioned printer indispensable in filling out forms -- try that with the new fangled lasers.


  3. A frightening photo...and that's the point.

  4. I have never heard (not that I ever expect to) a coherent explanation of just what constitutes "white culture." Is it Shakespeare, except for that whole unfortunate Othello thing? Is it DaVinci and Michelangelo, despite how the KKK fulminated against Italians for decades? Is it classical music, if you leave out non-Christian embarrassments like Mahler, Mendelssohn, Leonard Bernstein and others too numerous to mention?

    Or can it be that "white culture" is a nonexistent and nonsensical construct born of infantile "what about me?" resentment?

    (BTW, great analogy with the handicapped parking spaces.)

  5. Growing up in what was then lily-white Wisconsin I saw few black people but knew generally that they had been ill done to. Then one incident showed me how different growing up black could be. A young black man from Alabama, heading for the University of Wisconsin, joined the staff of a summer camp I worked at. He was very popular--good athlete, played the guitar--and we decided to initiate him into an honorary society of senior staff councilors. The initiation ceremony was conducted late at night around the campfire. With a few others I was sent to fetch him, and one of our number gently shook him awake as we stood around his bed. I will never forget the look of terror on his face.


  6. If white culture includes nazis, even relatively harmless ones like Frank Collin, count me out.

  7. These assholes are easy to identify as assholes and don't pose much of a threat. Your typically prejudiced suburban white person realizes this is too much prejudice. They don't want to be identified with Klansmen or Nazis.

    What worries me more is the pseudo-academic Rush Limbaugh crowd. They create detailed arguments and revised history based on the premise that liberals are basically rats. When I was a kid I realized that religion was stupid and assumed that religious people must be stupid, too. I learned, though, that some of them are very smart. Stupid beliefs don't necessarily mean stupid person. That's the scary part.

  8. True story.

    Back in the Eighties, a black guy sold me a small pocket mirror at a flea market in Evanston. What made it a must-have was the group photo on the back...of Klansmen in red satin robes and hoods, posing on the steps of the courthouse in Augusta, GA, circa 1965. I absolutely hate that much-abused term "jaw-dropping", but that was the usual response whenever I showed it off.

    I kept that unusual artifact for about a decade. Then my cousin, revealed that certain people in his small town, only a couple of hours from Augusta, had invited him to join a certain "sporting and gun club" that met secretly out in the boondocks. He was pretty sure they were members of a local Klan chapter. I never asked him how he knew, but I did give him that mirror. You'd have thought I had gifted him with a bar of gold bullion. He loved it. And he laughed his ass off.

    The best part of this story? He's Jewish and a Yankee from Michigan. Those boys had no clue. None. Klansmen are not the brightest crayons in the box...just the whitest.


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