Groucho Marx famously said, “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member.” I’m thinking about joining a club that I thought would never accept me as a member. A Ku Klux Klan chapter is now accepting Jews.
My only public comment about the KKK, in 1987, was supportive — sort of. When the Charleston City Council in South Carolina, where I live, asked for citizen comments about whether to grant the KKK a parade permit to march, I said, “The Ku Klux Klan has done hundreds of horrible things, but I don’t want to deny them the one appropriate thing they do — use their free speech right to demonstrate for a cause.” The Klan was allowed to march, and it was especially ironic that the KKK Grand Dragon had to listen when our black, Jewish police chief, Reuben Greenberg, read him the permit rules and regulations.
So why would a liberal Jew like me even consider joining a hate group like the Ku Klux Klan?
1. I like diversity.
I’m happy when groups become more inclusive. Only one KKK chapter thus far is opening its membership to Jews, as well as to blacks and gays, but that’s a start. I also enjoy seeing hate groups argue among themselves about changing traditions. KKK Imperial Wizard Bradley Jenkins said about John Abarr, who started this new chapter: “That man’s going against everything the bylaws of the constitution of the KKK say.” This reminds me of a piece in The Onion about a small group of Klan reformers who claimed that blacks and Jews may be partially related to human, or White, beings, a controversial view that challenged one of the most dearly held Klan beliefs.