The Klan marched on the front page of my Denver Post this morning. By the thousands. A river of white.
Not to worry, exactly. It was 1926, not 2021, the black-and-white photo illustrating the story of a new initiative to lift the hood off the Klan’s immense influence once upon a time.
Our state is getting a fresh look at the terrorist group and its power thanks to the organization History Colorado.
Among other artifacts, History Colorado is sharing the ledgers of the state Klan from the 1920s — 30,000 proud signatures of membership, including Gov. Clarence Morley and sainted Denver Mayor Benjamin Stapleton.
How big was the Klan in our fair state? So big, according to the Post, that it accounted for nearly a third of the white, U.S.-born men in the city when that photo was taken.
This is not history to be downplayed. This is history, period.
Ah, but see what’s happening in a host of Republican-controlled states that seek to play down the role of racism, race-based violence and general oppression.
Texas’ Republican-controlled Legislature just sent to the governor a measure under which, one presumes, a book featuring the Klan on the march would have the caption: “Patriotic Christians exhibit spring fashions.”
A raft of legislation in red states has seized on Donald Trump’s urgings to prohibit what he calls “racial propaganda,” ie. actually pointing out the sins of racist predecessors which led to the racist systems of today, as well as a racist president.
The New York Times attributes to Texas “some of the most aggressive efforts to control the teaching of American history.”
A measure sent to the governor would limit teacher-led discussions of current events, prohibit course credit for “political activism or lobbying” – that’s citizenship, children – and ban the teaching of the 1619 Project, which shines a necessary light on America’s racist past.
In other words, Republicans who have swarmed to embrace Trump’s Big Lie want their American history to be a big lie as well.
Sadly, Jim Crow hardly is history in red-state America. Republican vote-suppression measures are aimed squarely at marginalized individuals and the poor — a clear effort to restore the good old days of white supremacy.
In Texas, a Democratic walk-out has stopped, until Gov. Greg Abbott convenes a special session, a Republican vote-suppression measure that had Crow all over it. Ol’ Jim’s just in different clothes and driving a shiny SUV.
Particularly telling is the language that would prohibit voting during morning hours on the last Sunday pre-election, when black churches traditionally hold “souls to the polls” activities.
So, too, with bans on the drive-through voting and 24-hour voting used by racially diverse Harris County. Could the GOP be more obvious?
(Republican leaders would like for voters not to notice how obvious, however, and are backtracking just a bit on some of the worst things about their election "reform" bill — like calling the new Sunday voting time a "typo" that presumably will not be in a newly drafted proposal.)
This comes on the heels of voter identification requirements that a federal judge deemed clearly intended to curb minority turnout.
All this without any evidence of the widespread fraud on which the Republicans’ scheming is predicated.
Little wonder why, using the Big Lie as pretext, Republicans are in panic mode to alter voting laws to help them hold onto power.
Gallup reports that the GOP is losing people, with 49 percent of Americans identifying as Democrats or Democrat-leaning independents, and 40 percent as Republican (25 percent) or Republican-leaning independents.
Could this be because the GOP has so firmly identified itself as the White Person’s Party?
But the GOP’s self-limiting condition is not confined to race. For one, its measures to target LGBTQ individuals, particularly transgendered individuals, are turning off young Americans.
Lest it not be told elsewhere, say in Texas schools: Among the Ku Klux Klan’s objects of terror were homosexuals. Before police atrocities triggered the Stonewall riot in New York City, something just as horrible happened when Klan members stormed and wrecked the La Loma night spot in Miami, a pronouncement of what “Christian” meant to these “patriots.”
This is the story of America. Tell it. In the telling, acknowledge that we have yet to make real the founders’ statement, all of us being “created equal.”
Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.