Photos, the Klan, & Old Negro Spirituals

The big buzz on the USM campus is the upcoming Ku Klux Klan photo exhibit which arrives on USM’s lovely campus next week. This buzz is a welcomed but sticky relief from the past two weeks buzz.

Why welcome? Because the latest big thing on USM’s campus was the mourning of Mugshots, a local bar in Hattiesburg. Not that I too don’t miss the raggedy old shack on 4th St., but seriously people it’s time to let go. It’s gone, gone, gone, burned down to the ground, not a board left standing, GONE. It’s time to move on and buy your large buckets of beer from elsewhere. I know it’s hard but it’s only necessary.

Why sticky? Well because it’s the Klan. And we’re in Mississippi. And we’re at USM, a school where about 40% of the student population is black and a good 10-25% are of non-white ethnicity. So yeah sticky is the nice way of saying it.

I haven’t had too much to say about the situation prior to now because: 1. I was busy doing other stuff that actually related to my daily life 2. Didn’t actually give two flying flips because well I mean whatever.  But it got brought up today in one of my classes and it got me to thinking and the thought kinda went as such:

“Oh crap the Klan is coming to MY school. This is actually happening. I’m black. Aww hell there’s going to be a race riot. Dang. Hide ya kids, hide ya wide.”

Being raised in New Orleans, blatant racism and Klan presence wasn’t something I incurred alot. Not saying I never felt the tired and aged stings of racism but I never had anyone burn a cross in my front lawn or spray paint Nigga on my garage. I was always informed that the KKK was still alive and well but it never presented itself as a real situation which I’d have to come across. So basically the Klan were like poorly seasoned crawfish and bad brass bands to me, I knew they existed but I never actually truly believed in them because they weren’t a part of my  daily living.

Well now I get to deal with them, well indirectly, but still they’re going to possibly be in the same vicinity as me.

The whole root of the Klan appearance is the photography exhibit being showcased at my school. An alumnus, James Edward Bates, spent 13 years documenting the Klan through photos and he chose USM to be the first American stop on his exhibit tour-which has previously been shown in London and various other places in Europe.

Quite an honor, right?

Ehhhhh, I guess so? Kinda? Sorta? Maybe?

But the issue comes in the fact that some representatives for the Klan are bound to come to the exhibit to defend their organization or to support the Klan in general or merely just out of curiosity to see how their organization is portrayed. What member of any organization wouldn’t want to see how their organization was shown in its first U.S. stop? I doubt they’re gonna roll up in their big hate mobile shouting anti-colored slurs while decked out in their best hood and robe. I’m sure they’re going to just pull up in their vehicle, wearing their best church outfit, and view the exhibit.

I’m not afraid of the representatives just because I mean, come on, they are members of the Ku Klux Klan. Any organization where you have to do everything under the cover of darkness, and in groups, while hidden under sheets and hoods doesn’t scare me. Clearly they are of no threat to me while they are alone…or in daylight…or not in sheets.  But that aside, I’m way more worried about the reaction to the exhibit and the representatives than the exhibit and reps themselves.

Here are two of the many ways this can unfold:

Scenario 1:

*rep walks to exhibit*

*large group of coloreds see representative*

Random Black: Aye. AYE! You that dude from the Klan.

Klan Representative: *acts like he didn’t hear random black person*

Friend of RB: Yea. YEAH that’s the dude from the Klan. Man i got something for your sheet wearing tail nah!!!!

RB: Yeah!! Yeah where yo’ hood now?

*rep tries to escape the impending act of coonery but alas he cannot escape so he calls his Klan homies and they posse up KKK style…..race riot ensues… gets blown up*

Scenario 2:

*All the black people on campus walk around singing old Negro spirituals and mean mugging every white male they think might possibly be in the Klan*

Although scenario 2 is the more peaceful option it still isn’t the best. The best thing to do is to act like nothing’s wrong.

Yeah, he doth not approve of race riots but I'm sure he did enjoy a good spiritual

Nothing’s out of the norm.

Clearly violence won’t solve the problem. I see this exhibit as more of a test to see just how far we have come. If a Klansmen can walk onto a black populated campus without being threatened, chased, ran over, ‘hit with that dougie” and/or having “one popped off” in him I feel that is winning. Not stopping them from coming or protesting the exhibit or rolling up on them like you rep Brick Squad.

Just ignore it if it bothers you. And if it doesn’t bother you and you’re actually interested in seeing the exhibit, then go. Say hi to the Klan guy, maybe even smile at him {but don’t get too crazy cuz you know he is a member of the Klan and they kinda just hate everyone anyway} but don’t jump stupid and decide to reenact the mob scene in ‘Do the Right Thing’ that’s just kinda stupid and it makes you appear to be just as ignorant as you assume Klan members to be.

What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear them.

SN: i’m NOT discouraging Old Negro Spiritual singing, it’s actually quite good for the soul and I do enjoy partaking in some Negro spiritual singing myself. I do a mean rendition of ‘Let My People Go”!

Go with God, and spread peace


“In God I trust, I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”-Psalm 56:11


8 thoughts on “Photos, the Klan, & Old Negro Spirituals

  1. I highly doubt a riot will ensue. I think people will just walk around incredibly uncomfortable or angry. I am sure USM will be anticipating potential reactions and I bet you anything there will some kind of security surrounding the event. Like when we watched Roots in my white school once- all the White kids were scared like “oooh we’re gonna get jumped” but all the Black kids just silently sat around for days shaking our heads at the atrocity we just witnessed. We didn’t even see anyone, we were just in a daze at (in)humanity.

    1. Yeah I’m sure thats all that happens. People are just freaking out about it now plus they’re ticked about the way the school newspaper talked about it.
      Basically they put a huge picture of a Klansmen on the front page and then explained the exhibit. That was just stupid.

  2. Another option: Light will be shed on what a heinous organization the Klan really is and people who tend to turn a blind eye to the actions, reactions, and history of the Klan will have to actually think (for once in their narrow minded lives) about the act of silence being an endorsement of the horrid behaviors of past and prestent actions. I believe if something sheds light on history, then we should learn and grown from it. Was it Samuel Clements who said if we do not know our history we are doomed to repeat it?
    I’ve seen the exhibit. It is most enlighting and informative and will certainly make people rethink “old ideas” and allow room for new skin to be grown to better put the past in the past and move forward into the 21st century as intelligent, educated and informed individuals. We do not want to repeat the past, but create a future for all Mississippians to realize their full potential without the idea of negative flashbacks influencing ideas before the exhibit is even presented!

  3. haha I second Option 1. All kidding aside, I think it’s interesting that the exhibit will be held at a predominately black school. It’s an experience for both parties to attend an exhibit that held so much hostility in the past and has made racial relations what they are today. I agree that it’s sort of a test, but for both parties, to see how time has effected the racial tensions that exist even till today.

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