Seems that in the era of Trump "economic anxiety" that cable television seeks to remain relevant by giving us the fuzzy, warm, homey view of your average KKK Imperial Wizard and his family.
The setup is warm and fuzzy. “Girls, I got y’all some gifts,” says Steven Howard, presenting his two young daughters with prettily wrapped packages, which they eagerly rip into. The cameras then reveal what’s inside: the distinctive pointed hoods of the Ku Klux Klan.
“Giving my girls my legacy,” Mr. Howard says as he helps place them on their heads.
It’s a chilling introduction to “Generation KKK,” an eight-part documentary series, beginning Jan. 10 on A&E, that burrows in with high-ranking Klan members and their families. The series also takes A&E, best known for long-running favorites like “Hoarders” and “Intervention,” into programming waters more complicated — and politically charged — than anything it has shown before.
That meant finding a delicate balance between winning the trust of the Klan members and ensuring the show didn’t propagate views the network’s executives abhor. “We certainly didn’t want the show to be seen as a platform for the views of the KKK,” said Rob Sharenow, general manager of A&E. “The only political agenda is that we really do stand against hate.”
I see. But we really need to hear why they harbor that hate in their own words in order to understand them, I guess. At least, that's what the pundits tell me.
The series follows Mr. Howard, the Imperial Wizard of the North Mississippi White Knights; Chris Buckley, a Grand Knighthawk with the North Georgia White Knights; and Richard Nichols, the Grand Dragon in the Tennessee Knights of the Invisible Empire.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the number of independent Klan chapters in the United States (there is no national organization) grew from 72 to 190 between 2014 and 2015. The Anti-Defamation League estimates membership at 3,000, while the law center places the figure at between 5,000 and 8,000. And the indoctrination of young people, members say, is crucial to the Klan’s survival.
“We all here for the same reason: we’re here for the preservation of our race and the preservation of our people,” Mr. Howard says on the show, voicing his dream of becoming the next David Duke. “If we don’t fight this battle, our children ain’t gonna have a future.”
The series follows the adventures of these happy warriors as they learn and grow!
As they sought to capture this relatively unseen world, the filmmakers also incorporated the anti-hate activists Daryle Lamont Jenkins, Arno Michaelis and Bryon Widner as they tried to persuade members to leave the Klan — or at least to leave their children out of it.
That meant introducing Mr. Buckley’s wife, Melissa, to Mr. Michaelis, a former white supremacist now with Serve 2 Unite, which works with young people to prevent violent extremism. Mr. Buckley’s Klan involvement had led his wife into a dangerous confrontation with three African-American women at a Walmart, and she wanted to squelch her now-5-year-old son’s mimicry of his father’s racial slurs and “white power” salutes before he started school.
“I hate to say that I was even at the point of leaving him, because he’s my best friend, he’s my kids’ father, he’s everything to me,” she said in a phone interview. “But it got to the point where, if I’m not safe with him, why be with him?”
For Mr. Buckley, an Army veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq, the Klan offered a band of brothers not unlike the military and an outlet for the rage he felt toward those he blamed for his emotional and financial precariousness.
“People involved in hate groups do so because they’re suffering,” Mr. Michaelis said. “I really draw upon that truth to respond to their aggression with compassion, and doing so makes a very powerful first impression.”
While I'm glad to hear that somebody's trying to deprogram these folks and absolutely support their efforts to do so, I have to admit my personal biases of you know, being black in America in 2016 makes me quite leery of how long it's going to take to try to reform the tens of millions of other Trump voters who may be suffering from this particular strain of "economic anxiety" and that I'm not super stoked to watch a series about humanizing the reasons for their hatred towards me.
I don't need to watch the series. Thanks to November's election I get to live it instead.
That's more than enough for me. Thanks.