By David White
Last February 15, marked the 100th anniversary of one of the biggest Ku Klux Klan rallies in the state which was called by the Luling mayor and city council of the time. It was believed to be the first such invitation to the KKK in the nation by a municipal body. An article from the Luling Signal in 1922 estimated about 10,000 people were in attendance with an estimated 1,200 cars lined up and down Main Street for the final parade.
In a Dec. 15, 1921 Lockhart Post Register, there was a notice with a headline that said “RESOLUTIONS WHEREBY LULING INVITES KU KLUX PARADE” and read “Whereas, a local organization of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan is reported to exist in Luling; and Whereas, we believe a very large majority of the people of this City and County approve of the principles adopted by the Klan as set forth in the public press; and Whereas, we believe a public demonstration by said Klan would be greatly appreciated by the local citizenship and of benefit to the community; Therefore, be it resolved by the City Council of the City of Luling, in regular session assembled; That a cordial invitation be extended to the local organization of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan to conduct one of their parades (such as have been conducted in other places in the State) in Luling. Be it resolved further: That the City Council assure said organization should they accept this invitation, that they will be amply protected and not in any way interfered with.” It was signed by Mayor C.T. Greenwood.
I was hesitant to share this clip from the past because I didn’t want to throw shade on the community of Luling, but wanted to draw attention to the fact that this was only 100 years ago – just a few generations ago – and while our mindsets may be a lot different than they were back then – some better, some worse – we shouldn’t ignore history, for fear of repeating it.
There’s a strong sentiment to not teach the unsavory moments of American history, as witnessed in school boards across the nation. Many parents argue that it shames white children, making them feel guilty, while victimizing children of color. I think there’s some wise man or therapist somewhere that says you should only feel guilty about your present and your future and you can only learn from your past.
If I’m guilty of something, it’s choosing to stay silent in a discussion that I used to think didn’t involve me.
I remember visiting my 100-plus-year-old grandmother in the nursing home when someone asked my “Nanny” how she met her late husband many years ago. My grandmother had a black roommate in the nursing home at the time and she listened in on the story as my grandmother told it. My jaw figuratively dropped when she talked about meeting my grandfather, who was the son of a sax player. They met at a dance somewhere in Kansas where my “Papa’s” dad was playing. They met wandering outside the venue because they were both too shy to dance. My grandfather proposed they walk over to the next hill where he heard the Klan would be burning a cross and they could sit and watch the lights.
When I lifted my jaw back up, I looked at my grandmother’s roommate, and then back at my grandmother. Neither seemed phased by this topic even though I was a bit horrified. There weren’t any angry looks, nor discussions about race relations at that moment. I came to believe that both of these elderly women just came to grips that that’s the way it was back then. Or that my grandmother’s roommate was deaf.
For a moment, I may have judged my grandmother’s silent witnessing of this event by not having the reaction most of us would have today, instead concentrating on a boy instead of a burning cross of oppression. But it’s no different in the silence many of us practice today. And when a vocal minority asserts that institutional racism doesn’t exist, the silent majority must assert that it does, or history could start moving in the wrong direction again.