A Ku Klux Klan leader told The Atlantic Wire that one racist Virginia mom and her 7-year-old son's Halloween costume has ruined the Klan's reputation. "There's no respect for the Klan," said Bradley Jenkins, the Imperial Wizard of the United Klans of America — a Southern Poverty Law Center-designated active hate group.
For Halloween this year, Jessica Black (who is white) dressed her 7-year-old son Jacob in full KKK regalia for trick-or-treating, a costume choice which grabbed national attention as an example of horribly racist costumes Americans donned this year. She cited "family tradition" for her decision, telling the local ABC affiliate, "My brother has [worn it] when he was in kindergarten and when he was 13." She added that she supports the KKK's views on racial segregation. "It's supposed to be white with white, black with black, man with woman and all of that. That's what the KKK stands for," she said.
Jenkins believes that the Blacks crossed a line. "People look at the United Klan as a hate organization. … We don't hate anyone. Hate is such a strong word," he says. "The Klan has seven sacred symbols and the robe is one of them. I don't know where she's getting that from. None of this is a joke," he told The Atlantic Wire. Especially since, he points out, you have to be 18 years old to join the Klan.
Jenkins, 40, told me he's been part of the White Nationalist movement and is now a leader and spokesman for the United Klans of America, which once was one of the largest branches of the KKK. In 1963, it was United Klans members who = bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, killing four young girls. The group's membership dwindled over the decades, but in recent years Jenkins has, as Vice explained, tried to restart the chapter as a "pro-American" group. (The UKA site still champions "Aryan Ethics" and white supremacy.) Jenkins helped orchestrate a sit-down between the Klan and the NAACP in Wyoming in September. (He's particularly high on the NAACP these days; at one point in our conversation, he said, "There's not even any respect for the NAACP anymore. Not even the military gets the respect it deserves and needs. The respect of everyone is gone.") Earlier this year in Memphis he joined a Crips gang in protesting another Klan chapter's rally.
This Imperial Wizard's stance on tiny Jacob Black's Ku Klux Kostume is at odds with white supremacist message boards. "It's okay to dress 7 year olds as hookers and hobos. Yet a klan costume gets shame and death threats," reads one post on Stormfront. "She stood her ground, brushing off the hysterical overreaction to what was a non-event, and even plugging the Klan and agreeing with their moral stances concerning miscegenation and homosexuality. Very refreshing," another said of Jessica Black.
Jenkins is not refreshed. "That woman had a choice to [dress her kid up as] Frankenstein or an Angry Bird. She made the choice — I don't know, I have no clue why." But he really wishes she hadn't — because it's not helping. "Nowadays we're ostracized … [the way people treat us now] is no different than the way people used to treat African Americans years ago," he said. No different, that is, than the way people like the Ku Klux Klan treated African Americans.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.