Black Klansman is a memoir that tells the story of how Ron Stallworth, the first black detective in the history of the Colorado Springs Police Department, and his team, infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in an undercover investigation. What started as an information request regarding membership in the KKK (in which Ron Stallworth signed his real name, expecting the reply would be nothing more than a pamphlet or brochure) was replied with a phone call from a local organizer of the Colorado Springs chapter of the KKK. This was where it all began. Stallworth did the phone call communications with the KKK while a CSPD officer called Chuck, a white man, was his double in meetings with the KKK members. The undercover investigation went long and deep enough to gain valuable intelligence about the KKK and another extreme racial hate group called the Posse Comitatus, prevention of several of the Klan’s terroristic cross burnings, and the discovery that several of the U.S. Army and Air Force/NORAD’s personnel were listed as members of the KKK. No Klan members were arrested, no illegal contraband was seized, but this was an intelligence investigation. “Success [in a police investigation] often lies not in what happens but in what you prevent from happening.” – p. 165
Some points I’d like to highlight:
- David Duke, the Grand Wizard of the KKK, “mainstreamed” the white supremacist propaganda of the Klan, making it look professional, polite, acceptable and even friendly. They (the KKK at that time) posed as a nonviolent group, but if the need to use violence arises, they were more than ready.
- This book contains a succinct history of the Klan as well as the anti-Klan organizations (who were as extremely radical as the Klan in their mission), some figures of the civil rights movement like MLK and Stokely Carmichael, and it also answered two of the questions that bothered me the most about the KKK: 1. Why did they wear white robes? and 2. Why did they do cross burnings? (see photo attachments)
- The anti-KKK organizations such as the Progressive Labor Party (PLP), dedicated to fighting the far-right extremism, were no less extreme themselves. The PLP rejected the police and government authority, very much like what is called Antifa today. On the other side of the coin, the hatred spread by the KKK back in Ron Stallworth’s days has never gone away but has been reinvigorated in the dark corners of the internet, Twitter trolls, alt-right publications, and a nativist president. It’s undeniable that our history is always in our present. (page 186-188)
All in all, this book offers more history than action (as well as Ron Stallworth’s personal history as a black cop in a white America), while being highly relevant to today. If you want an insider look to the KKK and how they spread racism and hate, then this is one of the books that can help you. But if you seek action, maybe the movie adaptation (written and directed by Spike Lee, starring John David Washington as Ron Stallworth, Adam Driver as his white guy double, Topher Grace as David Duke, and Laura Harrier) might satisfy you better.
Black Klansman: Race, Hate, and the Undercover Investigation of Lifetime by Ron Stallworth
208 pages, published in July 2018 by Arrow Books
My rating: ♥ ♥ ♥