On Dec. 3, one of the more disappointing moments since the election of Donald Trump as U.S. President happened as a small spinoff of the KKK paraded through Roxboro, N.C. to celebrate Trump’s victory. Roxboro, just happens to be my father’s hometown.
It goes deeper than that for me. The Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan is based in Pelham, N.C., a very small township in Caswell County. Caswell County borders Person County, where Roxboro is located, to the immediate west.
KKK pick up truck drives through Roxboro
Credit: Rob Crilly
My roots run deep in both counties. My mother was born and raised in Caswell County. She is now buried there along with both of her parents and one of her sisters. I still have two uncles, their wives, three cousins and two aunts there. We even have land there that is the inheritance of my sisters and me. That land was land that my ancestors once worked as sharecroppers.
My father and all his seven siblings were raised in the same home on Jones St. in Roxboro. Both of his parents are buried there. I still have an aunt, her husband, an uncle, his wife and several cousins there.
Look, North Carolina is the South and I am under no illusions about what it once was and what it still is. I’ve had several conversations with my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles about what it was like growing up there. There is a reason why my parents were on the first thing smoking out of there when they got married in 1971.
But I LOVE this place. It is another home to me. I spent every summer there from the time I was about four-years-old until I was 15. I enjoyed my maternal grandfathers farm and seeing the animals. I loved tagging along with my uncle to Bushy Fork school to see him play pick-up basketball. I learned how to shoot a rifle there. I learned how to fish there. I fell in love with sports there.
So, to see images of KKK flags riding through places I love hurt me. Not just because it happened. The pops up from time-to-time and has been especially emboldened over the past year. However, this is a southern community, which I’m afraid isn’t equipped to or won’t protect the people I love there.
The state of North Carolina is currently a shit-show. They actively tried to disenfranchise Black voters, passed an anti-LGBT bathroom law and the current Republican governor is trying to steal an election because he lost.
The cherry on top of the bigotry sundae is that the parade, despite not having the permits, was not only allowed to happen, but was protected by police escort. In fact, it was originally supposed to happen in Pelham. However, when these cowards learned of planned protests they changed their minds at the last minute.
I write this because many of us live in major population centers in Northeast, Midwest and California where this thing is frowned upon. Racism is around in those places, but its subtle and covert. Any outward signs of racism are stamped out quickly. I’ve heard plenty folks in these places say that they’ll be ok through a Trump presidency because they always have been.
But they don’t live in places like Roxboro, Pelham or any small town in Mississippi, South Carolina or Louisiana. I want you all to think about those people and realize they don’t have the cultural or government mechanisms to protect them against nonsense like the KKK.
Whatever you do, think about what it’s like to live in these places and don’t forget about the people who are living there now.