Student newspapers are one of the places you’re likely to meet Vincentians. Today I met Ferrah Staley, who penned the following article for the Niagara “Wire.” Ferrah is like Frederic Ozanam. She wrote, responding to this:
by Ferrah Staley and Gabrielle Jackson
Our country has a long history of slavery, racism, domestic terrorism, and division. Each one has affected black Americans for many generations emotionally, physically, and psychologically. What most people are afraid to face is that these acts and perspectives are still alive and well today. It is so prominent that it is ingrained in our entire system, from the spaces we live in, how we find education, work and in the ways we see the world around us.
We are constantly divided by race, gender, creed and sexuality while being pinned against each other through ideals of purity and hierarchy. Throughout history, the Ku Klux Klan has continued to emphasize this divide and stood for White supremacy. Coming to me, a black woman in America, these hateful actions hit close to home. I can still remember vividly stories that my grandmother told me about the first time she saw a cross burning in our backyard; somewhere I had played with my family in my younger years. I can still feel that same feeling, hopelessness.
As an editor for the Niagara Wire and as a Black student, receiving a letter from the KKK was alarming. Reading this letter was nothing less than cringe-worthy. “Contradiction” was the first thing that came to mind as I read the letter with my fellow editors:
“Recently we have come under extreme fire for being a hate group. This couldn’t be further from the truth. We follow the teachings of the Bible and only wish to keep the white race pure as God intended for His chosen people. Only those who live in ignorance call us hateful. We wish no harm to anyone if they just leave us alone.”
Signed, Loyal White Knights of the Klu Klux Klan.
“Further from the truth?” How can we look past the years of terror you imposed on black people. As a Catholic institution, how can we allow this type of rhetoric in the name of God without responding to it?
As the letter goes on urging newspapers like ours to back them on banning a book about slavery, it becomes laughable. Receiving this letter evoked several emotions. Even though the letter had been meant to ruffle feathers and get people to side with them at predominantly white institutions (PWIs), it instead infuriated us and prompted us to fight back academically. Like any reputable newspaper, we contacted the writer of the KKK with a list of reasonable questions:
- What exactly do you wish to accomplish from sending this letter? – Do you denounce the violent acts of the KKK in the past?
- Please elaborate on why you believe people are ignorant for calling your group hateful.
- Since you preach white supremacy, in what way do you expect “brown or col- ored” people to support your cause, if at all?
- What does your organization intend to do to reach your goal of keeping “the white race pure as God intended for His chosen people?”
- What comments do you have on people of color who worship the same God as yourselves (which is assumed to be Christian) as we are a Christian University
- Finally, we are interested in getting electronic copies of literature that your orga- nization uses to spread its beliefs and teachings.
Instead of answering them, he continued to further his hatefulness. He responded:
“Can you possibly envision a world in which coloreds are in charge and run things with any efficiency? And yes, the KKK has acted violently in the past, but probably so has your mama, and I’m thinking you’re not still holding it against her. I’ve never personally hurt anybody, and don’t wish to be tossed into a pile of history to make up for the sins of our ancestors. I’m sure if that were the case, we’d all be frying up real nice. You call yourself Christian. Being Christian don’t mean being all warm and fuzzy. It means keeping yourself and your race pure and following the teachings of the Lord. That’s why we are chosen, and you are not.”
We continue to see this type of hate throughout the country and it is emboldened by the actions and statements of our current political administration. We see this with events like Charlottesville and Ferguson and in police brutality and islamophobia.
For the students of Niagara University, I challenge you to question the direction our society is going in, but also question your unconscious bias. Race relations are political; it is cultural and these relations are what make us who we are. If we continue to deny ourselves this conversation, social discourse will cease to exist. Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions. Don’t be afraid to be uncomfortable. We cannot continue to shy away from the historical truths of our country. So, we must ask ourselves, is my pride, fear, “politeness,” or willful ignorance getting in the way of progression?
Matthew 7:1 – “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
If Frederic Ozanam was alive today, he’d sound like Ferrah. This article was first published in the Niagara Wire online and print editions.