Hate label likely false, potentially harmful to Sikeston

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

I'm greeted with a report first thing in the morning from the Southern Poverty Law Center that says Missouri has 18 active hate groups operating in our state, which actually represents a decline from last year's 24 hate group census.

The SPLC report indicates that nationally there is an increase in hate groups from last year's 917 to 954 this year.

The report -- if accurate -- is troubling in itself. What is more troubling is that one group is identified as the Confederate White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in Sikeston.

The same group was identified last year in their annual hate group report.

So we reached out to the SPLC with specifics on this shadow group and here is what they said:

"The Southern Poverty Law Center listed the Sikeston, Missouri, chapter of the Confederate White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan as an active hate group in 2017 following an April cross lighting and active recruiting from its members in Sikeston throughout the calendar year."

So I checked with law enforcement agencies in this region -- including the Missouri Highway Patrol -- and they said there was no report of a cross burning in this area.

I asked the SPLC for clarification.

"Since this was a cross lighting, it was in their own property, which is why there was no incident report. They consider a 'cross lighting' ceremonial -- it's on their own property and it is members only. A 'cross burning' is something that would have been done on someone else's property."

I'm sorry, but I remain highly skeptical of this report as it pertains to Sikeston.

Having lived in Sikeston for most of my life -- and all of my adult life -- I honestly believe I would have some passing knowledge if a cross "lighting" by the KKK was held in this area.

It's hard to dispute the report without more information. But those details have yet to surface, for me at least.

Like just about any other community, Sikeston has its share of rednecks and racists. If you think your community is above such scoundrels, you're mistaken.

But by listing Sikeston as home to one of only 18 hate groups in our state, you put a label that is inaccurate, hurtful and damaging to any growth or progress.

I'm unable to fully dispute the SPLC list because of the lack or sketchy information available.

So I am left to offer an opinion only.

Without more details on this alleged recruitment and cross lighting, I doubt the accuracy of Sikeston's inclusion on this list.

It is certainly to the benefit of groups such as the SPLC to promoting the level of hate in this country.

And though to some this list may be informative, to others like Sikeston it's a disservice and misrepresentation of a community striving to remain inclusive, fair and progressive.

Michael Jensen is the publisher of the Standard Democrat in Sikeston, Missouri.

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