In July of last year, the Ku Klux Klan had a parade up the street from my house in Hanover County, Virginia. They marched for at least an hour and a half, 10 to 15 White males walking around in white hoods, carrying banners and signs promoting their hate. Some of them wore Klan T-shirts, fatigues, and shades and were armed to the teeth, trying to recruit people. They even had a kid out there with a little white hood on — standing in front of a courthouse, of all places.
I was born and raised in Richmond. When I was a kid, I used to see pictures and hear stories about the Klan, and I’d think, “That’s back in the day. That shit is dead now,” or, “That’s happening in another state, not here.” We didn’t have to deal with much racism, other than somebody saying “nigger” at school. But here we are, thinking we made some progress under the Obama administration, and we get this racist, lying motherfucker in office. Everything is just coming out now — this current administration has emboldened these racists. We watched the city evolve to seeing racist graffiti and “KKK” spray-painted here and there.
Two Februarys ago, me, my fiancée, and my little man — he’s 18 — made the mistake of moving to the outskirts. That was worse than the racism we experienced in Richmond.
When we entered the Mechanicsville neighborhood of Hanover County — I call it Klanover — I told my shorty I felt uncomfortable. In Klanover, you see more MAGA hats than Black people; every other house has a Confederate flag in the backyard or on the front porch. If you’re a person of color, everybody looks at you like you don’t belong.
Soon, it felt like we were being targeted because we’re Black. Rednecks in pickup trucks would roll by, and somebody would scream “Nigger!” out the window and speed off. The Klan was leaving pamphlets in people’s mailboxes. One of my neighbors called the police to my house, trying to get me hemmed up. They said there was illegal activity, which was totally false. When the cops got to my residence, they said, “We’ve been watching your house for two months.” I feel like everybody was working together, from the neighbors to the police to the Klan.
My little man had questions: “Are these people going to try to kill me? Do you think I might get lynched? Do I gotta worry about the same thing that happened to Emmett Till happening to me?”
My little man went to Lee-Davis High School — the school that put up a fight about changing its name because of the whole Confederacy thing — and there were instances where he was called the N-word. We’d tell him how to handle it, but to witness the Klan right around the corner from our house was another level.
Back in the day, they did the hood thing — now they just throw on a robe and a white pointy hat that doesn’t really cover their whole face. They don’t even hide. To develop into a man and witness firsthand the shit I used to hear about when I was nine, 10 years old? Come on, man.
The final straw was the recruiting rally. A parade of evil. They even offered a number for people to call! It was hard to drum up immediate neighborhood support. There weren’t any people trying to stand up — maybe a few taking pictures for social media.