Until recently, Jeffery Moore was the Gadsen County Commissioner of a predominately Black district in Florida. However, after a photo of Moore—Governor DeSantis' appointee—surfaced showing him wearing a Ku Klux Klan costume at a Halloween party, he resigned in disgrace. The irony isn't lost on me that when Moore wore the outfit, he smiled proudly from ear to ear. Still, now that Black people in his district know about his racist beliefs, he's ashamed and would rather leave his post than publicly confront his decision to wear the costume.
Like card-carrying Klan members, Moore hoped his identity and association with the Klan robe would remain a secret. The photo raises questions, like why DeSantis appointed Moore as Gadsen County Commissioner, knowing he would serve mostly Black citizens. But ultimately, Moore's faux pas is part of a long list of anti-Black, racist gestures made by public officials. Given the racist history of the Ku Klux Klan, one of America's oldest hate groups, it's astonishing that some White people still think wearing a Klan costume is funny—at least until they get caught.
The Klan once burned a cross on my grandfather's lawn in Shreveport, Louisiana, because they wanted to scare him off the property he rightfully purchased. Sadly, my family's experience is not rare—racism is part of the fabric of American society, the section of the quilt some have tried to hide for decades. In the aftermath of the Civil War, the Klan rose to prominence, promoting the myth of white superiority as justification for white supremacy. As is written in Ku Klux Klan: A History of Racism and Violence, "Little more than a year after it was founded, the secret society thundered across the war-torn South, sabotaging Reconstruction governments and imposing a reign of terror and violence." While the organization has been more covert in recent years, its ideology lives on in groups like the Proud Boys, the Boogaloo Movement, and Patriot Front. And there are still active Klan groups in states like Texas, Florida, and Alabama.
The racism we see in public is only the tip of America’s white supremacist iceberg.
In 2016, the KKK's official paper, The Crusader, endorsed Donald Trump for president, an ominous signal about the direction his administration could take the country. "America was founded as a White Christian Republic. And as a White Christian Republic it became great," The Crusader noted, cosigning Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan, the same sentiment touted by Reagan and Nixon. The Klan's anti-Black, anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim, and anti-immigrant rhetoric aligned nicely with that of the key speakers who make regular appearances at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
Black people are often lectured not to assume all conservatives or Republicans are racist. Yet, repeatedly, pictures resurface, or hot-mics reveal a sinister undercurrent in American society that centers on anti-Black hatred. For instance, Hungary's leader, Viktor Orban, a guest at CPAC, said in no uncertain terms that he "opposed a 'mixed race' society," which is equally racist and illogical. America is a melting pot—sure, it may have gotten that way through colonialism. Nevertheless, the country is a racial, ethnic, and cultural blend of people from around the world. To oppose a mixed-race society is no different than openly pursuing a white-centered, racially homogenous one, cosigning white supremacy. Yet, conservative, mostly White Americans enjoyed his speech and applauded his efforts.
When Moore wore that Klan costume, he was not ignorant of the organization's goals nor their role in hunting and lynching Black people throughout the Southern states. David Duke, a former Klan leader and member of the Louisiana House of Representatives, once said, "Our clear goal must be the advancement of the white race and separation of the white and Black races. This goal must include freeing of the American media and government from subservient Jewish interests." The Klan has always been an organization that promoted racial segregation and hatred toward Jewish people.
Did Moore put on the Klan robe to be funny? Maybe, but we should ask what type of company he keeps if stories about Black people lynched in trees make them grin like a Cheshire cat. Was Moore wearing the Klan robe in admiration of heinous acts committed by the Klan? Possibly, but it would be unlikely for Moore to reveal his motivation for wearing the robe. What else do White public figures do behind closed doors, in their private-whites-only gatherings and organizations? Surely, we’ll never know.
Here's the bottom line: There's nothing funny about the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921; the murder of Emmett Till in Money, Mississippi in 1955; the abduction and castration of Judge Edward Aaron in Birmingham, Alabama in 1957; Willie Edwards' drowning in the Alabama River in 1957; or the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing, which killed four Black schoolgirls in 1963. All of those crimes were committed by Klan members. There are many more. These are tragedies—there's nothing funny about them. Wearing a Klan costume is only comical to racists who believe Black lives don't matter and never have. Yet time and time again we see white people wearing blackface for Halloween or putting on Klan robes, and you know what that proves: The racism we see in public is only the tip of America's white supremacist iceberg.