January 11, 2013

Little Klansman

NewImageI was wondering if you’ve seen this photo of a young child dressed in a Ku Klux Klan outfit. Largely lost for 20 years, it resurfaced recently and has now become an object of discussion around the Internet. Taken in Gainesville, Ga., by a young newspaper reporter in 1992, it shows the police out in force for a Klan rally that never materialized. Read the Poynter article for excellent backstory.

According to the write-up, viewers have found the photo alternatively disturbing; hopeful; humorous; touching; and heartbreaking. Of course, the natural pull is to focus on the child and his interaction with the riot cop. What I find as much or more interesting, however, is the two-thirds of the photo beyond the child. Going by the shields alone, the state troopers represent a solid bulwark against the advance of the Klan, toddlers or otherwise. What speaks to containment, and development, even more so, however, is the presence of the two African-American officers as solid anchors on either side of their white colleague. It’s that cultural and demographic stability in the line of blue, reinforced that much more by the middle officer’s settled paunch, that takes most of the starch out of the little robe and renders the child almost amusing. That’s almost.

I’m interested, as always, in your take.

(photo: Todd Robertson via Southern Poverty Law Center)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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