In a rare and unusual occurrence on America’s domestic front, leaders from the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People had a groundbreaking meeting in Casper, Wyo., over the weekend.
The possibility of the meeting was set in motion by NAACP Casper branch president Jimmy Simmons when he contacted John Abarr of the United Klans of America. This meeting was the first time ever that representatives from the NAACP and the KKK peacefully met.
Abarr is somewhat of an odd-duck. Along with being a member of the KKK, he is a member of the liberal-minded, anti-racist groups: the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Southern Poverty Law Center. Although Abarr stills supports segregation, he seems to more interested in the KKK’s pageantry than the actual ideology.
“I like it because you wear robes, and get out and light crosses, and have secret handshakes,” said Abarr. “I like being in the Klan – I sort of like it that people think I’m some sort of outlaw.”
For someone who is part of a radically right-wing group, Abarr strangely harbors some very progressive viewpoints. To Abarr, homosexuality is genetic and he supports gay marriage. His wife is also a liberal.
As the meeting came to a close, Simmons asked Abarr if he wanted to join the NAACP. Abarr accepted. He then completed an application, included a $20 donation with the membership fee, shook Simmons’ hand and left.
The meeting between these two was indeed an odd one. And although Simmons and Abarr noted that not too much was accomplished as a result of the meeting, a dialogue was created between representatives of two groups who are sworn enemies. A small step, but an interesting one in the right direction for race relations.
Joshua de Leon is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.