Training Societies to be Bigoted

Racial, ethnic and religious bigotry is often planted deep within a society, requiring a determined effort to root it out. However, there is inevitably resistance from forces that benefit from the presumed supremacy of one group over another, writes Lawrence Davidson.

By Lawrence Davidson

The Ku Klux Klan (the name derives from the Greek word Kuklos meaning circle with a modification of the word clan added), an American terrorist organization, was founded in Pulaski, Tennessee, in 1865. It was organized by Southerners who refused to reconcile themselves to the defeat of the Confederacy in the Civil War, and its declared mission was to “maintain the supremacy of the white race in the United States.”

To this end it adopted tactics in the Southern states that would so terrify emancipated African-Americans and their white allies that they would not dare to vote, run for public office, or intermingle with whites except in “racially appropriate” ways.

A Ku Klux Klan rally in Gainesville, Florida, Dec. 31, 1922.

Intimidation took many forms. Non-whites and their allies who sought to assert civil rights were threatened, assaulted and frequently murdered. If they were women, they were subjected to assault and rape. The property of these people was destroyed, their homes and meeting places attacked with bombs or burned. Finally, a favorite tactic was lynching.

Lynching was/is murder carried out by a mob that collectively thinks it is protecting the community and/or its traditions. Between 1882 and 1930, the Klan and allied organizations lynched some 3,000 people, mostly black men. Often the accusation was that the black male victim had sought sexual relations with white women.

It was very rare that those involved in these murders, which were carried out quite openly with little effort to hide identities, were arrested for their actions much less convicted and adequately punished. This, in turn, was possible because of a number of factors:

First and foremost, the belief that African-Americans, and subsequently all non-whites, were dangerous to “white civilization.” This belief was built into the cultural perceptions of the majority. With rare exceptions, a white person could not grow up in this environment without acquiring a knee-jerk prejudice against non-whites.

As a result, local white populations, as well as local law enforcement, often sympathized with the Klan, sometimes feared it, or just did not care about what happened to the non-white population.

In the years following the Civil War, the activities of the Klan only subsided when the U.S. government allowed the Southern states to impose laws that prevented African-Americans from voting and acquiesced in a harsh regime of segregation. When the civil rights movement finally took place in the 1960s, the Klan reappeared and participated in the violent opposition to desegregation and racial equality. This abated only when the federal government started seriously enforcing its own civil rights laws.

Old Tactics and New Victims

While today the Ku Klux Klan as an organization is nearly (but not quite) gone, it would be a mistake to think that the Klan mentality is dead in the U.S. Quite the contrary. The nation’s deep-seated history of racism has helped preserve an apparent permanent subset of Americans who grow up with prejudicial feelings against anyone they perceive as a threat to their version of the “American way of life.”

This background can help us understand the ongoing attacks against American Muslims. Since 2010 there has been an increase in the number of attacks on American Muslims, their mosques and other property, as well as American minorities (such as Sikhs) who are regularly mistaken for Muslims.

These attacks are not the work of a refurbished Ku Klux Klan but, nonetheless, have about them the same nature: fear of American Muslims as cultural subversives (for instance, the delusion that they seek to impose Sharia law in the United States); anonymous threats of violence (via telephone, Internet, and also in the form of abusive graffiti); bomb, arson, and gun-fire attacks on property; and finally assaults and murders.

The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department has investigated over 800 such incidents in the last 11 years. Eight such attacks occurred in the first half of the present month of August 2012, including the murder of six Sikhs in Milwaukee on Aug. 5.

An important factor in all of this is the role of a number of campaigning politicians who go around proclaiming the threat that American Muslims supposedly represent to the country. For instance, just prior to a spate of arson attacks in the Chicago area, U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh held townhall meetings in the area where he proclaimed, “One thing I am sure of is that there are people in this country there is a radical strain of Islam in this country it’s not just over there trying to kill Americans every week.”

His talk was filmed and posted on YouTube. Similar rhetoric has been heard from a dozen other politicians including Peter King, the Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, and Michele Bachmann, who was among those running for GOP candidate for president.

What It Takes to Break a Bad Habit

This is what you get when you practice a culture that has evolved around racist views. And, you get it more or less in perpetuity. In the case of the United States, the nation spent from 1789 (counting from the establishment of the Constitution which legitimized slavery) to 1954 (the year the Supreme Court declared, in Brown v. Board of Education, mandatory segregation of public schools unconstitutional), or 165 years, building up an “American way of life,” which legitimized discrimination against non-whites.

Subsequently, it has spent from 1957 (counting from the year that Brown v. Board of Education actually began to be enforced) to the present, or 55 years trying to undo that legacy. If it takes about as long to undo a nationwide bad habit as it did to establish it, we have a long road ahead of us.

What the years since 1957 have done is to legally enforce non-racist public behavior. This is certainly a necessary step, which, if consistently applied, would eventually lead to an internalized change in the outlook and morality of most of the population. In this regard Barack Obama’s election as the first African-American president in 2008 was a sure sign of progress.

However, the virulent reaction to Obama by more than a few is another sign that, while 55 years is long enough to alter the public behavior of some people, it is not long enough to change the private attitudes of many. Thus, there are still those groups of citizens who are deeply racist.

Today, under normal circumstances, these racist groups keep their feeling to themselves and their like-minded circle. However, when conditions allow, that racism emerges in a public way, often in hate speech but sometimes more brutally. These extremists are the modern day versions of yesterday’s Klansmen and, given a chance, they will happily commit mayhem in the name of their cherished traditions. American Muslims are now their chief target.

Another Example, Our Ally Israel

If you want to see another example of a society that has historically cultivated discriminatory outlooks and practices, one that American Zionists consider quite similar to the U.S., take a look at Israel. By the way, if there is any truth to the belief that Israel is “just like us,” it can only refer to the United States prior to 1957 prior to the introduction of civil rights laws.

Much like the American South of that pre-legal equality era, Israel is shaped by a culture of ethno/religious exclusiveness practiced amidst a larger out-group (in this case the Palestinian Arabs). This has led the Israeli Jews to teach successive generations that it is proper and necessary to discriminate against Palestinians.

And, sure enough, over the years Israel has produced its own terrorist organizations that intimidate and attack Palestinian Arabs: the Irgun and Lehi during the years leading to the establishment of the state in 1948, Gush Emunim and Terror Against Terror in the 1970s and 1980s, and today’s “Price-Taggers” and West Bank settler vigilantes.

Just like Klansmen in the American South, these terrorists are rarely prosecuted and almost never adequately punished for their crimes because much of the Jewish population as well as the organs of the state sympathize with them. And, just like the American South, they operate in an environment conducive to an Israeli version of lynching.

That brings us to the Israeli- style lynching that occurred on the night of Aug. 17 in Jerusalem. Raised in an environment that purposely cultivates prejudice and hatred against Arabs, a mob of some 50 Israeli Jewish young people attacked four Palestinian male youths, almost killing one of them.

The attack was seemingly unprovoked and apparently random, though the attackers “claimed they wanted to prevent them [the Arab boys] from speaking to Jewish girls.” “Hundreds” witnessed this event but did not interfere. The entire thing was predictable, and indeed inevitable. It is what you get when you practice a culture that has evolved around racist views.

There might be a human genetic inclination toward group solidarity, but its worst manifestations are not inevitable. You can feel solidarity with your family, your religious community, your ethnic group, your nation, etc. without hating others. The hating part is a learned attitude. And, as is often the case, fear will underlie the hatred.

Both American and Israeli bigots or terrorists have focused on Arabs and Muslims as a threatening out-group. Both the Americans and the Israelis who do so draw strength from a culture that has deep racist roots. In today’s U.S.A., many know that this is wrong and so there is a moral position from which to combat this behavior. Unfortunately, it is not possible to say the same thing about Israel.

In the United States the core need is consistent educational and legal pressure against racist behavior both in terms of individual and institutional behavior. When I say consistent I mean over multiple generations, for at least as many years as it took to create the nationwide bigotry in the first place.

If we do not succeed in this endeavor then American Zionists will be proven correct. We in the U.S. will be just like the Israelis.

Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National Interest; America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism.



11 comments for “Training Societies to be Bigoted

  1. August 27, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    Mr. Davidson must know that White supremacist “KKK” is an old story. It has been taken over by other White and religious racist groups (EDL, JDL, etc.) who have come to realize that’s safe to operate as long as they support Israel.

    The anti-Sharia crusader, Israel-Firster Frank Gaffney, recently called the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) ‘anti-Semitic’ and equated it with the former Ku Klax Klan White Supremacist group. Gaffney is founder and president of Ziocon think tank ‘Center for Security Policy‘ and a columnist at the Ziocons’ Washington Times. Gaffney along with other 25 pro-Israel neocons (mostly Jewish) authored the notorious document, ‘Project for a New American Century (PNAC)‘, also known as Israel Project. It was a blue-print for using America to fight Israel’s proxy wars in the Muslim world.

    However, Frank Gaffney, in his hatred toward Muslims – forgot that SPLC is prominent Jewish civil liberties group with Zionist Jew Richard Cohen as its President. It was founded in 1971 by two Zionist Jews by the names Morris S. Dee and Joe Levin.

    Jewish inventor of ‘Sea-Monkeys’, Harold von Braunhut, was a good friend of KKK founder Richard Girnt Butler? The US Attorney, Thomas M. Bauer, told the Washington Post that in a 1985 weapons case against a member of the Ku Klux Klan, Grand Dragon Dale R. Reusch, von Braunhut was prepared to testify that he had lent Reusch about $12,000 so he could buy 83 firearms. Bauer told the reporter that Harold von Braunhut was “very pleasant and cooperative” and “brought some of his little toys along,” including Sea-Monkeys.

  2. jerry gates
    August 27, 2012 at 7:24 pm

    Racism, as Lawrence Davidson clearly shows, takes a village to create and as the realization of it’s detrimental effects on society become common knowledge, the same village of creation and incubation of racist ideals must reverse it’s polarity as a group and stop the hatred they espouse as good for their kind.

    The most important spiritual concept in play when realising the deleterious effects of racism as pandemic is to assert boldly that hatred makes us weak as human beings and requires peer pressure to persist in society. If societies of empowered groups of militarists, news propagations, legal initiatives and education mores conform in their units to racist ideals, the weakness as well as the source of it’s inception also becomes pandemic in governance at the behest of the most powerfully situated interest groups lobbying for their way of life, though it be in drastic error.

    Lemmings are depicted in historical narratives, Pied Pipers leading rats away from villages , racial stereotypes are cast in tit for tat wars of both words and actions which illicit reactions which in turn start wars, which benefit those whose weakness for hatred exerts itself as a weakness for war, always against “others” threatening “our way of life”. The dubious and temporal benefits of wealth gleaned from foundations of hatred and fear inhibit reforms of social orders in government and civilian society both while instituting hatred as an engine of production to manifest war mongering against imagined enemies which may actually not have any ingrained animosity towards the haters whatsoever save their fears of being attacked or killed in such heated and visceral exchanges in public commons.

    Native “Americans” draw muct attention to the axiom which teaches us the effects of feeding hatred as opposed to detente in our minds eyes as our way of life, The addictions to visceral attacks which escalate into hot wars and debilitate the social orders in which children’s minds are formed towards animosity born of ethnic cleansing campaigns against what they are taught are foreigners unworthy of their love and respect as human beings.

    IN MANY WAYS THE CITY DWELLER HAS MORE ABILITY TO CAST ASIDE THESE ASPERSIONS OF ETHNICITY AS Good or Bad depending on ones own ethnic persuasion as the constant for evaluation while rural dwellers may see less variety in ethnicity and have fewer interrelations with fellow humans of differing persuasions to help erode false perceptions of character based on stereotypes cast by hate groups, The most susceptible arena of humanity to hatred as their mantra for connectivity are the uneducated historically speaking, and in this current case many well educated “scholars” devote their lives to a bigoted interpretation of scriptures which empowers their sect or ethnicity over others. These types, without stereotyping their auspices of foundation, are self deluded and or intent on abusing social orders for their self serving objectives. False attacks by these types which are blamed on the targeted “enemy” of their “way of life” lead to ethnic divisions which scriptures teach prophets and spiritualists are the wiles of a societal “jezebel” an idol which is worshipped instead of God which in turn destroys society but it’s hatred and resultant human corruptions of the soul.

    Lawrence Davidson knows the angst of the moderate Israeli or zionist educator, Neve Gordon, a man whose response to these injustices of wrong minded religious zealotry is revulsion at what he sees becoming it’s virulent product, a weakened youth society which could become pandemic if it has not passed that critical mass juncture already.

    If weakness is born of hatred and falsely made stereotypes are destructive to society as a whole, elevating only a select few to greater prowess and position as leaders. leaders of racist societies become destructive to humanity as a whole rather than instructive or constructive. Progeny of one zealotry over another escalates into world war where only, again, a select few can be siad to benefit and then only temporally with many negative resultant blow back criteria facing them in their prosperity such as citizens revulsion and revolution.

    Every twenty years or so, our forefathers foretold us, we would need to revolt against uber nationalism, ethnic racism, class order distortion made by deregulation of markets and ribald selfish militarism based on lobbying for wealth creation on the engines of hatred of others: fear mongering is the result of addiction to economic war footing over time.

    If Lawrence is correct to assume that it will take decades of persistent education initiatives ti distill the fear and loathing from our campaign trails it is incumbent on every stripe of humanity to unseat such perversions of racism first from self then amidst near peers until this broadcasting of better thinking overtakes it;s nemesis of inbred weakness, racism.

    Unfortunatly for humanity we dont have decades for this task and the workers are far too few as even Christ himself averred.Muslims are not an enemy of any civilzed people, if savage degenerate haters attack on false pretense and false premise, it will be expected of Muslims to defend themselves against such hatful ideologies as target and attack with impunity their very commons and persons. It is now quite evident that the Christian ethic of forgiving enemies or haters seventy times seven times is adopted in Iran as no agressionary moves are extant but a defensive and rationally protective posture which protect Iranians from such savagery.

    I cannot condone Jews useing the excuse of the holocaust to incept their realms of delusional exceptionalism when it is utterly and glaringly apparent that zionist society weakens by the minute in seething and visceral hatred, I did not encourage this, ever but work diligently is disrupting these patterns of abuse upon zionist youths minds every day of my life, If we fail in dissuading racism away from decent human beings we fail in service to Allah in saving our precious world a multitude of sins by converting haters to lovers of all others. Incitement of hatred between sisters and brothers is of the devil healing of these rifts of division by educating the abusers away from their habits is divine work and worthy of it’s rewards.God is not mocked brothers and sisters, be advised hatred makes us weak.

  3. borat
    August 27, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    More of self hating Jewish antisemitism by Davidson. How dare he utter the KKK in the same breath w/Israel. Go to your beloved medievalist regiemes like the Taliban who beheaded 17 Afgans for dancing to music. You are a sick bastard period.

    • August 28, 2012 at 9:08 am

      How about those 100,000 Arab Jewish kids murdered by Israeli Zionist Jewish leaders by experimenting high dozes of radiation in 1960s, little Zionazi kid?

      On August 14, 2004 – Israel’s Channel 10 showed a documentary 100,000 Radiation, exposing the ugliest secret of Israel’s Labor Zionist founders; the deliberate mass radiation poisoning of nearly all Sephardi youths. In 1951, the director general of the Israeli Health Ministry, Dr. Chaim Sheba flew to America and returned with 7 x-ray machines, supplied to him by the American army.

      They were to be used in a mass atomic experiment with an entire generation of Sephardi youths to be used as guinea pigs. Every Sephardi child was to be given 35,000 times the maximum dose of x-rays through his head. For doing so, the American government paid the Israeli government 300 million Israeli liras a year. The entire Health budget was 60 million liras. The money paid by the Americans is equivalent to billions of dollars today. To fool the parents of the victims, the children were taken away on “school trips” and their parents were later told the x-rays were a treatment for the scourge of scalpal ringworm. 6,000 of the children died shortly after their doses were given, the many of the rest developed cancers that killed them over time and are still killing them now. While living, the victims suffered from disorders such as epilepsy, amnesia, Alzheimer’s disease, chronic headaches and psychosis.

  4. hammersmith
    August 28, 2012 at 10:50 am

    Bishop Tutu was quoted somewhere saying Israel is worse than South Africa was. The State of Israel was pretty plainly founded on and is functioning on the basis of ethno-religious bigotry. It is amusing to see its supporters try to avoid this reality. Isreal is a 19th Century artifact.

    • Marcus
      August 29, 2012 at 8:00 am

      Silly of you to say this, the entire Middle East was created in the 20th century. You open a front with the entire Arab world. Beware.

  5. Max
    August 29, 2012 at 2:36 am

    Unfortunately the author is entirely wrong. Almost all terrorist acts in the entire world were perpetuated by Muslims. The lynching story of a group of Jewish youngsters attacking an Arab is like the famous spin ‘Man Bites a Dog’. There is no argument that attacking an innocent Arab is a vicious crime, but the amount of cases of Arabs attacking Jews and non-Jews alike is way beyond comparison. Ignoring it can only prove a racist approach, and this is the case of Davidson.

    • August 31, 2012 at 2:46 pm

      Yes – all terrorists are Muslims except the 94% who’re not. According to FBI database – between 1980-2000; Muslims constituted 6% of total terrorist activities in the United States – while the Jews accounted for 7% of total terrorist activities.

      I exect Zionazi borat will call FBI “a Jew-hating security agency though many of its top officials are trained by Mossad agent – according to Max Blumenthal.

      “Our task is to recruit a barrier and once again put the fear of death into the Arabs of the area,” – Yitzhak Rabin, Israeli defense Minister (later prime minister of the Zionist entity).

      “Israeli interogators routinely ill-treat and torture Arab prisoners. Prisoners are hooded or blind-folded and hung by their wrists for long periods. Most are struck in the gentals or in other way sexually abused. Most are sexually assualted. Others are administered electric shocks,” – Ralph Schoeman, Sunday Times, June 19, 1977.

      “There is no country in the world in which use of official and sustained torture is an established and documented as is in the case of Israel,” – Amnesty International.

  6. Byron
    August 30, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    Racism is primarily driven by economic inequality, educational inequality, and and the magical thinking promoted by most religion. However there also seems to be a constant in societies everywhere throughout history that racial minorities are almost always oppressed by racial majorities in society and always if the racial majority is also economically dominant. We humans are very good at rationalizing the exploitation of others. Racism fits that need perfectly.

    As we are now hitting limits of planetary support for our overpopulated planet, expect to see racism rise quickly and violently. The Economic Elites of all races will promote racism to keep the masses misdirected and self destructive, while they live in extreme luxury behind the walls of the military/police state which the amply profit from. What horrific folly we humans create in our unenlightened selfishness.

    • August 31, 2012 at 2:55 pm

      That’s not correct. Jews have always been ‘moneylenders’, but their holy Talmud – according to late professor Israel Shahak – is the most hateful religious literature in the world.

      Several pro-Israel Jewish groups lead by Abraham Foxman have urged Jordanian government to take action to ensure that the recent Arabic translation of Jewish Talmud is not used to teach hatred of Jews and Israel among the Arabs.

      A group of some 90 Jordanian Muslim and Christian scholars and researchers spent six years to translate Babylonian Jewish Talmud from Aramaic to Arabic. The project was sponsored by Amman-based academic group ‘Centre for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES). The 20-volume set is being sold for $750.

      So why pro-Israel Jewish groups are upset with Arabic translation of Jewish Talmud? Abraham Foxman, national director of ADL says the introduction to the 20-volume set claims that Talmud teaches hatred toward non-Jews (Goyim) which is the basis of Israel’s discrimination against Arabs and the native Muslims and Christian Palestinians.

  7. hogorina
    August 31, 2012 at 7:47 pm


    All fools of whom hate them selves should take up this gripe with the creator. God called his natural enemies fools, vipers, devils, liars, dogs, whited sepulchers,and devils. It causes intelligent beings to literally vomit to view various unproductive mobs griping for being unworthy to qualify as children of a creator out of control for self-hatred. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Mobocrats are not born, but are first in line to seek the productive people’s bread in screaming about racism.


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