As I write this the USA has elected its 45th president via the Electoral College if not by popular vote. Across this nation many of our clients especially those from marginalized populations such as people of color, immigrants and from the LGBTQ are scared. They are scared due to the vile dehumanizing language that the then candidate used to describe them. They are scared due to the calls for violence and the endorsements of the KKK, neo Nazi and white supremacists groups that this new president received as well as his hesitance to ever distance himself from that which they escribe. David Duke called this a win for “our” (his) people.
It’s important for our clients to remember that this is far from new and that we survived it in the past. Though we have worked hard as a collective, we have seen with the inauguration of the first black president a resurgence in the KKK and related hate groups. It is wise to take precautions but we must all weather the storm. Love will conquer hate.
I’ll never forget the night those many years ago when the then leader of the klan in my state came to my door. I was 17 years old and had been speaking out publically for equality in all its forms for well over a year. I’ll never know why he came for me or how he knew where I lived. He asked to talk to me outside but he was acting strangely; I knew there was trouble but I also knew what the klan was capable of doing. They have a long history of violence including rape, murder, arson and bombing. My son and disabled parents were in the house so I “willingly” walked out reassuring my parents and toddler son that all would be ok. I just needed to get the klan away from them no matter the personal cost.
As I left the house and was escorted off my parent’s property (I later learned this was one of his hallmarks as attacks in public were less problematic from a legal perspective than attacks via home invasion) and waited for the rest of them to appear from the bushes or parked cars. Thankfully, to use a term from George W. Bush, they had “misunderestimated” me and felt that the leader could take out a 17 year old pacifist on his own. Had they all came, I surely would not be writing this now.
Escorted under a streetlamp, his car facing me, he had the advantage of having me be partially blinded from the lights. His assault started with a head butt as he leaned into me to whisper something in my ear. It was followed by a flourish of blows to my head and body. I blocked everything I could but many blows connected. I felt fear, rage and helplessness building inside me but remembered my pacifist faith so I continued to only block. I was punched, kicked, spat on among other injustices but thankfully was never knocked off my feet. I have no idea how bad it would have gone had he succeeded in getting me on the ground.
After a time I noticed my disabled father limping down the drive headed for me. I was afraid that the attack would branch out to him and had to act. At that moment I remember letting out a growl and swearing, I caught his latest kick and threw him through the air (I was an active natural bodybuilder at the time). He picked himself up and jumped into his car and headed straight for me. Thankfully I was able to get clear and he drove off into the night. I looked over my shoulder for the longest time fearing that the next time the whole group would be there. Thankfully, a few months later he was arrested on federal charges that included attempting to purchase bomb making materials and assorted weapons charges…
To those living in fear because of what has happened in the past please remember that there is a key difference. Back at the heyday of the klan and related groups, the average American did not speak up or get involved. Hate groups were affiliated with the highest levels of government and the laws often protected the attacker more than the victim. Since that time civil rights laws have been enacted which can help a great deal. The average American (that made up the popular vote) does not support hate and instead stands up to it. Many people like me realize that if any member of our society gets attacked, that it is an attack on us all and as such we will speak out, stand up and demand that civil rights are protected. This does not mean there is no danger but it does mean that you are not alone.
As a middle aged white male with a doctorate, I am not the typical candidate for a klan attack. I could turn my eyes away from those who are in danger but that is not what Americans (or therapists) do. I will wave my rainbow flag in solidarity to my brothers and sisters. You will never be alone again.
"Doc Warren" Corson III is a counselor and the clinical & executive director of Community Counseling of Central CT Inc. and Pillwillop Therapeutic Farm (www.docwarren.org).