Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Klansman told me to get out of America
I met Jarred Hensley, a Ku Klux Klan member, six months ago while working on a story about racial tensions in Ohio. I remember being struck by his age: At 23, he was -- and remains -- the second most powerful Klansman in the state.

Hensley told me the Klan was growing younger and larger, information we later verified with the Southern Poverty Law Center. I asked Hensley if we could attend one of his Klan meetings. He told me non-members are not allowed. But he eventually agreed to videotape the meeting for us. His tape arrived a few months later.

After reviewing the tape (only portions of the meeting were filmed), I went to Ohio to interview Hensley. He told me there was an increase in Klan membership after 9/11. He also said the Internet is the Klan's number one recruiting tool.

Personally, this has been a hard story for me to report. As an Asian-American journalist, I found it difficult at times to listen to his views objectively. At one point in the interview, he told me I should leave the country.

Some people have asked me why we are giving the Ku Klux Klan a platform. I respond by saying there is clear evidence the white supremacist movement is on the rise in this country and around the world. This story cannot be ignored.
Posted By Alina Cho, CNN Correspondent: 9:44 AM ET
  52 Comments
I'm personally just glad that someone has finally brought attention to this issue. Believe me, I've witnessed the way that some of my colleagues have been treated, racist remarks are EVERYWHERE. They really can't be ignored.

Thanks for covering this story!
Posted By Anonymous Aneesh, Albany, NY : 9:53 AM ET
Alina,

So sorry youwere treated that way, no one should have to endure attacks on themselves because of their race, ethic origins, etc. It would be so easy to let this type of behavior slide as if it weren't happening. However, we must keep it alive where people can see what is really going on.

I may be a dreamer, but I wish someday we could all live peacefully, but until people wake up and see what is really going on, tthe actions of the uninformed must be thrust into the spotlight at every chance given.

You are one brave soul.
Posted By Anonymous Marcia, Warren MI : 9:55 AM ET
I watched this segment on your show and was appalled at the behavior of this group and the guy you spoke with in particular. It amazes me how people can be so closed minded and hate so much.

I'm also a believer in karma and what goes around, comes around. (Let's just hope it comes soon enough!)
Posted By Anonymous Heidi, Grand Rapids, MI : 10:29 AM ET
The Klu Klux Klan is just another form of terrorism so why does everyone tolerate them? They should not be tolerated. How long until they try something like flat out attacking the U.S. to "get rid of" people who don't fit their "ideal". We need to crack down on them like we have on Al Quieda. Don't give them the chance to do more damage then they already have.
Posted By Anonymous Mae Aldridge, Moberly, MO : 10:30 AM ET
Alina,
Thanks for reporting this disturbing news. I agree that we need to be aware of these groups, especially in light of the fact that they are growing and are organized at a national level. I'm afraid that Bush's campaign of fear and war has not only resulted in more hatred for us outside the US, but has also fueled the fire for this kind of hatred within. Be careful, and thanks for taking the personal risk to get the story told.
Posted By Anonymous Monica, Birmingham, Alabama : 10:33 AM ET
I think the KKK are just a group of insecured people with just a little inferiority complex (Someone please prove me otherwise). If they believe that "God and Jesus" want an all "White Race" and they use the "Bible" to prove that. Then why are all of the characters in the "Bible" of Jewish Background. I have asked this question for a number of years and some how the very KKK have no answer. So I have come to a conclusion that they are all uneducated and insecured group of people. (Someone again prove me otherwise).
Posted By Anonymous Ijeoma, Washington DC : 10:36 AM ET
I did catch your report yesterday. It did touch me and I wrote about it on my own blog. To me 'White' is just a label it's not a 'race'. I can't believe the KKK is still around and they think what they think. Thank you Alina, for doing this story.
Posted By Anonymous Barbara W., Montreal, QC : 10:41 AM ET
I agree, it is sad to see that just because of a few people everyone has to pay.
Posted By Anonymous patricia san antonio tx : 10:46 AM ET
Agree, it's about time the issue is addressed. The white supremecy movement has never subsided. They just put on suits and tried to blend into normal society. Unfortunately, every time race is an issue there are a lot of moans and groans about playing the race card. Therefore groups like the KKK are pushed under the covers and we pretend they don't exist.

9-11 just gave them an excuse to come out again to spew thier hatred.
Posted By Anonymous Don, Houston, TX : 11:01 AM ET
Our society does precious little to instill values, and most parents are too busy working and keeping up with the Joneses to teach morals to their kids.

Our kids teachers are violent video games and graphic television. God" and "personal responsibility" are dirty words, so it's no surprise that America is reaping what it has sewn--too bad the youth ultimately suffer.
Posted By Anonymous Rachel D, Philadelphia, PA : 11:05 AM ET
As a single white female, I find it difficult to listen to any white supremacy group. I don't think the Klan derserves any publicity but it is something we can not hide from. How sad it is that we still have this problem in this country. I know that education and tolerance are the key, but it is frustrating when dealing with radicals. Tolerance must be started in elementary schools. Southern Poverty Law Center has a great web site. Everyone should check it out. Good luck in your story.
Posted By Anonymous ginger, colby , kansas : 11:12 AM ET
Why was it so hard to report objectively? Your morality got in the way of reporting a story?
Posted By Anonymous christopher, newark, nj : 11:25 AM ET
Thank you for taking the time to write on this and similar stories about the white supremacist movement. It serves as a painful reminder to all of us that racism and xenophobia are still heartily woven into the fabric of America, and that we could all use a better perspective on the true sacrifice that the pioneering civil rights leaders of the past centuries have made.
Posted By Anonymous Jimmy Tsai, Savoy IL : 11:36 AM ET
How, at age 23, can this Jarred Hensley have so much hate in his heart? I just don't understand...............
Posted By Anonymous Fred Miles Charleston, SC : 11:38 AM ET
Maybe for safety reasons, we can�t ignore the movement. But white supremacy is among the worst kind of ignorance and should never be given a platform.
Posted By Anonymous Marian, Franklin, TN : 11:41 AM ET
Alina, I mean respect when I say that it must've taken some courage for you to face that man, knowing his feelings about race and perhaps not knowing what level he would stoop to.

I grew up in the land of Apartheid (South Africa) where racism is a familiar topic - that has to be THE understatement of all understatements - but anyway, it seems that common sense, accountability and to some extent, proper upbringing are missing from society at large.

I'm white and my parents were born and raised in South Africa during an era when racism was ingrained. However, in spite of their upbringings, they knew that it is inherently wrong and treated non-white people with respect. They taught my brother and I to do the same (against their families' wishes) and so we grew up without delusions of superiority.

Watching your parents walk the walk ingrains a certain outlook - a sense of right and wrong - far more powerfully than listening to lip service on tv or at school.

However, for those people who do not have the benefit of good parenting - or for those who do, but rail against it - there will come a point in life when, as with my parents, common sense should take over and they will have to decide what kind of people they want to be, what kind of children they want to raise and ultimately, what kind of world they want to live in.

How many people have the inner strength to go against the grain within their own families or communities to do the right thing?
Posted By Anonymous Nikky, London, UK : 11:43 AM ET
Saw your report, Alina. Very good job. It seems no accident that the klansman, for such a diehard American, could hardly speak English. His inability to string a sentence together speaks volumes about the core issue here: ignorance. What is it about a country "spreading freedom" around the world but with so many disaffected, unsmiling faces among its own young? There's your next story, your next several.
Posted By Anonymous Michael, Dayton, Ohio : 11:48 AM ET
I think the KKK should be reminded that their ancesters were not American when they first arrived. Oh and by the way...they use the facilities to so what makes them so supreme?
Posted By Anonymous Betty Webster NY : 11:49 AM ET
I believe the government should make it illegal for the Klan to exist. This is the 21 st century and we must all be working for the good of America and not have people like the Klan allow to exist anymore. They are detrimental to America. People should not have to deal with those kind of people that are in the Klan.
Posted By Anonymous Frances Big Spring, TX : 11:50 AM ET
I think it was about time somebody adressed it.We can`t deny the existensce of racial biases in our society but nobody wants to talk about those.But these people suffer from inferiority complex and xenophobic attitudes.
Posted By Anonymous Ashwin, Los Angeles ,california : 11:53 AM ET
All this talking will lead to nothing. These people are here because we allow them to be here. Our PC culture has turned us all into idiots. They will grow as long as we let them grow, its that simple. If you don't want them in your city kick them out! Confront them in public, ask them questions. "But that would mean profiling them, oh my god we can't do that!" I'm sick of hearing this kind of talk form "good citizens"
Wake up people, your sleeping!!!
Posted By Anonymous John Daniels Encinitas, CA : 11:55 AM ET
Your comment that he told you to "get out of America" is a little deceptive -- since I watched the video, and his comment to you was ONLY AFTER you asked him, "So should I leave the country?" And he pointed out that, while you were born in the US, that you're not originally from North America -- AND, he pointed out that neither were whites (which isn't entirely true), but that whites CONQUERED the land, and thus, it's theirs by that right and no other.

Try not to be so deceptive in your blog as your general reports tend to be.
Posted By Anonymous Guido von Stennetti, Seattle, WA : 11:56 AM ET
The Klan will always have people who wish to belong to it. We are not far from our tribal ancestors, who for survival reasons, deeply distrusted anyone not like them and the others in their tribe. We will never rid ourselves of these feelings as they are deep in ourselves. Look at Nationalism, Patriotism, School Spirit, Sports Teams, etc. All these concepts are primarily grouping people into an "Us vs. Them" situation which we find very easy to deal with.

I feel that allowing these misguided people a voice shows our nation's character. We do not pick and choose when applying our rights. Freedom of Speech is Freedom of Speech, no matter what the message.
Posted By Anonymous Sean, New Haven, CT : 11:56 AM ET
I'm no white supremacy nut. They've been around in the Sates since soon after the abolition of slavery.
But since 9/11 the priorities have changed. Let's get the U.S. secure once again for people of all races, then we can tackle the KKK problem.
Posted By Anonymous Helliots Montpellier France : 11:57 AM ET
I don't believe this. The Klan has been decreasing in membership for years and law enforcement in any state will tell you that. Klan members however, or wannabes, will tell you that they have mighty numbers. I don't believe anything they say.
Posted By Anonymous Harriet McLeod, Charleston, S.C. : 12:01 PM ET
I am "white" woman who is married to a "black" man. It is incomprehensible to me that we still define worthiness by color, race or creed. To call this "Christian" is comprable to calling the absurdist politics of the religious right "Christianity" - It mocks everything that Jesus stood for.

I pray for an intelligence greater than our own to intervene in this mess we have created by our warped intentions.
Posted By Anonymous Linda, Largo, Florida : 12:01 PM ET
I think that an increase in racism is directly related to an increase in institutionalized fear (such as the use of the fear of terrorism to justify the invasion of Iraq) and an upswing in the popularity of the fringe elements of american christianity. I think that the U.S. will ultimately swing back toward a more moderate attitude in the future as long as our journalists are fearless like yourself and reflect the dark side of American culture.
Posted By Anonymous roger lamb, merriam, kansas : 12:01 PM ET
"Education" is the key and the lack of it will always produce these kinds of people; this is just simple common sense and we all know it but yet "Educating" our young ones is not in the top of our governments lists of PRIORITIES; God help US-A...
Posted By Anonymous BASEA, W. Tacoma, Washington : 12:03 PM ET
I do think that the KKK or skin heads will continue to grow as long as young white males are made to feel alienated when it comes to getting into college and other institutions because of their race. I can tell you that as a young white male in the U.S. i do feel as though i have done something wrong or perhaps i "owe" someone something. My friends feel the same way and perhaps this is why youngmen are able to be talked into joining these groups. Something to consider. Barry in Virginia.
Posted By Anonymous Barry, Richmond VA : 12:03 PM ET
While video games, television, and movies obviously have an effect on consumers, I consider that an easy out as an explanation to this problem. It seems to me that the people (family and peers) who surround these individuals contribute to their racist ideology by teaching them or create an atmosphere of alienation (by ignoring or abusing them) which encourages them to seek out some sort of identity and feeling of togetherness which white power groups offer. By blaming the media (Video games, TV, movies, etc.) we refuse to take responsibility for problems that are a result of us and those around us in our communities.
Posted By Anonymous Paul, Athens, Ohio : 12:03 PM ET
God made everyone. He unconditonally loves everyone. We may not all get along but this problem with hate stems from a hurt soul. May God heal the hate in this country and the world. Hate and Love have a boomerang affect. It's your choice.
Posted By Anonymous Joe, Wilkes-Barre Pa. : 12:04 PM ET
The Ku Klux Klan has just as much right to peacably assemble and discuss their views as any other organization in America. The KKK supports white people just as the NAACP supports black people. Nobody would assert that the NAACP is racist or terrorist because they support the advancement of ONLY black people. The first amendment guarantees that just because we do not agree with the views or perspectives of others, we must respect them and their right to hold those views.
Posted By Anonymous jake, milwaukee, wi : 12:05 PM ET
I think it's sad that we still have groups like the KKK and NAACP operiating this in this country. It's no secret that both groups use the same thing, RACE, as a platform to get their so called message out to the people. They both continue to stir the "race" pot any time they want to make a stand.

I don't care what group you fall into, their are both good and bad people of all races. Personally I have friends from several different races and wouldn't trade a one of them.

However, I have to say that if we are to allow one group to opperate we should also allow the other. They both are evil.
Posted By Anonymous Stanley, Charleston, SC : 12:05 PM ET
KKK.... Perhaps they have inferiority complexes. Everyone likes to belong to something and we all want to be part of something popular. It might stand to reason that these weak minded degenerates just want to be heard. Maybe race is there vehicle. We are all gods children. Maybe they should move to a desserted island and live amongst themselves.
Posted By Anonymous Greg Houston Texas : 12:06 PM ET
It is a difficult conflict on whether to give them a platform or not. Ideally, they would be ignored and just go away like a bad flu. Unfortunately, these puny-minded troublemakers represent a vocal minority and it is important that we are aware of them. I believe that good triumphs over bad and luckily most people respect and accept all people regardless of race, creed or color. Let's hope someday that ALL people will feel this way.
Posted By Anonymous Randy, Canada : 12:07 PM ET
It amazes me that we have a war on terrorism and yet white supremist groups have no trouble operating in this country. This also seems more prevelant when the conservatives are in control. Prior to the Clinton/Dole election I remember watching a clansman as he stated "We can't wait 'til Dole wins so we can start getting things the way we want it". I do NOT mean to imply that Bob Dole even remotely supports such thinking however his party's idea of how things should be in this country attracts them.
Posted By Anonymous Michael Marks, Reading, PA : 12:11 PM ET
It is unfortunate such racial hatred exists in a country which values freedom, diginity and equality. No race is superior to any other. The KKK appear to be insecure cowards. Why hide behind a mask?
Posted By Anonymous Sudi, Sunnyvale, CA : 12:11 PM ET
You're so very right, tolerance does need to be taught - young. Long story stort, my son defended a hadicapped child in the second grade from three bullies who called him a freek. My son was not punished. He was told how proud I was of him for standing up for what is right, and for defending someone who could not otherwise defend themselves. These people/groups are pure terrorists and should be on our top 10 to abolish. Freedom of Speach, is only Free if we keep it that way.
Posted By Anonymous Renee, Green Bay, WI : 12:11 PM ET
They have the right to believe what they do.

I think the rest of America believes these people are crazy
Posted By Anonymous Lil Phil, Chicago : 12:16 PM ET
It all boils down to education. I think it would be interesting to see how many KKK members hold a Doctoral, Masters, or even an undergraduate diploma. It may be a stretch to find a GED in this group.

Ignorance is bliss when you live in a bubble. And these KKK members live in an opaque bubble.

Educate our children well and we could winnow out this part of our society in a generation or two.
Posted By Anonymous Scott Ghiz, Carversville, PA : 12:17 PM ET
Thanks for reporting. Don't take their crap personally; they're igorant fools. I wonder if these idiots are scratching "E PLURIBUS UNUM" off every American coin.
Posted By Anonymous William James, Portland, OR : 12:17 PM ET
So what! They have their own views as well as other organizations. NAACP???? Why just talk about KKK? You can't tell me Al and Jesse aren't predjudice. Why just go after one org? Gay people have GLAAD, blacks have naacp,whites have kkk.
Posted By Anonymous Dan Denver ,CO : 12:17 PM ET
Although the KKK's platform is horrible and the large majority of Americans despise the group, it is important to remember that they can voice their opinions and protest in any legal manner. Restricting even unpopular groups such as the KKK or Neo-Nazis restricts everyone's civil liberties. As long as they are following laws they have the right to free speech and public assembly.
Posted By Anonymous Danielle, Columbus OH : 12:19 PM ET
Alina,

The story you've covered is an important one because we as a nation need to know that the KKK did not go away when the larger society desegregated. We need to be fearful of these people and their "values" to know that our children cannot be subjected to this subculture of the disenfranchised.
Posted By Anonymous Jeff, New York, NY : 2:11 PM ET
The only people that have first rights to this land are the first inhabitans established here. The Indians, Eskimos, Aztecs..ect. Why don't all of the KKK's members return to their ancestors place of origin in Europe? They have to look honestly at themselves and say they ARE of English, German, ect, decent. Also, how can the KKK claim the same god as the GOD of David, Moses, and Abraham? And yet hate the Jews? Basicly you are claiming the GOD of the Jews as your god. That leaves us with the point that they are too stuborn and dumb to see what makes them look so stupid to everyone else.
Posted By Anonymous Victor, Waco Texas : 2:13 PM ET
I will have to agree with you. This situation can not be ignored. But at the same time I feel that issues of Diversity taught in schools adds fuel to the fire. You have black student bodies and asian student bodies but no white student bodies. If there is a "white ones" it is deemed a raciest. But all the other groups are given a "Free pass" to exclude! To further anger these groups "Do absolutly nothing but further their own agendas for their kind only" It is that kind of double standard that angers white people when they are young and impressionable and it helps low rent groups such as the KKK to add more people to their cause. So if you want to address the problem, lets start by changing the way issues of race are addressed in schools. I will further challenge you to interview young white people and ask them how much of their own racial history they know VS Black history etc... Just on a personal note "You are more than welcome to be here" America is lacking in smart minds! So keep up the good work and gook luck on this subject!
Posted By Anonymous Gerald Pearson, Seattle WA : 2:14 PM ET
To categorize kkk with GLAAD or NAACP is just as ignorant as what the kkk stands for. GLAAD and NAACP were formed to get equality for a group of people who have been discrimiated against for years. GLAAD or NAACP don't go around telling white men to "go back to Europe!"
Stories like this should be brought to light, so many people can realize how ignorant the kkk is. I'm sure members of GLAAD or NAACP wish that there wasn't a need for such an organization.
Posted By Anonymous HP, New York City, NY : 2:14 PM ET
Why do people continuosuly put Jesse Jackson in the same category as members of the KKK? Working for the social, political, and economic inclusion of a group that has been historically denied fair treatment in this country is not racist. Ethnic cleansing is not on the aganda of his Rainbow Push Coalition organization. Ignorance still runs rampant.
Posted By Anonymous Ivan, Washington, DC : 2:19 PM ET
The modern era Klan is a joke. Unlike their predecessors, they wield no political power or clout to speak of. Over 60% of their "members" are FBI informants and the rest are ignorant, backward people who blame other folks for their problems. They are not worth the time or effort to report on. Frankly, I'm surprised that the "media" - everyone ranging from CNN to Jerry Springer - still gives these clowns a platform from which to spew their rhetoric. The Klan hasn't been a factor in decades, yet some journalist is always ready to make sure they don't die out for good. Ignore these buffoons!
Posted By Anonymous Patrick Jenkins, Atlanta, GA : 2:20 PM ET
To bad you reports are only on white hate groups. I really do not agree with any hate groups but lets bring them all to the light of day. There are some really bad boys out there that are unknown to the general public.
Posted By Anonymous Russ, Barstow, California : 3:06 PM ET
You claim that the "white supremacist movement is on the rise in this country and around the world." As this may be perhaps true, what you fail to express in your story (or neglect altogether) is that racial tensions are strained all over the globe, not just between whites and everyone else. There are movements occuring throughout the globe in many cultures, motivated not only by racial ideology, but by social ones as well (the Latin American MS13 gang is one such example). The problem should not be ignored. However, perhaps you and the correspondants at CNN and other networks would do good to broaden your perspective on the problem in an effort to show how the cause has nothing to do with such ill-perceived solutions.
Posted By Anonymous Rene Rivera, NYC : 4:04 PM ET
There was a report (on CNN, I believe) a few months ago that psychologists found that people 'bond' more easily when agreeing on the bad points of something or someone, than when agreeing on the good points. Fortunately or unfortunately, humans can't seem to stop dividing themselves and creating enemies of one another.

While education would probably help, if kids/teenagers can't feel like they belong, they're vulnerable to these groups, and to attacking homeless people, to bullying others in school, and so on.
Posted By Anonymous Amy Y, Urbana, IL : 7:00 PM ET
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