(CNN)Driving from Birmingham to visit my grandmothers in Bessemer, Alabama, and Greensboro, Alabama, always took us through forests, and when I looked at the branches I'd imagine they were just strong enough to hold me and the other five members of my immediate family when the Ku Klux Klan strung us up by our necks with rope.
KKK editorial is America's problem, not just Alabama's
On Valentine's Day, Howard "Goodloe" Sutton, editor and publisher of the Democrat-Reporter in Linden, Alabama, published an editorial calling for the KKK to ride again, to clean up Washington and to clean up Democrats who are raising Alabama taxes, starting war and stopping the draft.
It is not fair to Marengo County -- where Linden is located -- to say that Sutton is their problem, that they should have stopped him, should have silenced him when he called President Barack Obama a Kenyan orphan, when he commented on first lady Michelle Obama's backside, when he called Hillary Clinton a "little fat oinker," when he said black football players were doing what they'd learned 200 years ago (kneeling before white men) when they kneeled during the National Anthem.
Goodloe Sutton and those like him are not Marengo County's problem. Not Alabama's problem. Not the South's problem. He is part of an American problem which has festered and bubbled since before 1776. Since 1526, when the first Africans were stolen and taken to the hell of slavery. The very Constitution Sutton claims "the ignorant" don't understand was originally written to allow men like him to belittle and dehumanize all who weren't white, landowning and male.
I can't claim to completely understand Goodloe Sutton's fundamentally misguided and hateful editorial, because the logic, from a composition perspective, is muddled. Is he mad at rich people, or just rich Democrats? Is he mad at the world because the promise of the (white) American Dream didn't come true in the tiny, forgettable pages of the Democrat-Reporter?
I've sat here reading a steady stream of racist, sexist, nationalist offensive editorials in Sutton's paper, and I think that's the real problem: we are still a country that gives unlimited space and time to the speech of the white patriarchy.
Sutton has been publishing disgusting, and yet-so-familiar editorials for decades. He has never been stopped. He has been written off as just a man using free speech. But this editorial and Sutton's subsequent commentary is more than just an off-color remark -- his words incite a gruesome, violent act. Wasn't Bobby Frank Cherry, convicted of murder in 2002 for his role in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in 1963, just a man speaking, freely, through a dynamite tongue? How many black people have been free-speeched to death?