Let’s start with a question today. How many of you have ever heard of Stetson Kennedy? My guess is that most of you have not. Stetson was a true American hero; a man of unusual character, courage and creativity. He contributed greatly to the decline of the 2nd Ku klux Klan as a national group with strong political influence.
Stetson grew up in Florida during the early part of the 20th century. He worked as a folklorist and writer and was an early Human Rights activist. While he engaged in a number of typical activist activities that involved helping the underprivileged and oppressed, I remember him best as someone who was not afraid to try out untraditional methods. Perhaps his most successful use of untraditional methods was when he approached the producers of the Superman radio program and convinced them to do series of broadcasts where Superman took on the KKK https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Adventures_of_Superman_(radio).
Prior to this, Stetson had done his homework. He had infiltrated a number of Klan groups and gotten to know many of their secrets. For instance, a Klan member travelling somewhere unknown who wanted to get into contact with other Klansmen could ask a stranger if he knew Mr. Ayak (Are You A Klansmen). If the stranger answered, “No,” the Klansman would move on. But if he answered, “Yes, and I know a Mr. Akai (A Klansman Am I), then the visitor knew he was talking to a fellow klansman.
Through the 16 Superman episodes many of these secrets were revealed, making them less attractive to new recruits. Who wants to join a secret club where all of the secrets are common knowledge?
After the airing of the episodes the number of new recruits dropped drastically. Way to go Superman! Way to go Stetson Kennedy!
In a couple of days I will be meeting with one of Norway’s most famous cartoonists. He is creator of the SuperHero, Urban Legend – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Urban_Legend_(comics). I’m already impressed with the alternative SuperHero concept; a non-white, Western hero. He is a role model for lots of kids already. But what I’m wondering is, could he be even more? Could he also help expose and ridicule the modern day terrorist equivalent to the KKK? I look forward to finding out :-).
Let me end with a an expression attributed to Stetson Kennedy – the best way to cripple a hate movement is to make it ridiculous, to expose its inherent silliness, to make it impossible for them to recruit new members.