Here in the Hamptons, in the midst of all the celebrities and billionaires that make the Hamptons what it is today, someone has been putting Ku Klux Klan membership applications into sandwich bags, adding some Jolly Ranger candies into the bags to weigh them down and throwing the bags into people’s driveways during the night for the residents to pick up in the morning.
“WARNING!” these leaflets say, “WE WANT YOUR JOBS, WE WANT YOUR HOMES, WE WANT YOUR COUNTRY.”
The membership application instructs you to fill out a form. You are to write down your name and address, affirm you are a white Christian American of European descent, affirm you want to get these African-Americans, Jews and Hispanics to go back to where they came from, support a national law against homosexuality, use troops to stop the flood of illegal aliens, and send it in with 20 bucks as an application fee. If accepted, the dues are 10 bucks a month.
The leaflet has a cartoon drawing of the faces of the supposedly awful people who are to be made to leave. There is a bald-headed Jew with a big nose and what appears to be a kindly smile (but we know better); there is an overweight Hispanic man with a big black moustache wearing an enormous Mexican sombrero; and there is, huddled between these two, an African-American man with thick lips and a huge afro. The three are looking out at the reader, but clearly they are also friends who are plotting and scheming.
Frankly, when I first saw this drawing I thought the three were a comedy team in the tradition of The Three Stooges—Curly, Moe and Larry. I wondered where I could go see them perform. It’s not a bad cartoon (see above).
The area in which these leaflets were being distributed on the East End was confined to two streets in a not-very-well-to-do section of Hampton Bays. Someone had traveled up and down the two-block area during the night with sacks full of these sandwich bags, tossing them out into every driveway. This person did this on occasional nights for several months, and although most people didn’t seem to mind this behavior other than that it was littering, several people called the police to complain. The complainants came from several different ethnic groups, according to the police, and included at least one Hispanic family. The police told the complainants that the words in this flyer were protected by free speech and did not violate the law.
After hearing about this, I spoke to a friend of mine who is a private detective living in this community, mostly doing divorce or missing persons investigations. I asked him, considering the evidence so far, who he thought might be doing this.
He said he thought whoever it was was not particularly smart. This person was distributing these leaflets in a very diverse community that largely consisted of people in the very minority groups he wished to persecute and who would therefore not be very likely to join up. He thought the person doing this might either have lost his driver’s license, be unable to afford a car, be ineligible to own one, unable to figure out how to drive one, or was someone under the age of 18 and who might be doing this as a prank. He also thought that the person doing this lived probably dead center along these two streets. And perhaps he walked with a cane. Otherwise, why distribute the same leaflet in the same area, over and over? A person more fleet afoot would deliver leaflets to a much wider area.
The New York Times finally was able to solve some of the issues in this leafleting. In an article published in the paper last week, they called and spoke to Robert J. Jones, the Grand Dragon of the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, which has headquarters in Pelham, North Carolina, a town where the organization was accepting membership applications.
He said the work was being done by an active Exalted Cyclops who lives in Hampton Bays and who runs a klavern, or local chapter. He said there are three klaverns in the State of New York. He said that several people had applied to sign up in response to this leafleting.
The Times reporter also did what all reporters do, which is to call local people and town officials and ask them what they think of this:
“[It’s] a nasty thing…distressing,” said Sister Mary Beth Moore, who runs Centro Corazon de Maria, a nonprofit advocacy group headquartered in Hampton Bays.
“It’s certainly offensive,” Anna Throne-Holst, the Town Supervisor, told the Times. “[The leafleting was not] at all reflective of the community we live in.”
“It’s really stereotyping,” said Andrea Londono, 17, whose father Carlos found the pamphlet in the driveway the night before. “And not at all like anybody I know.”
A prank? A spark of bigotry in a land that most recently celebrates its differences?
In 1987, the Mayor of Charleston, South Carolina met with his city council to consider an application from the Klan. They wanted to hold a parade through the streets of that city. Should it be approved or denied? One member of the council said that perhaps they ought to get the opinion of the very popular police chief in that community, Reuben Greenberg. They invited him to come over, and when he did, they asked what he thought.
Reuben Greenberg is an African-American—and a Jew. He said he wanted them to approve the application.
“When the time comes,” he said, “me and my officers will march at the front so as to see that no harm comes to them.”