June 13, 2012; Source: CNN

Maybe it is a kinder, gentler version of the Ku Klux Klan. Amidst the efforts of various state governments to get businesses and charities to participate in Adopt-a-Highway programs, the Klan, or the version of the Klan that goes by the name of the International Keystone Knights of the KKK, proposed to adopt a mile stretch on Georgia State Route 515.

One can imagine the consternation of the Georgia state commissioner of the Department of Transportation. Would he accept the Klan’s application as just one more organization to clean up part of the roadside, or would he consider the specific content of the Klan’s distinctive racial and ethnic message and turn it down?

The commissioner, Keith Golden, responded to the Klan’s May 21st application, stating that a mountain highway with a speed limit of 65 might be unsafe for volunteer clean-up efforts. Golden addressed the issue of the Klan itself. “The impact of erecting a sign naming an organization which has a long-rooted history of civil disturbance would cause a significant public concern,” he concluded. “Impacts include safety of the traveling public, potential social unrest, driver distraction or interference with the flow of traffic.”

The kinder, gentler Klan says that it isn’t racist, but that it’s simply an organization of people who want to be with white people. As one Klan leader put it, “It’s all right to be black and Latino and proud, but you can’t be white and proud. I don’t understand it.”

Like the Nazis wanting to march in Skokie, Ill., the Klan apparently plans to contact the American Civil Liberties Union to argue its case, given that the Georgia DOT website explains that its Adopt-a-Highway program is open to “any civic-minded organization, business, individual, family, city, county, state or federal agency…to volunteer,” with no reference to the beliefs of the organization.

A version of the Klan won that argument in Missouri when the state unsuccessfully tried to reject its application to adopt a stretch of Interstate 55, though eventually the Klan was de-designated from the program for failing to pick up the trash—and the state then named that part of the highway after civil rights heroine Rosa Parks.

We took a look at the websites of the International Keystone Knights and the Georgia “realm,” neither of which references the Adopt-a-Highway controversy in Georgia. Both, however, explain the IKKKK’s 2012 election agenda succinctly:

What We Want:

Obama: Gone

Borders: Closed!

Language: English only

Culture: Constitution, the Bill of Rights and In GOD We Trust!

Drug Free: Mandatory Drug Screening before Welfare!

NO freebies to: Non-Citizens!” 

In the CNN article, the Klan spokesperson argues that the organization isn’t racist, but is just proud to be white. Take a look at the Georgia IKKKKK’s humor page and make your own judgment about the organization’s racism and the appropriateness of the IKKKKK taking responsibility for a highway that is traversed by African Americans.—Rick Cohen