For God, Race and Country #1
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Sometimes pictures are made that offer little understanding. Sometimes we walk away with questions that offer no answers. The more time I spend with Klansmen, Klanswomen, and their families, the more I find myself with the unanswered questions of why these specific people believe what they believe. Yet sometimes, in rare moments, someone in front of my lens begins to open up in ways that can give us a glimpse into answering these “Why” questions.
It is always because of something else. Something deeper. Something behind it all.
One summer night in 2002, after hours of interviewing, I turned off my tape recorder and stopped asking questions of David, a young member of the Klan. He lay on the hood of his car outside a trailer, and, looking up at the night sky, he explained to me that two black men murdered his mother in 1992, when he was only twelve years old. His voice was hard when he told me this, but not angry. She was a taxicab company owner, and they robbed her, getting away with only $17. I had just spent hours with him, asking him questions and I had come nowhere near this. It seemed David had a reason to turn to something so dark, yet it was a reason he could not even vocalize.
Earlier that same night, while explaining to me how the Klan justifies what they believe, David quoted John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
I told him about a friend who was Catholic, and an African-American man. I wanted to know if he would not be permitted eternal life based on that scripture. David paused a moment and said he had never thought about it that way before and that, based on the scripture, my friend would have eternal life.
A couple of months later, I received an email from David, and he said that, based on my questions and our conversations, he began to feel that the Klan had it wrong, and that he had decided to leave – all of this because of some questions.