Friday, November 14, 2008


The Greyhound bus leaves Tulsa for Slidell, LA only once a day, at 5:40 PM Central. The 959-mile journey takes one day, four hours and fifty minutes, and the bus makes exactly 20 stops through Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana before it reaches stop #21, Slidell. The round-trip non-refundable ticket costs $272.00. One must be mighty determined to reach Slidell to endure what amounts to the modern-day equivalent of a stagecoach ride.

Cynthia Lynch (below, right) had that determination when she boarded the bus on Friday, November 7. It had to have been an emotional moment to climb the three steps on the bus. It was the first time Lynch had ever been outside of Tulsa, according to later reports from family members. She was a troubled loner, an outcast. At six feet tall, she had close-cropped hair when she left Tulsa. When her body was found three days later, her head had been shaved. The one photo that has been released shows a severe strain, a sadness that only time sculpts into a woman’s face. Maybe that is why she had the twisted plan to be a part of the Ku Klux Klan, to be affiliated, just to belong. No matter that her new circle of compatriots were deep into hatefulness, or that their common bond was the lethal mix of violence and intolerance.

The only outstanding events known about Lynch are a couple of run ins with the law. Something about loud music coming from her apartment and methamphetamine. Charges were eventually dropped. A felony charge of attempted murder of her husband was expunged, according to application she completed to join the Klan.

But her lawyer, recently quoted in the Associated Press, knows how singularly alone she really was. “I would think the reason she was even involved with these people was probably because she was extremely lonesome and wanted to be involved with something,” said Fred Henderson DeMier. “She probably would have joined the Boy Scouts if she could have.”

“These people” that DeMier references are the Dixie Brotherhood, a modern-day Ku Klux Klan group that met in the remote woods of tiny Sun, LA, about an hour north of New Orleans. The ringleader, Raymond Foster (left), reportedly shot Lynch as she tried to back out of a KKK initiation. Lynch had apparently changed her mind - some speculate she was simply homesick. After she was killed, Foster and his buddies used a knife to dig the bullet out of her body, reportedly to get rid of the evidence. A couple of the conspirators later emerged from the woods and stopped by a convenience store. After they asked the clerk how to remove blood stains from clothing, the clerk called authorities and in short order Foster and his band of bottom feeders were arrested.

End of unfortunate, bizarre story? Hardly. If you are 20-something, or even 30-something, the KKK might seem like some long ago association of ignorant, societal fringe fanatics who hate black people and burn crosses. It came up somewhere in a social studies book in school, right? Oh, and probably your image of the Klan burning their crosses is placed somewhere in the deep South, right? Evidently the Klan is still active in the South, but recent reports of Klan activity are all over the map:

• Islip Terrace, Long Island, NY: Just this past week the regional KKK, known as the United Northern and Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, dropped pamphlets on doorsteps there, espousing white supremacy and warning residents of the dangers of losing superiority over other races. This comes right on the heels of seven teens charged on Nov. 13 in the brutal, racially charged stabbing death of an Ecuadorian immigrant. The crime has been labeled as racially-motivated. Some kids in that area now engage in a sport called “beaner jumping,” which involves hunting down Central Americans and exacting violence upon them.
• Mastic, NY: In this Hamlet near Islip Terrace, following Barack Obama’s recent victory, the Secret Service opened an investigation into racist graffiti spray-painted on more than two dozen vehicles, including messages targeting Obama. The messages are not in any way left open to interpretation. One said simply, “Kill Obama.”
• Meade County, KY: Last week a trial started involving members of the Imperial Klans of America, whose members are charged in the alleged 2006 beating of one Jordan Gruver, by two Klansmen.The IKA labels the charges ”ridiculous.” By week's end, Gruver, an American citizen of Panamanian descent, had been awarded $2.5 million by the jury. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the organization that brought the lawsuit on Gruver's behalf, Gruver had attended a county fair when several Klansmen who were there recruiting "threw whisky in his face and called him a 'spic.' Gruver, who stood 5-foot-3 and weighed just 150 pounds at the time, was surrounded, beaten to the ground and kicked by the Klansmen, one of whom was 6-foot-5and 300 pounds. He was left with a broken jaw and arm, two cracked ribs and multiple cuts. He now suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome and has permanent arm and jaw injuries."

There are other instances that could be cited here of Klan violence in the 21st Century. Know this: The digital communications revolution has found its way to the most intolerant and racist among us. The Klan is all over the web, and if you thought history had shelved organized racism, you might want to visit their sites, although I will not link to them here. In doing some background work for this article, I visited a number of Klan web sites, read about “fag marriage,” how “dirty jews own the media,” how “we must do God’s work so our white children will be forever protected,”and all about how if you are “not of the white race, this site is not for the likes of you.”

One particularly disturbing Klan site reminds you a good reason to join is that “it is a secret organization, and no one will ever know that you are a member.” Cynthia Lynch may have relished the idea of being a part of something so private and ideologically collaborative. I wonder. Perhaps you should wonder, as well. How underground has racism and intolerance gone in our era of political correctness? How many Americans harbor severe cultural, ethnic or race-based hate? Perhaps Cynthia did not die in vein. Her death will likely cause media types, like me, to pay attention to the grass roots efforts toward re-segregating America. If ever there were a time for true vigilance, this is that time.
The press never rests, you know.

1 comment:

Joan Eisenstodt said...

The death of Cynthia Lynch is tragic; the continuation of the KKK and other hate groups is even more disturbing bec. it is not just this one group that is 'out to get' those who are not like them. I strongly advise anyone reading your blog, Paul, and this post, to join/donate to the Souther Poverty Law Center and subscribe to their hate crimes bulletin - or to at least read about US Hate Crimes on their web site: There is a 'hate crimes map.' You can also donate to and receive "Teaching Tolerance", a superb publication about what schools are doing to teach understanding. We have, esp, with Pres.-elect Obama soon to be inaugurated, an opportunity to further the process of inclusion and acceptance.