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The politics of ‘Klan dog’ to the rescue


Practical Politics

Just when we grasp a little more hope that things may be turning in the right direction, Blackly, in the U.S., we are snatched out of that fantasy again. Just as we have been before.

In spite of recently having had a very successful Black POTUS (now ranked historically as the 12th best POTUS in U.S. history), being continually lionized for creative successes in American and world arts, education and sports, being regularly seen---sometimes daily---as part of President Biden’s successful team, and other “blessings,” along comes another installment of the Klan Dog movement to remind us that as it went is sometimes as it still goes.

For those not directly related to this idea or being blessed not to have the direct memory of the calumny I’m talking about, let me explain. There were various repeated tropes in the mid-century South to constantly remind Black folks and others of how things were and how they would probably remain. There was the KKK, of course. There were also the sweaty, ill-educated rednecks who were often the school teachers, the civic workers and the local police. They were the ones more often in charge. A standard shared value among them was the need to intimidate the resident Black population, and any Black visitors, either frequently or ever-so-often just to maintain the status quo. Jason Aldean’s new hit song, “Try that in a Little Town,” is a salute to those times and a reminder that they aren’t dead yet.

There would either be a well-attended cross burning in the middle of town or in someone’s front yard, or the police would be called on two or three Black teenagers who were “uppity,” and/or  there was the quick resort to ordering one’s dog to attack a Black person just for the hell of it. The dogs were usually German Shepherds or other large canines. The vivid pictures of Civil Rights workers and regular folk in the crowd being grabbed and held by southern white policemen as their big dogs grabbed at the arms, necks and faces of the cornered citizens that we see in virtually every instance of old civil rights photography during the 1960’s is a prominent example of this . For those not directly privy to this sort of behavior (i.e., you did not grow up in the South during the Civil Rights era), we used to call these animals Klan dogs. Occasionally, the animals were even white in color, as were the ones I saw both in Jacksonville and in Gainesville as a teenager.

Just as “the conversation” is endemic to Black families, particularly those with sons, so is the fear of the Klan dog (usually accompanied by a police pistol whipping). So when the latest incident this week in Ohio was broadcast stating that a Black semi-truck driver who refused to immediately stop his vehicle when ordered to do so by the local cops chasing him, finally did stop and got out of his vehicle, only to be quickly attacked by a big German Shepherd police dog (Klan dog) even though the driver was already on his knees with his hands in the air, there was a distinct note of recognition. The times and people do not always change.

The unarmed Black man was driving at night through Circleville, Ohio, a small town, and kept telling his dispatcher that he was clearly aware of the police cars following him but he did not feel safe pulling over, that he thought the police would try to kill him. Eventually convinced to stop and get out of his truck, while surrendering to authorities with his hands up, a police K-9 did indeed attack and bite him enough for him to be temporarily hospitalized.

The officer who ordered the Klan dog attack was suspended from duty the next day, but chances are he will not be punished and certainly not fired, given the state of sovereign immunity that still reigns in the U.S.

While some things change, the nastiness still remains in too much of our lives. As if we need to be reminded.

Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.

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