Paul R. Lehman, Cross Burning a sign of ignorance and stupidity

July 24, 2011 at 10:03 pm | Posted in American Racism, Ethnicity in America, Race in America | 2 Comments
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If the incident that occurred in
San Luis Obispo, California last month is any indication of how America has
progress relative to ethnic relations, then American has a long way to go. The newspaper
account (The Oklahoman 7-23-11) states
that “Four people have been arrested and charged with setting a cross on fire
next to the home of a black family in a mostly white central California city.”
Strangely enough the answers come before the questions.

Throughout American history we are
told about the burning cross as a symbol used by the Ku Klux Klan for a variety
of reasons, but one in particular was to frighten and intimidate helpless
African Americans, especially those living in the South. A lot of the stated
symbolism for the cross burning makes no sense at all: “Many citizens thought it was a sacrilege to
burn the cross, but the KKK defended themselves by claiming they burned the
crosses as a symbol of their faith in what their belief system was. The KKK
killed not only blacks, but whites and also a few politicians along the way.”
( and what they believed in was white supremacy. They believed that
the color of their skin (white) made them superior to all non-European ethnic

The incident
cited above shows a degree of ignorance, fear, and insecurity on the part of
the four people arrested for the act. First, they apparently used the burning
cross as a form of intimidation against the African Americans. The cross is supposed
to say to the African Americans that you have no power; we control your life.
The fire added to the cross meant something else, it “was called ‘cross burning
or cross lighting’ to let other KKK members know where to meet and to defend
what they considered their territory and to terrorize blacks and whites alike
that disagreed with their Aryan order.( The problem for the cross
burners is not that others disagree with their beliefs, it is because they know
their belief is based on a false premise, but cannot bring themselves to accept
that truth.

Burning the cross
actually indicated a fear on the part of the burners that their belief would be
exposed as false. The African American family did not have to do anything to
represent a threat to the lack of common sense and decency imbedded in the
minds of the bigots. They evidently thought that their burning of a cross would
cause the African American family to leave or maybe just disappear. Their illegal
act was a form of defense of their belief and proof to their fellow believers
that they were willing to take a risk for the cause.

Under the Declaration
of Independence they have a right to think whatever they want, but they do not
have the right to deprive another of life, liberty, and the pursuit of
happiness. Because of their actions they were charged “with felony arson, cross
burning, terrorism and conspiracy. The charges come with hate crime
enhancements.”  Chance are these cross
burners will have some time to think about what they did and consider the
wisdom of their deed. The unfortunate part of this entire experience is the
lack of learning and understanding that is missed. Bigots are allowed to be
bigots in American, but not to the point of interfering in the lives of other
citizens. The only reason for someone to protest the rights and privileges of
another person because of his color is because of ignorance.

To most people
the cross is a Christian symbol, but the elements of Christianity are loss when
the cross is set afire and used as a protest against people simply because of
their skin color. The burning cross shows a contradiction in the so-called
Christian faith and belief of the bigots generally. However, if their faith and
belief in God tell them that they are superior to all people who do not look
like them, then they believe that their act is a form of protecting and
defending that belief. They also believe that America belongs to them because
God gave it to them, so they have a right to say who lives where. Evidently these
people either have no knowledge of the Declaration of Independence and the
United States Constitution, or they totally ignore it. Maybe during the time
given them by the state of California they might become acquainted with those

Cross burning is
unfortunately, not a rarity in America today. Once a common tactic of the Ku
Klux Klan, it is now done by individuals who just seem to want to prove to
themselves that they are special and privileged because of their skin color,
which represents their identity. The fear of having an ethnic American look
them in the eyes means they have loss their position of power and must fight to
regain it. The fact that the U.S. Government has labeled certain illegal acts committed
against citizens as hate crimes indicates the seriousness of the offense. When
we examine such acts as cross burning we find nothing that speaks to
Christianity and democracy, but rather ignorance and stupidity.

When people base
their identity on things that lack concrete support and proof and must be
defended by irrational and false claims, they face a constant challenge to find
value in themselves. Too often that value comes at the expense of their denigrating
others, and if that denigration comes in the form of action against other citizens,
then a crime has been committed. In this case, crime does not pay.



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  1. Want to know a new twist to the KKK? My paternal grandfather was an Ozarks farmer the first third of the last century, and I’ve heard some of the lore of that time and place. Not many African Americans lived in the Ozarks, so some KKK members would take on the “whites,” by whipping–yes, whipping them–for certain misconduct. If, for example, Mrs. White “entertained” a man other than her husband, the KKK might pay her a nightly visit and spank her or at least give her a warning. Those silly men liked to dress up in the bedsheets and try to enforce their brand of morality. My guess is that they never whipped a town merchant who cheated his customers.

  2. When you live in a world that has been built to favor you, it is easy to think that God created the system. Nothing could be further from the truth. That reasoning would have Christ born in wealth, royality, and power…not in a barn destined for criminal execution. The burning cross is a symbol of stupidity and hate. The cross of Christ is a symbol of love and hope.

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