Read this first:
Close your eyes. When you hear the phrase “real American,” what do you picture?
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The Ku Klux Klan was founded in 1886, when some White Southerners decided to resist the legal equality of Blacks and Whites that had been established during Reconstruction. The Klan claimed that White Christians were superior to people of other racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds. The Klan secretly organized illegal activities, including intimidating and lynching Black people, other minority groups, and those who disagreed with them. The period 1920–1929 is known as the Roaring Twenties or the Jazz Age. This period is known for economic prosperity, new freedoms for women, and a surge in creativity among Black artists.
Document: The Klan’s Fight for Americanism, Hiram W. Evans, 1926
The Klan, therefore, has now come to speak for the great mass of Americans of the old pioneer stock. We believe that it does fairly and faithfully represent them, and our proof lies in their support. To understand the Klan, then, it is necessary to understand the character and the present mind of the mass of old-stock Americans. The mass, it must be remembered, as distinguished from the intellectually mongrelized “Liberals.” These are, in the first place, a blend of various peoples of the so-called Nordic race, the race which, with all its faults, has given the world almost the whole of modern civilization…. The Nordic American today is a stranger in large parts of the land his father gave him. Moreover, he is a most unwelcome stranger, one much spit upon, and one to whom even the right to have his own opinions and to work for his own interests is now denied with jeers and revilings.
They [Nordic Americans] decided that … an alien usually remains an alien no matter what is done to him, what veneer of education he gets, what oaths he takes, nor what public attitudes he adopts. They decided that the melting pot was a ghastly failure, and remembered that the very name was coined by a member of one of the races—the Jews—which most determinedly refuses to melt. They decided that in every way, as well as in politics, the alien in the vast majority of cases is unalterably fixed in his instincts, character, thought and interest by centuries of racial selection and development, that he thinks first for his own people, works only with and for them, cares entirely for their interests, considers himself always one of them, and never an American. They [Nordic Americans] learned, though more slowly, that alien ideas are just as dangerous to us as the aliens themselves, no matter how plausible such ideas may sound. With most of the plain people this conclusion is based simply on the fact that the alien ideas do not work well for them. Others went deeper and came to understand that the differences in racial background, in breeding, instinct, character and emotional point of view are more important than logic. So ideas which may be perfectly healthy for an alien may also be poisonous for Americans.
Finally they [Nordic Americans] learned the great secret of the propagandists; that success in corrupting public opinion depends on putting out the subversive ideas without revealing their source. They came to suspect that “prejudice” against foreign ideas is really a protective device of nature against mental food that may be indigestible. They saw, finally, that the alien leaders in America act on this theory, and that there is a steady flood of alien ideas being spread over the country, always carefully disguised as American. We [the Klan] are demanding, and we expect, to win, a return of power into the hands of the everyday, not highly cultured, not overly intellectualized, but entirely unspoiled and not de-Americanized, average citizen of the old stock.
1. How does Evans define a “real American”? What evidence does Evans provide that the “melting pot” is a failure?
2. What does Evan see as the true reason for prejudice of “real” Americans against “aliens”?
3. What is your own definition of a “real” American?
4.Do you agree with Evans that immigrants never consider themselves American? What evidence could you provide to support your claim?
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