Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 313
In Black Klansman, Ron Stallworth relates his experience infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan in the late 1970s. Stallworth, an African American police detective, and a white colleague together posed as a white supremacist in order to investigate the Klan, which was openly recruiting in Colorado. Their actions were instrumental in derailing Klan operations, which included terrorizing black people with such tactics as burning crosses at their homes. One of Stallworth’s challenges was overcoming his revulsion at not just associating with racists but pretending to be one, even though his mission was to help bring perpetrators to justice and prevent further violence.
Just to join the local chapter, Stallworth had to have several phone interviews. He learned that membership cost ten dollars annually and a member was required to purchase his own robe and hood. Some of the interviews were with senior, veteran members; these included David Duke, a Louisiana politician and Klan leader, or Grand Wizard.
Impersonating their behavior included using the N-word, making derogatory statements about all minorities, and getting involved in their plots. In his own identity, however, Stallworth actually provided police security for Duke during a Colorado visit with several media events.
Stallworth initially rejected the idea that the Klan sought new members in Colorado Springs, a western college town. His realization of this aggressive strategy brought him a new understanding of racist extremism in the United States, such as Klan links to the American Nazi Party.
His story of investigating the Klan also provides insights into his own career path in the police, as he was then the first black detective hired in Colorado Springs. The assignment including convincing his sergeant that the undercover plan was viable, along with developing a uniquely close working relationship with “Chuck,” the white “face” to Stallworth’s character. He is frank about other police personnel not supporting, or even undermining, his work.
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