I was supposed to be on the floor of the Republican National Convention Tuesday night, but after seeing the tweet from Current TV’s David Shuster about the CNN camerawoman who was harassed by someone throwing peanuts at her and told, “This is how we feed animals,” I know that my not being there was for the best.
My time [as a journalist] in Reading, Pa., had a lot to do with my “radicalization” of having less tolerance for ignorance. That’s where I met Roy Frankhouser, former Grand Dragon of the United Klans of America. I have yet to smell anything that smelled like he did. And I’m from New Jersey, home of the Superfund site.
One day, instead of telling me to go back to where I came from, like he usually did, he informed me that he had somehow gotten a picture of me. And had put it in the newsletter that the United Klans put out. I wondered how he got the picture in the first place — and then wondered what this meant for my safety. Most of my coverage beat was in areas where his buddies hung out: dark, wooded areas with few lights and no blacks.
My mom, who was originally from Kentucky and as a black woman of Southern descent had a far more developed relationship with the Klan, had a fairly advanced meltdown upon hearing about this. But when I shared this with my editors at the paper, they were dismissive. “He’s just Roy,” they’d tell me.
He’s just Roy. Granted, “just Roy” had blown up a Jewish Community Center and had run a friend of mine, a civil rights worker, literally out of town with his threats. But he’s harmless. Just like that guy at the RNC was harmless — and throwing peanuts at a black woman trying to do her job. While calling her an animal.
These people are “harmless.” To white guys. Guys they’d occasionally have a beer with. But they weren’t on the wrong end of the Klan newsletter. I was.