When will networks get around to green-lighting “Keeping up with the Farrakhans” or “The Real Housewives of ISIL”?
That’s the question I kept asking myself while reading up on A&E’s upcoming docu-series “Generation KKK.”
That’s right: the Arts and Entertainment network, also known for such fine “culturedness” as “Duck Dynasty” and “Hoarders,” is bringing us an eight-part documentary series about America’s most notorious domestic terrorists.
Or as reported by The New York Times in “Inside the Ku Klux Klan, With an A&E Documentary Series,” the series is one of the network’s more “complicated — and politically charged” programs.
As one of the show’s producers tells the NYT, the series isn’t just about the Klan’s grass root efforts to preserve the White race, but it will also show us “the struggles with the internal families.”
At the heart of the series are three Klansman: Steven Howard, Imperial Wizard of the North Mississippi White Knights, who has aspirations to become the next David Duke; Richard Nichols, the Grand Dragon in the Tennessee Knights of the Invisible Empire; and Chris Buckley, a Grand Knighthawk with the North Georgia White Knights, whose wife is contemplating leaving him after an altercation with three African-American women at the local Walmart.
And as A&E General Manager Rob Sharenow told the paper: “We certainly didn’t want the show to be seen as a platform for the views of the KKK. The only political agenda is that we really do stand against hate.”
They are going to stand against hate by giving hate a platform – I guess, like how we put out forest fires.
To be fair, the KKK has yet to be declared a terrorist organization – in spite of its over 200 years of murder and mayhem. So A&E isn’t exactly doing anything illegal. And as the NYT article notes, the series will also feature three anti-hate activists who will attempt to persuade members to leave the Klan, which I guess gives the series some kind of moral turpitude above your typical episode of Jerry Springer.
But as reported by the Black cinema website Shadow & Act, “Generation KKK” is not the only Klan-related programming in production planned for the new year. Amazon studios is developing a film about the “rise of the KKK in the South in the 1860s, and the brutal fight against them.” Likewise, actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt is said to be producing a film also based on the early days of the KKK entitled, “K Troop.”
Not to be too presumptuous here, but it certainly looks like the network and studio executives are looking to exploit everyone’s fear of the rise of the alt-right and the election of Donald Trump.
And in certain respects, that is to be expected. The election of President Obama, along with the rise of the Tea Party and the Black Lives Matter movement, brought us a wave of programming geared to understanding the Black experience.
How could we forget CNN’s Black In America series? No seriously, tell me how to forget it?
Anyway, as Tambay Obenson notes for Shadow & Act:
“It’s also worth noting that 2016 has seen Hollywood face its racial biases, and do maybe more than it’s ever done to at least begin to fix its so-called diversity problem; we’ve seen high profile, popular films and TV series that address this country’s ugly racist past prior to, and after the KKK gained prominence, like Nate Parker’s “The Birth of a Nation,” WGN’s “Underground” series, the reboot of “Roots,” Ava DuVernay’s “13th,” as well as announcement of 2 upcoming feature films on Harriet Tubman, a number of Civil War set dramas, and more. We can even add the unearthing of previously untold stories from America’s past that highlight the resilience and achievement of black people in the face of immense adversity (racism to start) like that which is at the center of “Hidden Figures” which will be released in the USA this weekend. And while secondary, it’s also the year that Marvel’s Black Panther movie finally got its wings and industry “diversity” became cause célèbre. It’s all related; this is the climate we’re currently in. And within it, there’s been a “whitelash” as Van Jones put it and much anti-immigrant sentiment, the seeming *rise* of the so-called “alt-right,” all headlined by the man who will be our next president. So projects that tackle the country’s racist, non-inclusive past, and its key players, will likely continue to be greenlit. They’ve proven to be commercial successes… for the most part, and as the saying goes, “money talks.”
I haven’t seen the series and I don’t want to judge it too harshly on what role, if any, it will play in normalizing White supremacy. The fact that it exists – and that as noted by Obenson these programs tend to be commercial successes – is enough evidence for me to believe White supremacy as entertainment is far past the point of normalization.
But I will say this, I’m going to do my part and not watch any of it.
For one, it is high-time we stop negotiating with terrorists. And there is nothing more terroristic than giving a platform to people whose legacy in this country includes violence and aggression. No way, would it be acceptable for someone to give a platform to ISIL, even if it did present an opportunity to understand their internal struggles.
Nor is anyone trying to give a platform to Farrakhan or any other Black nationalist group, and he has killed zero people (wink).
And to be frank, I have little faith that a network, which managed to turn the basket of deplorables featured on Duck Dynasty and Dog, the Bounty Hunter (among other questionable programming) into lovable household names, will do the right thing.
Likewise, television, with all of its general smoke and mirrors, editing and producing, has a way of making us empathize with things we know we damn-well shouldn’t. And there is no way I’m trying to relate my relationship problems with any members of the Klan.
Charing Ball is a writer, cultural critic and smarty-pants Black feminist from Philadelphia. To learn more, visit NineteenSeventy-Seven.com.