Guest / Limited Access /
Confessions of a Racist
Joseph M. Arseneau / Shutterstock.com

When news came over the intercom system that President John F. Kennedy had been shot, students in my high school stood and cheered. They cheered because he was the President who had proposed civil-rights legislation and had then backed it up by forcing the University of Mississippi to integrate. To our comfortable enclave of racism in the suburbs outside Atlanta, Georgia, Kennedy represented an intolerable threat.

In 1966, when I was graduated from that school, no black student had ever set foot on campus. Black families had moved into the neighborhood, and whites on all sides were fleeing to Stone Mountain and other suburban points east, but no black parents dared enroll their children in our school. We all believed then, and I have no reason to disbelieve now, that Gordon singlehandedly kept them away. Gordon, a tenth-grader reputed to be the nephew of the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, had put out the word that the first black kid in our school would go home on a stretcher.

The Ku Klux Klan had an almost mystical hold on our imaginations. It was an invisible army, we were taught, a last line of defense to preserve the Christian purity of the South. I remember as a child watching a funeral procession for a Wizard of the KKK. Caught trying to turn left across traffic, we had to wait until the entire motorcade passed. Dozens, scores, hundreds of cars slid past us, each one driven by a figure wearing a silky white or crimson robe and a pointed hood with slits cut out for eyes. The day was hot, and the drivers' bare elbows jutted from open car windows at acute angles. Who were they, these druids reincarnate? They could be anyone-the corner gas station attendant, a church deacon, my uncle—no one knew for ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Support Christian thought journalism. Donate to our nonprofit ministry today.
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Current IssueA Critical Care Surgeon Meets the Great Physician
A Critical Care Surgeon Meets the Great Physician
I felt distant from God until I witnessed a medical miracle.
Current IssueHow the Prophet Habakkuk Built an Anti-Fragile Faith
Subscriber Access Only
How the Prophet Habakkuk Built an Anti-Fragile Faith
Lessons on worshiping a consistently unpredictable God.
RecommendedMartin Luther King, Jr.
Subscriber Access Only Martin Luther King, Jr.
No Christian played a more prominent role in the 20th century's most significant social justice movement.
TrendingAll 240 Family Christian Stores Are Closing
All 240 Family Christian Stores Are Closing
More than 3,000 employees in 36 states will be laid off in the liquidation of one of the world’s largest Christian retailers.
Editor's PickMy Missionary Great-Grandfather Led Me to Christ
My Missionary Great-Grandfather Led Me to Christ
But only after I went to Japan in search of his life story.
Christianity Today
Confessions of a Racist
hide thisAccess The Archives

In the Archives

January 2000

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.