The Symbolism of Cross Burning
Why is the Ku Klux Klan so intertwined with cross burning?
The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) are recognized throughout history as engaging in cross burning or cross lighting. This practice, which predates the history of the Ku Klux Klan originated many years prior to the KKK’s inception. Cross burning originated in Scotland and was often referred to as the Crann Tara. The symbolism associated with this represented a declaration of war;. The sight of a fiery cross rallied other members of the faction to stand up in defense This ritual was often targeted at victims of the Ku Klux Klan on or near their property and was often used as a scare tactic of the KKK to intimidate their victim. As a reader interested in the documented history of the KKK you may be interested to know that historically the Ku Klux Klan did not burn crosses especially during the Reconstruction era post Civil War. It was Thomas Dixon, that romanticized the vision of cross burning by the KKK with his writing of Sir Walter Scott in the early 1900’s. Dixon’s Novels inspired the release in 1915 of the movie Birth of a Nation in which cross burning was a central theme later that year Leo Frank a Jewish American was lynched by the Ku Klux Klan . After his death they burnt a cross which was followed by the burning of the cross by William Simmons, founder of the Ku Klux Klan in their founding ceremony.
Many Klan members are devout Christians. They believe that cross burning is a symbolic act of showing their faith by “lighting” a cross, even though most Christians believe that cross burning is an act of blasphemy.
Modern day cross burnings by the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) aren’t necessarily dying off. Since the 1980’s there have been well over 1,700 historical cases of cross burning by the Klan . More recently, cases of cross burning by the Ku Klux Klan involved using intimidation to threaten African Americans from purchasing houses in the area. The act of intimidation engaged in by Neal Coombs of Hastings, Florida in 2007 involved cross burning in unoccupied homes in order to intimidate and terrorize potential buyers. Coombs was sentenced to 14 years in prison for this act. Another case involved the Presidential campaign of Barack Obama in which a cross was found charred, set out by the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) in front of a home that openly supported Barack Obama. And in 2010 a minority couple from Nova Scotia found a cross and a noose on their lawn placed their by the Ku Klux Klan .These recent activities have shown that the history of the KKK has carried on into today by the use of cross burnings to incite intimidation and acts of terror.
The United States legislature in the case Virginia v. Black ruled that cross burning could be outlawed if the cross burning was used for intimidation alone, but this fact must be proved in court and critics including the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) argue that cross burning is an act that should be protected under the freedom of speech clause in the constitution. Only time and legislative trials will show how the United State of America will deal with cross burnings in the name of fear and intimidation by the Ku Klux Klan will fare in the future.
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