March 6, 2003

Augusta Not on Par With KKK

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The Ku Klux Klan does not deserve this column space.

Worse than giving the KKK publicity, however, is allowing the National Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO) and chair Martha Burk think that because the KKK has emerged as a supporter of Augusta National, they have proven their point.

Augusta National, site of the Masters Tournament every year for decades, has a membership of just over 300 and will not allow women to join.

Despite the fact that Augusta National is a private organization, Burk has launched a campaign to defame the club and annihilate the Masters Tournament. As a result of her threats to boycott the Masters’ sponsors, Hootie Johnson, the head of Augusta National, asked its three backers to pull out because he did not want them to endure the NCWO’s wrath.

This past week, Joseph J. Harper walked into the Augusta-Richmond County Sheriff’s Department to obtain a demonstration permit for the week of the Masters. Harper is the imperial wizard of the American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

After Harper’s request leaked out, Burk took the opportunity to give her two cents.

“It is not a surprise that the KKK supports Augusta National Golf Club, since the club embraces and flaunts discrimination,” Burk stated. “It must expect support of a like-minded group.”

First of all, Harper does not speak for the KKK. In fact, the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that monitors hate groups, said Harper had broken his ties with national Klan organizers earlier this year and that he appears to be the only member of his faction.

Now that Harper has come forward in support of Augusta, if he did speak for the KKK as a whole, one would think that other members would support him. On the American Knights website, in order to become a member, you have to sign a statement that says, among other things, “If I see or hear of a Klansperson in trouble I will come to their aid.”

Harper was undoubtedly faced with an onslaught of reporters after he filed for the permit and that seems like trouble enough to me.

While Harper claims that he will be bringing 25 people to the rally, not one of them has stepped forward. Not one of them has come to his aid.

Burk says that the club “flaunts discrimination.” Perhaps if Augusta’s members staged their own rallies and built bonfires with effigies of women, that would be considered “flaunting discrimination”. Augusta will even allow women to play on its course, as long as a member invites them, a practice that is identical to most country clubs I know. Females simply are not allowed in a clubhouse, something that is on par more with grade school than the KKK.

Finally, Burk’s insistence that Augusta and the KKK are a “like-minded group” is totally ridiculous and undermines her and the NCWO’s platform.

We all know the KKK’s history. Augusta National and its members have never sunk that low. What the KKK does to blacks, Augusta National DOES NOT do to women. There is no comparison here.

Although the KKK is, in Harper’s words, “tired of poor, white trash calling themselves the Ku Klux Klan and the negative image the Ku Klux Klan is getting,” and despite the fact that the American Knights’ website states that they are “krusaders for god, country, and the white race,” these claims simply camouflage the fact that the KKK is still racist and will always be racist.

A poem on the American Knights website says that when “a pretty Aryan girl marries a nigger”, that is “The Saddest Story Ever Told.” The KKK still sells patches with a man wearing a white hood and robe riding a horse and carrying a torch.

Augusta National is in no way similar to the KKK.

Burk is making the comparison because she hopes that most Americans will not think critically about the situation and hopes that the emergence of the KKK will be enough to convince people that Augusta National is evil.

What should be done?

Absolutely nothing.

We should not respond to Harper or Burk and engage in their media circus. Most of all, we should not associate Augusta National with the KKK.

Augusta is just a bunch of rich men, black and white, who like to get together on occasion, leave the wife at home, and play a round of golf.

The KKK could not even pretend to be so innocent.

Archived article by Katherine Granish