The name Ku Klux Klan draws images of hoods, burning crosses and hatred in the minds of most Americans. But despite its more-than-100-year history, the organization remains very much a mystery to outsiders.
Many secrets of the organization will be revealed at noon Wednesday by Keith Akins, a criminal justice professor at the University of Houston-Victoria, in the Alcorn Auditorium of the UHV University West building, 3007 N. Ben Wilson St.
Akins joined the Klan in Florida under his real name in the 1990s to conduct research for his master’s degree in anthropology. He later infiltrated other branches in the early 2000s for the Anti-Defamation League.
“I just kind of wanted to see how they viewed the world rather than how the world viewed them,” Akins said of his research.
It allowed him to see how the organization functioned as an insider. What he found surprised him.
“The one thing that really shocked me was how normal they are in their day-to-day lives,” he said. “You could work right next to a Klan member for years and not know he was one of them.”
The group also isn’t formed entirely of the poor and the ignorant.
“A lot of very wealthy and very educated people are involved,” he said.
He was also surprised at how devoutly religious many of the Klan members are.
When the Klan found out he joined strictly for research purposes, Akins received several death threats. A few people even tried to act upon them, he said.
The presentation is being organized by the UHV Criminal Justice Society.
Society President Lindsay Hedding invited Akins to speak after she heard him mention being inside the Klan during an earlier lecture.
“It sounded like a fascinating topic that would really enlighten criminal justice majors, other students and the community,” she said. “We’re very grateful Dr. Akins was willing to share his experiences with everyone.”
For more information about the presentation, contact Hedding at firstname.lastname@example.org