LETTER: New white nationalism not welcome in Manhattan

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Manhattan, Kansas is a welcoming place for young people to grow, families to thrive and retirees to return. Inclusion is a key and dynamic part of how we are able to be successful. From our commitment to attracting the globally talented to our future investments toward empowering local entrepreneurial diversity, Manhattan is bringing everyone to the table.

Just last month, the Manhattan mayor read a proclamation that had the following line: “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. devoted his life to advancing equality, social justice and opportunity for all, and challenged all Americans to participate in the never-ending work of building a more perfect union.”

Manhattan will not hide from that call to action. While Kansas and Manhattan have come far, we will remain steadfast in our commitment to building a more perfect union.

Our history speaks volumes. The resolve of Kansas to enter the Union as a free state sparked the Civil War. Kansas volunteered a larger proportion of our population to fight and lost a higher percentage of our soldiers to the cause than any other state. The first all-black infantry regiment of the Union Army was organized in Kansas, and it went on to become the first unit in the United States to fight alongside white soldiers. After the war, Kansas became the first to ratify the 15th Amendment.

The Kansas Historical Society points out that in 1921 the KKK fixed its eyes on the Sunflower State. Their national chapter in Atlanta flooded Kansas communities with organizers. Within two years, there were over 60,000 paid KKK members in Kansas.

William Allen White and Kansas Governor Henry Allen waged a courageous, two-front war on the vile hate group (one legal battle, one in the court of public opinion). By 1925, Kansas made history yet again when we became the first state in the nation to legally oust the Ku Klux Klan. One New Jersey newspaper described Kansas as a “pyrotechnic display among the states. When other states were satisfied to let off a few sparks, Kansas desired to light up the heavens.”

Ninety-eight years ago, Henry Allen said, “[The KKK has] introduced in Kansas the greatest curse that can come to any civilized people. The curse that arises out of the unrestrained passions of men governed by religious and racial hatred.”

This week the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights released a new report looking at how white nationalists are rebranding for 2020. The report identifies Kansas State as a target to test the rebranding envisioned by young white nationalists.

The author of the study, IREHR President Devon Burghart, said, “To be fair, it could have been any university town. No campus is immune to this sort of white nationalist infestation. In fact, in the report, we identified 308 different colleges and universities targeted by the white nationalist group involved in the ‘groyper’ efforts. White nationalists have been desperately searching for entry points onto campus.”

It is important to understand fringe radicalism is not something that is invited but rather something that attempts to take root when it is allowed to do so. We must remain steadfast in our commitment to building a more perfect union. I deeply appreciate the commitment of K-State and look forward to standing strong together.

Aaron Estabrook is a city commissioner for the city of Manhattan. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and the persons interviewed and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

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