The distrustful and disdainful looks shown to Jorge Vásquez, a Univision cameraman, concerned us, and at times, gave us the shivers. Vásquez is an experienced photographer who has covered wars and drug trafficking. He has also worked on stories about racial conflict.
He is short and dark, with brown eyes. It is obvious that he is Hispanic. He explains to me that he had never experienced a similar level of racism prior to coming to the United States.
What I am going tell you next is no movie plot denouncing the Ku Klux Klan. It is happening right now in the United States.
The KKK is a group that defends the supremacy of the white race. It is xenophobic, homophobic, racist and in some cases, treads the dangerous path of extreme right-wing terrorism. In the United States, it is estimated there are approximately 550,000 active members. The authorities choose to disregard their actions because many of the authorities are part of the cult itself.
Carroll County, in Northeast Arkansas, is a region of 25,300 inhabitants. It is home to Eureka Spring, a rural village that seems frozen in time due to its old-fashioned houses and cars, but also because of its population’s way of life, customs and prejudices. The residents are white, and their friendliness is by no means guaranteed. On the contrary, they overstep the mark with arrogance. Unfortunately for them, in recent years Hispanics have come to work in the Tyson chicken packing company, and because they have no documentation, they are exploited by being paid poor wages.
The situation annoys the whites. Forgive me for making such a racial distinction, but it is the most alarming thing of all. The presence of dark-skinned people in Carroll County has not revived racism; the awful truth is that it has never gone away. The so-called rednecks, many of whom are the Ku Klux Klan’s most eager supporters, believe that the Hispanics are invading their land; in the past, they never accepted African-Americans either, whom they burned at the stake or banished from the region.
It is no secret that the KKK frequently meets in conventions like it did in the past. Racist and classist ideas are part of many peoples’ genetic make-up and they refuse to get rid of them.
Here the police are cruel towards Hispanics, hounding and prosecuting them, and refusing them protection under the law. For example, in domestic violence cases resulting in murder, the authorities do nothing to prevent the outcome. In addition, there are serious suspicions that drug trafficking cartels are selling drugs in order to harm immigrants. If this is the case, it is a criminal act that the federal government should investigate.
I wish I could recommend a sightseeing tour of this beautiful region of America, but unless you are white and speak perfect English, I am unable to guarantee your safety.
In Carroll County, fear and suspicion accompany the ghosts of the KKK through the streets in a symbiosis of shame and prejudice, ensuring that the terrible presence of racial segregation lives on.