April 10, 2012 in Region

Idaho’s sole black legislator invited to join KKK

Associated Press
 

BOISE — Idaho’s only black lawmaker said receiving a direct mailing from the Ku Klux Klan has only bolstered her resolve to fight prejudice.

Childhood memories of a cross burning on her lawn on Boise’s north end were rekindled for Rep. Cherie Buckner-Webb, D-Boise, when she opened a hand-addressed application last week to join the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

“It conjured up a lot of things for me that weren’t very comfortable — not fear, but sometimes we get to thinking things are settled,” she said.

The mailing solicited a photo, $35 in annual dues and asked for a completed statement proclaiming: “I am a White Christian man or woman,” The Idaho Statesman reported.

It also included a newsletter introducing the organization’s national director, Thomas Robb, but there was no personal note.

Still, Buckner-Webb doesn’t think it’s a coincidence the application was delivered to the only black member of the Idaho Legislature.

The mailing had a return address for the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan offices in Harrison, Ark., the Statesman said. No one answered a phone call Tuesday from The Associated Press to the offices of the group.

“Initially, I wondered what was someone’s thought process in sending that to me. My first inclination was someone wants me to know the Klan is still around,” Buckner-Webb said.

Buckner-Webb, who travels around the country as a management consultant, said people are often surprised to learn that there is a black female legislator from Idaho.

“When they think of Idaho, it is not Sun Valley, or our rivers or our mountains. It is the Aryan Nations. That is still what they think about Idaho,” said Buckner-Webb.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks racist and hate groups, identified 18 such active organizations in Idaho in 2011.

Buckner-Webb posted a copy of the KKK application and newsletter on her Facebook page Saturday to express her surprise and start a dialogue.

She said legislative battles this past session over gay rights, contraception and restrictions on abortion showed her the fight against prejudice in Idaho isn’t over.

“I am really concerned about the climate of intolerance in a lot of different areas. I see a lot of intolerance toward gays, toward women,” she said.

Buckner-Webb said she does not consider herself a victim, but the mailing served as a reminder.

“I would be a fool not to take note and govern myself accordingly,” she said. “It was a sign for me to remain vigilant, to remain careful and to remain thoughtful.”

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