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Black farmer takes to the streets to protest KKK activity on his farm

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A black farmer in Western Kentucky took his message to the street Saturday, fielding a protest in front of the federal building in Owensboro, Kentucky.  Eighty-year old Harry Young protested racist vandalism on his land, trying to get the world to pay attention to his plight and the plight of hundreds of black and white farmers nationwide.


Harry Young has seen a lot in his 80 years.  He has seen the federal government auction his ancestral farm.  He has heard a federal marshal tell him to his face, “I can’t read”, when Young presented papers to the marshal at the auction of his farm, showing he had paid on his farm loan, this, despite the federal government’s claim that he hadn’t paid a dime in 20 years.  He has been part of a historic meeting between black and white farmers who realize that their family farms are at risk, regardless of what race they are.

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While institutional racism inside the federal farm loan program continues to break black farmers, the system remains biased in favor of corporate farmers and hence, family farmers and small operators of all races are at risk.  Unfortunately, in the Young case, in addition to the problems with the Farm Services Administration (FSA), Young and others are now facing an upswing in racist activity, in Kentucky, Indiana and elsewhere.

This is a double blow for Young, who had to shell out the money to repair a locked farm gate, which was vandalized, after he secured his fields against trespassing.  This chapter of the Young story began two weeks ago when a sympathetic white acquaintance notified Young that the KKK was meeting in Young’s fields.

After taking a ride out to the fields and seeing evidence of ceremonial fires, mowed meeting areas and proof of illegal trespassing, Young secured the gate with a lock and chain.  At which point the trespassers reportedly brought a tractor to the scene and cut the lock, then pulled the 14 inch steel gateposts out of the ground.

Young checked with county officials to verify what he already knew: this land is not a public road.  It is part of private property and hence, trespassing is illegal.

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All of this comes less than two months after the KKK reportedly peppered the neighborhood of a black Kentucky state legislator with “calling cards.”  The Michigan-based group also showed up in several nearby Indiana communities as well.

These incidents, combined with rising racial tensions on the campus of the University of Kentucky in Lexington, are creating some of the most volatile civil rights problems in the area in over a decade, as black students report a rise in racial vandalism and hostility on campus. 

Racist graffiti has been painted on the dorm rooms of several black students on the UK campus.  Other incidents have some black students looking over their shoulders, as well. However, Kentucky is not alone here.

The Klan has visited several communities in Southern Indiana, and central Indiana reports a rise in activity as well.  In a mostly black high school in Indianapolis, someone plastered the campus with hundreds of so-called KKK posters.

According to Indianapolis news reports, “Hundreds of fliers promoting a "KKK revival" were found blowing around the campus of Arsenal Tech High School on Monday, school officials said Tuesday.  Officials said the fliers urged people to attend a rally at the school, in the 1500 block of East Michigan Street, on Halloween.”

The Indiana and Kentucky upswing in racial tensions mirrors what is happening around the nation, particularly on university campuses around the nation.  In an editorial, which appeared in the student newspaper of George Washington University, editorial writers noted that:

No administration can force a desire for tolerance on its student population, but it is optimistic for any college community to see such an active, fruitful reaction take place. At neighboring University of Maryland, student groups reacted in solidarity and called for a week of diversity. After a noose was found hanging at Columbia University, students organized themselves to come together in pursuit of a solution. It seems encouraging that students are taking these issues to heart and are ready to work to defend the values that ultimately define their community at large. (The Hatchet, 10-15-07).

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In the heart of Amish country in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, public school officials ran in to problems after they banished the Confederate flag from campus.  Local newspapers reported that:

When they banished Confederate flags from school property earlier this month, Warwick school officials were making their own charge in what could be called the Civility War. Warwick School District officials acted after white Warwick High School students threw trash and racial epithets, and reportedly waved Confederate flags, at some of the school's few black students.

In that on-campus situation, reminiscent of Jena,

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Wanna be member of the anti-word police, author, columnist, activist and muckraker extraordinaire. Author of:

Land, Legacy and Lynching: Building the Future for Black America

Urban Asylum: Politics, Lunatics and the Refrigerator (more...)

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