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Domestic Terrorist Groups

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The Ku Klux Klan

Domestic terrorism is simply defined as terrorism practiced in one’s own country against fellow countrymen but with the many cases of terrorism being highlighted all around the world each day, terrorism has generally gained many more definitions. Regardless of this though, terrorism is one of the world’s greatest challenges in the 21st century. The United Nations Secretary General described terrorism in 2004 as any act intended to cause serious harm or death to civilians with the purpose of compelling a government or an international organization or with the objective of intimidating a population to do or refrain from doing an act. Domestic terrorism is a form of terrorism normally used to advance certain social or political interests of a group or section of the society. This form of terrorism has been occurring for a long time and it has been argued by some authorities that domestic terrorism acts were present long before the acts were legally defined (Hess & Orthmann, 2009).

In the United States, domestic terrorism is a weighty matter with many terrorist groups being active all around the nation. One such group labeled as a domestic terrorist organization is the Ku Klux Klan, a right-wing white supremacist organization classified as terrorist in the US. Often abbreviated as the KKK and also known informally as The Klan, this far-right organization has advocated for extremist reactionary notions such as white nationalism and supremacy coupled with calls for anti-immigration and anti-communism expressed through history by acts of terrorism. The group has been in existence since the 19th century and is currently manifested in several splinter chapters and is also categorized as a hate group (Quarles, 1999).

The Klan was founded by Confederate Army veterans in Tennessee at the conclusion of the US civil war as a means to strike back at the federal government due to the military occupation in the southern states complemented with martial law imposition during the reconstruction period. The Klan’s usual victims were the recently freed slaves though some white republicans also fell victim to their violent acts (Quarles, 1999). Later in 1871 though, through the enactment of the Ku Klux Klan Act, the organization was outlawed. This wasn’t to last forever though as the U.S supreme reversed the Act declaring it unconstitutional in 1882 but at that time the Klan had faded.

In 1915, a film by D.W. Griffith’s titled Birth of a Nation influenced the formation of a new KKK in Georgia. The Klan consistently grew over the following decade and included prominent members like a future Supreme Court Justice known as Hugo Black. In the 1950s and 1960s, the KKK carried out terrorist attacks and several acts of murder targeted towards African Americans and civil rights activists (Gitlin, 2009). The civil rights movement triumphed in the end however through several lawsuits that cost KKK chapters heftily leading to bankruptcy in some chapters. The KKK hasn’t disappeared though, Klan members formed various splinter groups operating at a local level with bases in states like North Carolina, Texas, Pennsylvania and Arkansas with its current membership estimated at the thousands. One example of a KKK splinter chapter is the Imperial Klans of America which seeks Aryan individuals with their objective being making the world pure. Many of the KKK chapters are concentrated in the Southern US while the rest are situated in the lower Midwest area (Gitlin, 2009). Membership has been on the rise in recent years but growth of the groups is still slow with an estimate of about six thousand across the one hundred and eighty known chapters. Their present campaigns have been targeted towards issues such as illegal immigration and same sex marriages. Modern KKK has operations have led to its affiliation and alliance with other white supremacist organizations such as the neo-Nazis with online forums such as Stormfront. The organization receives legal support from the American Civil Liberties Union in defense of their First Amendment rights (Gitlin, 2009). One important fact to note about the KKK in recent times is the increase in its membership since Barack Obama, the first African-American to become US president was elected to office.

The Ku Klux Klan’s acts of terrorism are mainly motivated by race and the most common victims are African Americans. Their goal has always been to force white supremacy on all other ethnic groups and their motivation was to have a pure white race through cleansing of the USA by eliminating the citizens of colored decent (Quarles, 1999). The KKK also prides itself as the true front of white Christian America and perceives their activities in the United States as those that will save the nation and will restore purity to their race. They believe that whites in the United States are an oppressed majority victimized by civil rights resolutions such as affirmative action.

The future of the KKK is unclear since the general American society is presently more racially inclusive than any other time historically. The Klan has thus become more marginalized but its current splinter groups are still keeping the groups notions alive and still advocate for the original KKK doctrine of white supremacy. The group’s affiliation with neo-Nazi groups and other independent chapters have however made it harder to infiltrate. Through the Klan’s chapters’ websites, it intends to venture into politics in future with the objective of having a white Christian government.


Hess, K. & Orthmann, C. (2009) Criminal Investigation. Independence, KY: Cengage Learning.

Quarles, C. (1999) The Ku Klux Klan and related American racialist and anti-Semitic organizations: A history and analysis. Jefferson, NC: McFarland

Gitlin, M. (2009) The Ku Klux Klan: a guide to an American subculture. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO

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