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Abstract

When, in 2015, a Louisiana prison warden publically likened the Black Panther Party to the Ku Klux Klan, I was stunned. The differences between the two groups seemed so extreme and so obvious I could not imagine ineptness of this magnitude. Not long after this, a Georgia legislator unashamedly express that the Ku Klux Klan was not a racist, terrorist group, but merely a vigilante group trying to keep law and order. After initial dismay, each of these instances evoked thoughts of the far-reaching implications of officials making operational and policy decisions around such a flawed appreciation of history. These lapses prompted me to consider what this type of oblivion might mean when unleashed elsewhere in society, such as in the employment realm, schools, law enforcement encounters with citizens, the judicial system, or within the regulation of professions. At best, continued lapses of this nature have the potential to cause an abysmal pattern of individual injustices. At worst, they could contribute to outright racial unrest in society. Tragically, this is all preventable. All that is needed is unsanitized and factually accurate historical information upon which to rely, an awareness of how important it is to think outside one’s own cultural identity, and a willingness to do so. This Article critically examines two of the most infamous, racially-associated groups in the history of this country: the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and the Black Panther Party (BPP). “The Ku Klux Klan, a secret association formed by white vigilantes during Reconstruction, carried out violent attacks primarily against African Americans.” The KKK was a “violent and explosive” “organized terror group[].” In contrast, “[t]he BPP was a multifaceted association of American citizens who . . . did not believe in pleading, begging, praying, or patiently waiting for equal rights to be conferred.” “They felt equality was a birthright, demanding it was a duty, having it delayed was an insult, and compromise was tantamount to social and political suicide.” The BPP “provided a model for people moving from protest to radical ideas to revolutionary action.” This Article proceeds in two parts. In Part I, the KKK will be juxtaposed against the BPP. Specifically, Part I will (1) explain why each group was formed and highlight the geographical presence of each group; (2) probe the mission and objectives of each organization; (3) reveal the respective identities of each group; (4) closely analyze how, by the work and practices of each group, they fulfilled their respective organizational goals; (5) consider ways law and the legal system impacted each group; and (6) evaluate the public’s reaction to each group. Part II will evaluate the larger meaning of the various group nuances discussed in Part I.