KKK mailing renews resolve of Idaho legislator

When Rep. Cherie Buckner-Webb travels around the country as a management consultant, 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. “I hear it all the time.”

She represents District 19 in Boise’s North End and grew up on 19th Street in Boise. She knows about prejudice.
“Someone burned a cross on our lawn” when she was about 7, Buckner-Webb recalls.

She was reminded of the burning cross and other racist incidents last week when she received in the mail an application to join the Ku Klux Klan.

In addition to submitting $35 in annual dues and a photo, the applicant is asked to complete a statement proclaiming: “I am a White Christian man or woman.”

Also included was a newsletter, “An Introduction to the Knights and National Director Thomas Robb.”
Robb is the national director of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. He recently began calling his organization The Knights Party, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks racist and hate groups. (In 2011, the center identified 18 active groups in Idaho.)

The envelope, hand-addressed to Buckner-Webb, had a return address of Harrison, Ark. — Robb’s home base — but was postmarked in Great Falls, Mont.

The mailing did not contain a personal note, but Buckner-Webb — the lone African-American in the Idaho Legislature — thinks that she was specifically targeted.

She said she was more surprised than disturbed by the mailing.
“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,” she said.

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

“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.

Buckner-Webb said legislative battles this past session over gay rights, contraception and restrictions on abortion showed her otherwise.

“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.

The mailing also reminded her of the story of Paul Bellesen, a black man from Nampa.

In 1965, he sent in an application and $15 in dues and joined the KKK. For one day, he was the official Klan head for the state of Idaho.

“That made national news,” Buckner-Webb said.

At the time, Bellesen told The Associated Press that he joined the Klan “to show it for what it is.” He said he opposed any group that preaches violence, but harbored no ill will toward individual members.

More than 40 years later, Buckner-Webb expressed a similar sentiment.

“People can choose their own path, but I don’t support fear or intimidation,” she said. “Do I say they have the right to develop a dogma that is theirs? Yes. Do I honor their tactics? No.”

Buckner-Webb said she does not consider herself a victim and refuses to respond with vitriol.

The mailing served as a reminder, she said.“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

By:Cynthia Sewell/Idaho Statesman

Published by CityFella

Big city fella, Born and Raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. Lived in New York (a part time New Yorker) for three years . I have lived in the Sacramento area since 1993. When I first moved here, I hated it. Initially found the city too conservative for my tastes. A great place to raise children however too few options for adults . The city has grown up, there is much to do here. The city suffers from low self esteem in my opinion, locals have few positive words to say about their hometown. visitors and transplants are amazed at what they find here. From, the grand old homes in Alkali Flats, and the huge trees in midtown, there are many surprises in Sacramento. Theater is alive is this area . And finally ,there is a nightlife... In.downtown midtown, for the young and not so young. My Criticism is with local government. There is a shortage of visionaries in city hall. Sacramento has long relied on the state, feds and real estate for revenue. Like many cities in America,Downtown Sacramento was the hub of activity in the area. as the population moved to the suburbs and retail followed. The city has spent millions to revive downtown. Today less than ten thousand people live downtown. No one at city hall could connect the dots. Population-Retail. Business says Sacramento is challenging and many corporations have chosen to set up operations outside the cities limits. There is vision in the burbs. Sacramento has bones, there are many good pieces here, leaders seem unable or unwilling to put those pieces together into. Rant aside, I love it here. From the trees to the rivers. But its the people here that move me. Sacramento is one of the most integrated cities in America. I find I'm welcome everywhere. The spices work in this city of nearly 500,000 and for the most part these spices blend well together. From Ukrainians to Hispanics and a sizable gay community, all the spices seem to work well here. I frequently travel and occasionally I will venture into a city with huge racial borders, where its unsafe to visit after certain hours. I haven't found it here. I cant imagine living in a community where there is one hue or one spice. I love the big trees, Temple Coffee House, the Alhambra Safeway, Zelda's Pizza, Bicyclist in Midtown, The Mother Lode Saloon, Crest Theater, and the Rivers. I could go on and I might. Sacramento is home.

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