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The "Black Klansman" answered your questions

Sergeant Ron Stallworth, a black police officer who infiltrated the KKK, has answered your questions about his work.
Ku Klux Klan members light their torches during a membership rally in Pensacola, Florida, May 25, 1975.
Ku Klux Klan members light their torches during a membership rally in Pensacola, Florida, May 25, 1975.

Last week, we asked you to submit your questions for Sgt. Ron Stallworth, a black police officer who just penned a new memoir, "Black Klansman," about how he went undercover and infiltrated the KKK. Now, Sgt.  Stallworth has answered. Read on for more details on his fascinating story.

Alicia Maule: Mr. Stallworth, how did your experience as a detective working on the KKK assignment inform the rest of your career on the force? And what type of insider information do you think you learned from this "domestic terrorist group" as it relates specifically to race relations in the U.S. 

Sgt. Stallworth: Alicia, my experience working the KKK assignment influenced the rest of my career in law enforcement in that it taught me to think and act on my own initiative when my superiors in the department stood in my way.  I refused to bend to the rules of protocol when the obstacles of “rank structure” and “following the chain of command” prevented me from getting the job done.  That’s one reason I retired as a Sergeant and not at a higher rank…I refused to “play the game” the way the bosses wanted the game played.  It is a decision that has cost me money in retirement pay, but one that I have NEVER regretted.  Had I played by those rules this investigation would never have gotten off the ground because, as I described in the book, Lt. Arthur and Sgt. Jim of the Narcotics Unit refused to let me use Chuck, the “white Ron Stallworth” for the investigation.  This was a crucial aspect towards the overall success of the investigation and their pettiness towards me personally forced me to violate normal protocol procedures which allowed for the investigation to move forward.  In terms of “insider information” regarding race relations, I do not think I learned anything unique that I or anyone of color had not previously known.  They simply do not like people of color because of their color and their belief that their color has given them an edge in edge in American society at the expense of the white race.  They feel that we who, as the late Curtis Mayfield sang, “people who are darker than blue” are the puppets of the Jews who exist to do their bidding and therefore we (and they) must be eliminated or controlled if the white race is to flourish.  They feel blacks are not too far removed on the evolutionary plain from monkeys and can never be thought of in the same social sphere as the white man.  This was one reason why I took such great pleasure in making a fool out of the Grand Wizard, David Duke, himself.  This simian with a badge was literally out-thinking him both on the phone in our conversations and in person when I was assigned to be his bodyguard.  At the time he held a Masters Degree from Louisiana State University while I was a high school graduate with approximately 15-20 hours of college credit.  Which one of us was exhibiting more of an ape-like mental capacity during these encounters?  I don’t believe it was me.   As I said in the lyrical rap ditty I wrote that can be found on YouTube called “A Salute to the Klan"..."Made a fool of by one he called ape-like / Proving he was the actual intellectual tyke."

Barbara Jackson ‏@Nyota_nuru: Was he passing for white or did he wear his hood all the time or is it the KKK now accept AAs in their ranks?

Sgt. Stallworth: No, I was not passing for white in the sense that I was wearing a hood, after all I am a black American of African descent.  I was passing for a white racial supremacist in telephonic conversations by using all of the “buzz” words of hate that they like to use.  The derogatory references to the various racial ethnicities (i.e., blacks, Asians, Mexicans, Italians, Jews, were all frequently used to solidify, in their minds, that I was “one of them” and it worked.  They felt comfortable with me and accepting of me because, in their minds based on my choice of language, I was “one of them.”  And NO, the KKK is NOT accepting of African-Americans in their ranks!

George Alexander @Abq01I don't get it. Mr. Stallworth is black and looks black. Were those KKK fanatics blind?

Sgt. Stallworth: No, George, they were not blind.  The KKK members that I was dealing with NEVER saw me because my interaction with them occurred over the phone.  They were convinced that I was 1) white, and 2) a racial supremacist like them based strictly on my telephone conversation with them.  Their belief was reinforced by my use of the white detective, “Chuck”, the “white Ron Stallworth” referenced in my book, Black Klansman, who took my phone conversations and projected them to the next level forward in the undercover scheme.  Throughout the seven month undercover phase of this investigation the KKK members only saw me once, at the Colorado Springs luncheon when the Grand Wizard (David Duke) came into town on a media tour and recruitment blitz and I was assigned to be his bodyguard.  I interacted personally with him, his state Grand Dragon (state leader), and the local Colorado Springs chapter leader.  All three of these individuals were “victims” of my undercover telephone conversations pretending to be a white supremacist and I stood there among them, shaking their hands, conversing with them in all of my beautiful black-skinned glory (with a KKK membership card signed by David Duke in my wallet) and not one of them recognized that I was the one they had been speaking with on the phone.  Remember, this was not long after David Duke had told me during one of our conversations how he could tell how he was speaking to a “n----r” over the phone.  Now here he was in the physical midst of that very same “n----r” and he could not tell that he had conversed with me over the phone in the guise of one of his Klansmen.  As I wrote in a little lyrical rap ditty you can find on YouTube: "So clever this con, their trust to a man with faith and their respect I was now part of the Klan." 

@zz2aa"Black Klansman". What are you doing to be safe from revenge from white supremacists?

Sgt. Stallworth: I take the usual precautions, which I will not outline here for your readers.  Let’s just say that I am ready for any and all possible eventualities but I don’t live in fear of these racist idiots.  I REFUSE to succumb to their brand of lunacy and have my life governed by their need to feel superior based on their sense of inferiority and need to feel superior because of their white skin.  I REFUSE to play their game and no person of color should play their game.  That is how they held our people hostage-psychologically-for generations.  NO MORE!!!  Not with me!  My investigation, as described in my book, Black Klansman, detailed the seriousness of these types of individuals, but it also detailed the clownish nature that is all too often an inherent part of their nature.  It is that clownish nature that I captured in my narrative that led me to believe (and I stated) that “…sooner rather than later we WOULD, in fact, OVERCOME those that would try and define minorities by their own personal failings of racial/ethnic bias, bigotry, religious preferences, and the false belief that people of color and others who did not fit their definition of ‘pure Aryan white’ were not deserving of respect, much less of being classified as ‘people.’”

@reginas232: I'm too busy laughing to ask. How did he keep a straight face in dealing with them? Kudos to you sir.

Sgt. Stallworth: Regina, thank you for the kudos. Much appreciated.  How did I keep a straight face in dealing with them during the course of the investigation?  The fact of the matter was that often I did not keep a straight face.  As I describe on pages 81-82 of my book, Black Klansman, there were times when professional decorum was lost on my part due to the reaction of my Sergeant, who was white and a dear friend, listening to my end of the telephone conversation with the various Klansmen.  As I pretended to be a raging white supremacist blaring out the racist buzzwords of hate and vitriol that they love to spout, my Sergeant would be doubled over in red-faced, belly-aching laughter at my pretense conning them in the process.  His response at my antics would all too often set me off into fits of laughter which would further spur him on into deeper fits of laughter until we resembled a Saturday Night Live skit in which the performers are cracking each other up while trying with all their means to maintain the appropriate professional decorum yet finding it virtually impossible to do so.  Sometimes my Sergeant would find himself so caught up in my telephone performance that he would be in the throes of falling out of his chair on one knee and choking in a fit of laughter to the point where he had to run out of the office to recompose himself while I tried to continue the conversation without diminishing my professional decorum as a “white racist” any further due to my breakdown in laughter at him.  Fortunately they never caught on to our antics and things proceeded along.  But even I have to admit it was funny hearing myself saying how much I hate “n-----s” and how we have to do something to control “n-----s” and “the white man can’t get a fair shake in this society because of the dominance of the n-----s.”  These were typical statements that I used to ingratiate myself with these people and they “ate it up.”  Though David Duke and his “new” Ku Klux Klan did not (supposedly) use the “n-word” in public, he/they and I threw it around like a baseball in our conversations with one another as a matter of routine.  I also used other words and phrases that were typical of their speech and thought process to allow them to accept me as one of them.

Mary HouseAfraid of any retaliations?

Sgt. Stallworth: Afraid? No. Concerned? As concerned as anyone who has worked undercover investigations for any period of time and then revealed the nature of those investigations. Especially one as high-profile as this. I do take necessary precautions against those who would foolishly try to take retaliatory action against me for what I did 30 plus years ago.

For more, watch our interview with Sgt .Stallworth here: