New KKK TV Series Draws Controversy

December 20th 2016

It's not out for another few weeks but a new show on A&E is already causing outrage on social media, where some accuse the network of giving a platform to hate. 

The network's eight-part documentary series, "Generation KKK," follows both a family involved with the Ku Klux Klan family and activists who want to stop the hateful spread of the the white supremacist group's ideology. 

"The setup is warm and fuzzy. 'Girls, I got y’all some gifts,' says Steven Howard, presenting his two young daughters with prettily wrapped packages, which they eagerly rip into," The New York Times' Kathryn Shattuck wrote after watching a preview of the show, which begins airing Jan. 10. "The cameras then reveal what’s inside: the distinctive pointed hoods of the Ku Klux Klan."

ku-klux-klanAP/RYAN MOORE - apimages.com

The show comes at time when Klan members are holding rallies for President-elect Donald Trump, while adjusting their public relations tactics to be more palatable to the mainstream. White nationalists are also increasingly active on social media. 

A top executive at A&E told the Times that the show is not meant to glorify the Klan or give them a recruiting platform. 

“We certainly didn’t want the show to be seen as a platform for the views of the KKK,” Rob Sharenow, general manager of A&E, told the Times. “The only political agenda is that we really do stand against hate.”

The show is receiving a lot of backlash. 

People on Twitter, including "Grey's Anatomy" star and activist Jesse Williams, said the show's existence normalizes white supremacy. 

However, New York Daily News columnist and Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King told ATTN: that the preview he watched calmed his own fears.

When he heard there was going to be a show about the KKK, King's initial reaction was negative, he said, but the final product is not what he expected: more like a documentary than the soap opera of a trashy reality TV show like "The Real Housewives."

"Jesse [Williams] and other people who say 'damn it this is wrong,' I get that," King said. "But what I got was that they were not giving a microphone or a platform. I thought they did a pretty decent job of trying to expose the shallowness of a hate group."

King said there are two approaches for trying to combat the Klan's rhetoric. 

"One is to never give them any air time whatsoever, and I get that. I'm not even saying that it's wrong," he said. "But the other theory is to expose it for the ridiculous, shallow, outrageous bigotry that it is and show how painful it is, not only for the people who feel the effects of it, but for the children living in it." 

King said the series focuses on young people living in the KKK's world. 

King said that the children and teenagers fighting against their imposed legacy of hatred gave him hope. 

"I left this show with a tiny sliver of hope because there are teenagers, who live in the belly of the Klan, who are still saying 'I'm really uncomfortable with this,'" he told ATTN:. "There's a main character, a daughter, and she just says in no uncertain words, she knew her father was in the Klan from the time she was 3, and she says right to the camera: 'I don't like this.' I just felt great pity and sadness."

RELATED: Jesse Williams Explains Modern Racism in BET Awards Speech

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