In my own words: The KKK chalker comes forward

By Raymond Morales

Editor’s Note: At the April 4 Illinois Student Senate meeting, Raymond Morales came forward as the person responsible the controversial messages that recently appeared throughout campus. Background for this column can be found at http://slisweb.lis.wisc.edu/~jcherney/kkk4.htm.

First and foremost, I want to apologize to anyone who was offended by the spray-chalkings that read “KKK EST. 1906 AT UIUC”. It was not my intent to hurt anyone’s feelings. Instead, I hoped to educate the campus about the history of this University and how issues of racism, power and privilege have long existed on this campus prior to the arrival of scholars from marginalized populations in any significant number. I felt compelled to share this fact with everyone to illustrate how this has been a longstanding problem on which we have made minimal progress. It was the most effective means to accomplish that goal.

Honestly, there was no better way for me to do so at that point in time. That is not to say that this is the only means that I utilize to combat and confront these issues. I’m on WRFU (www.wrfu.net), 104.5 FM on Fridays at 10 p.m. and I am active in various organizations.

I chalked “KKK EST. 1906 AT UIUC”, because the amount of hate spewed in DailyIllini.com posts and the like reached an unbearable threshold. To think that an image like “the chief” is one that could honor a people is representative of the miseducation that the University of Illinois has perpetuated. To think that imperialist nostalgia like “the chief” could do any good for our intellectual or moral standing is a farce.

In 1932, Oscar Leutwiler (Lester Leutwiler’s father) was on the Board of Directors of the IUB. On the cabinet, two undergraduate students – Ira Norris Thompson and T. Gailand Knappenberger – were known members of the Ku Klux Klan Honorary Junior Social Inter-Fraternity Organization which was called Tu-Mas by that point.

Think about this. The KKK had two people working directly with Oscar Leutwiler. His son, Lester Leutwiler, created “the chief” while KKK members held prominent positions across campus and while his father worked here alongside KKK members.

The KKK was founded at UIUC in 1906 and spread to other campuses such as the University of Wisconsin. Their reach went as low as membership in the Daily Illini and as high as the Board of Trustees (see Homer Mat Adams and others). The policies that are utilized to our detriment and the beliefs that engulf us are a direct result of our past. Now folks want me to envision a past where it was possible for an over-privileged male to produce an unsolicited image of a people that is positive or empowering when the University was systematically excluding populations from educational and financial opportunities. GIVE ME A BREAK!

And to be honest, I did not immediately take responsibility for the spray-chalking because I was uncertain to what lengths the University would go to retaliate. One employee informed the University Police that I should be considered a “suspect” for what was termed “spray paint” even though facilities and maintenance had already cleaned it up. Any person of reason would acknowledge that spray paint could not be removed with ease. Even still, the University Police came to my home and laboratory to speak with me. I was told that I was walking a fine line of being considered a terrorist and that I should put my message elsewhere.

What is most curious is that individuals running for Student Trustee were not allotted the title of “suspect” or “vandal” even though it was obvious who was responsible for the spray-chalking. This University has even conducted a spray-chalking campaign in which subjective words such as “BIGOT,” “RUDE,” “UGLY” and “WHORE” blanketed the campus. Did the University investigate itself? I posit that this University has targeted me as a result of my legitimate criticism of its policies and procedures.

The new breed of racist is not solely Caucasian. Now, there are significant numbers of Latinos, Asians and African-Americans that have been co-opted into this ideology. In the process, these individuals have temporarily segregated themselves from the reality that there are two Americas – a white one and a black one – that have yet to reconcile.

Folks on this campus do not want to recognize the privileges and benefits that they receive purely as a result of their skin color, ancestry and allegiances. But you can always come Home.

We will always reserve space for you at the table of brotherhood and sisterhood, but you must purge yourself before you are seated.